‘A Fish Called Wanda’ Killed a Danish Viewer
The 1980s hit comedy A Fish Called Wanda, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin, was a madcap crime heist flick about a gang of jewel thieves who double cross each other to find stolen diamonds hidden by the gang boss. The movie was a success, getting nominated for three Oscars and winning a Best Supporting Actor Award, as well as awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA).
[SPOILERS AHEAD] The plot revolved around a London gang boss and his sidekick, an animal lover with a stutter, who plan a jewel heist. The heist is successful and nets the criminals a trove of valuable diamonds, only for them to start double crossing each other in a quest to keep the entire haul to themselves. A series of increasingly madcap adventures and mishaps ensue, as the betrayals mount.
One scene involved a criminal invading the gang boss’ animal loving and stuttering sidekick’s home, tying him up to a chair, and trying to force him to reveal what he knew about the diamonds’ whereabouts. It entailed stuffing British chips – French fries – up the tied stutterer’s nose, then picking his beloved goldfish one by one from an aquarium, and eating them alive to force their owner to talk.
Something about that scene struck one viewer, an audiologist from Denmark named Ole Bentzen, as over the top hilarious. He started laughing uproariously, and could not get himself to stop. A subsequent coroner’s report estimated that Bentzen’s heart rate had shot up to between 250 to 500 beats per minute during his fit of uncontrollable laughter, triggering a fatal cardiac arrest.
As it turned out, a few years earlier Bentzen had been joking at the dinner table, when he stuffed cauliflower up his and every family member’s nose, then made a bet with them over who could eat their carrots without the cauliflower falling out. The scene with the chips up the nose reminded him of that dinner table incident, and caused him to laugh so hard that his heart stopped.