Heads Up, Ears Down

This blog accurately identifies depictions of violence and cruelty toward animals in films. The purpose is to provide viewers with a reliable guide so that such depictions do not come as unwelcome surprises. Films will be accurately notated, providing a time cue for each incident along with a concise description of the scene and perhaps relevant context surrounding the incident. In order to serve as a useful reference tool, films having no depictions of violence to animals will be included, with an indication that there are no such scenes. This is confirmation that the films have been watched with the stated purpose in mind.


Note that the word depictions figures prominently in the objective. It is a travesty that discussions about cruelty in film usually are derailed by the largely unrelated assertion that no animals really were hurt (true only in some films, dependent upon many factors), and that all this concern is just over a simulation. Not the point, whether true or false. We do not smugly dismiss depictions of five-year-olds being raped because those scenes are only simulations. No, we are appalled that such images are even staged, and we are appropriately horrified that the notion now has been planted into the minds of the weak and cruel.


Depictions of violence or harm to animals are assessed in keeping with our dominant culture, with physical abuse, harmful neglect, and similar mistreatment serving as a base line. This blog does not address extended issues of animal welfare, and as such does not identify scenes of people eating meat or mules pulling plows. The goal is to itemize images that might cause a disturbance in a compassionate household.


These notes provide a heads-up but do not necessarily discourage watching a film because of depicted cruelty. Consuming a piece of art does not make you a supporter of the ideas presented. Your ethical self is created by your public rhetoric and your private actions, not by your willingness to sit through a filmed act of violence.

Pairs

Pairs. Gorman Bechard, 1982.
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Edition screened: Included on Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #185 Psychos in Love, released 2017. No audio track. Runtime approximately 1 minute.

Summary: No animals or references to animals in the film.


Pandora and the Magic Box

Pandora and the Magic Box. Joseph Sarno, 1965.
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Edition screened: Included in Film Movement’s Joseph W. Sarno Retrospect Series Vol. 3 Blu-ray, released 2018. English language. Runtime approximately 85 minutes.

Summary: No particular depictions of violence or harm to animals.

Like Sarno’s Deep Throat II, this is not a pornographic or even particularly erotic film. It is a mythology-themed comedy filled with Jewish standup-style jokes about Theseus and Pandora.


Parochial Passion Princess

Parochial Passion Princess. Alex de Renzy, 1975.
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Edition screened: Included on Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #156 Babyface, released 2016. English language. Runtime approximately 13 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals. 3.5/5


The Party (Ostwald)

The Party. R.A. Ostwald (as Ronald Anthony), 1962.
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Edition screened: Included on BFI Blu-ray “Flipside” #11 The Party’s Over, released 2010. English language. Runtime approximately 16 minutes.

Summary: No particular depictions of violence or harm to animals.


Paul McCartney: Back in the U.S.

Paul McCartney: Back in the U.S. Mark Haefeli, 2002.
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Edition screened: EMI DVD, released 2002. English language. Runtime approximately 180 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.


The Pearl of Death

The Pearl of Death. Roy William Neill, 1944.
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Edition screened: Included in MPI The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection Blu-ray set, released 2011. English language. Runtime approximately 69 minutes.


Summary: No particular depictions of violence or harm to animals.

Personnel

Personnel (Personel). Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1975.
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Edition screened: Included in Arrow Blu-ray box set Dekalog and Other Television Works, released 2016. Polish language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 67 minutes.

Summary: No particular depictions of violence or harm to animals.


Pedestrian Subway

Pedestrian Subway (Przejscie podziemne). Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1974.
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Edition screened: Included in Arrow Blu-ray box set Dekalog and Other Television Works, released 2016. Polish language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 28 minutes.

No animals or references to animals in the film.


Penitentiary

Penitentiary. Jamaa Fanaka, 1979.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #203, released 2018. English language. Runtime approximately 99 minutes.

Summary: No animals or references to animals in the film.


Penitentiary II

Penitentiary II. Jamaa Fanaka, 1982.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #208, released 2018. English language. Runtime approximately 109 minutes.


Summary: No animals or references to animals in the film.

The People Under the Stairs

The People Under the Stairs. Wes Craven, 1991.
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Edition screened: Arrow Blu-ray, released 2013. English language. Runtime approximately 102 minutes.

Summary: Killing of a dog.

Details:
1) A Rottweiler is electrocuted and whimpers to the floor, apparently dying, 33:58-34:10. He reappears soon, apparently fine.
2) Everett McGill stabs something through a wall at 1:02:35, and we see the Rottweiler collapse again through 1:02:58. 
3) The truth of the stabbing is revealed as the dog collapses yet again and finally dies, 1:03:42-1:03:46.

There are some laudable aspects of this film. Most prominent, the plot condemns exploitation of impoverished tenants by greedy landowners, and generally mocks crazy white people and their abusive behavior. Beyond that, some people are into Sean Whalen and dig his performance as Roach, the lead Person Under the Stairs. Finally, we have Wendy Robie and Everett McGill (Nadine and Big Ed in Twin Peaks) as the insane antagonists, delivering funny, good performances at about the same time they are popular in Lynch’s TV drama.

In order for a viewer to consider this a passably “good” film, one of those three specific attributes must be appealing. If you aren’t interested in the social justice message or in one of the cult performers, The People Under the Stairs is 100 minutes of frantic people chasing each other through endless secret passages in a huge house, and you are wrong if you think, Oh that might be entertaining.


Persian Series 1-3

Persian Series 1-3. Stan Brakhage, 1999.
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Edition screened: Included in Criterion Blu-ray box set #518 By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volumes One and Two, released 2010. Silent. Runtime 5 minutes, 54 seconds.


Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper. Olivier Assyas, 2016.
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Edition screened: Criterion Blu-ray #899, released 2017. English language. Runtime approximately 105 minutes.

Summary: No animals or references to animals in the film.


Pets

Pets. Raphael Nussbaum, 1973.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #228, released 2018. English language. Runtime approximately 102 minutes.

Summary: Abuse and killing of a dog.

Details:
1) A dog is hit in the face and we hear him yelp, 21:42.
2) The same dog is thrown off a cliff to his death, 27:57-28:01

I was looking forward to watching this film, thinking it would be similar to numerous other films with a similar gimmick, most of them called something like “The Collector”. I presumed Pets might be a little trashier, a little sexier, and an enjoyable counterpoint to the others. Pets is a disappointing minor variation on that common plot, and just not a very good movie. The biggest problem might be the particularly unlikeable prostitute-thief played by Teri Guzman who appears early in the film and leaves an enduring bad taste.

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017.
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Edition screened: Universal Blu-ray, released 2018. English language. Runtime approximately 130 minutes.

Summary: No animals or references to animals in the film.