Francis Ford Coppola’s unparalleled cinematic classic The Godfather turns 50 this month – and unlike those 50-year-olds who are frantically buying sports cars and Googling, “do tongue piercings hurt that bad?” The Godfather has held up extremely well over the years. One of the most famous moments in the film is the notorious “horse head” scene where a movie executive wakes up to find the severed head of his favorite horse in bed with him – which, other than a hungover ex, has to be at the very top of the list of things you don’t want to wake up next to in bed.

Coppola wasn’t even a fan of the scene, which first appeared in the original novel, but felt pressured to include it rather than face the wrath of those die-hard Godfather fans. Despite the fact that the film industry was a mere five years away from the technical achievements of Star Wars, the prop department’s fake horse head wasn’t convincing enough for Coppola – which is how a New Jersey dog food factory became an integral part of film history … 

Yup, the Godfather crew found a soon-to-be-terminated horse that resembled the live one from the movie and arranged for its execution to be delayed slightly and its bloody noggin to be shipped to the production in a crate of dry ice at the appropriate time. Unsurprisingly, many animal activists were pretty pissed off about the film’s grisly devotion to realism, firing off angry letters to Coppola. But weirdly, the film, and even this particular scene, received the approval of the American Humane Association since it “conceivably” extended the horse’s life – although the organization’s subsequent director later criticized that decision.

Coppola's icky move may have been somewhat vindicated when the original horse head prop, the one that was never immortalized on film, was auctioned roughly a decade ago. And … yeah, it isn’t exactly super-convincing.

Had Coppola not taken this, admittedly pretty gross step, we probably would have already gotten The Godfather: Redux featuring a CGI horse’s head and walkie-talkies instead of Tommy guns.

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Top Image: Paramount Pictures

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