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.

Savage Three

Savage Three (Fango bollente). Vittorio Salerno, 1975.

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Edition screened: Included on Arrow Blu-ray box set Years of Lead: Five Classic Italian Crime Thrillers 1973-1977, released 2021. Italian language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 85 minutes.


Summary: Killing of laboratory mice; pheasant hunting.


Details:

1) A group of mice in a plexiglass box are incited to attack and kill each other, 4:10-4:48. We see the mice launch into a biting frenzy before they collapse dead and bloody.

2) Two brief and typical images of pheasants being shot during a hunt, 1:02:24-1:02:30 and 1:03:14-1:03:25.


3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg

3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg. Josef von Sternberg, 1927-1928.

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Edition screened: Criterion DVD set #528, released 2010. No dialogue tracks. Cumulative runtime of feature films approximately 244 minutes.


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


The Criterion set includes various featurettes and three von Sternberg films:


Underworld (1927)

The Last Command (1928)

The Docks of New York (1928)


Underworld

Underworld. Josef von Sternberg, 1927.

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Edition screened: Criterion DVD #529, included in Criterion 3-DVD set #528 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, released 2010. Scored and with English intertitles, no dialogue track. Runtime approximately 81 minutes.


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



Les vampires

Les vampires. Louis Feuillade, 1915.

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Edition screened: “Hypnotic Eyes” episode included on Criterion Blu-ray #1074 Irma Vep, released 2021. English intertitles, no dialogue track. Runtime approximately 59 minutes.


Summary: Explicit killing and death of two bulls for sport.


Details: We see the agonizing deaths of two small bulls after a showoff jackass kills them in Manly Sport. The first is lassoed, dragged by a galloping horse, and dies panting from his injuries; the second is downed, submits, then is speared through the eye and dies in convulsions. All this happens 24:38-25:54. 


I think I am fairly level-headed about early cinema, finding it neither sublime in its innocence nor hobbled by unsophistication. I’ve seen only two samples of Feuillade, this Episode 6 (of 10) from Les vampires, and some portion of Fantômas, maybe all of that series. Perhaps by chance or perhaps an accurate reflection of his films’ content, both of my viewings contained scenes of brutal animal murder that were unnecessary to the films, seemingly shoehorned into the stories simply because Feuillade wishes to script, film, and present the violent killing of animals. 


Three Films by Luis Buñuel

Three Films by Luis Buñuel. 1972-1977.

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Edition screened: Criterion 3-Blu-ray set, released 2021. French language with English subtitles. Cumulative runtime of feature films approximately 309 minutes.


Summary: The Phantom of Liberty includes a mild depiction of a bird being shot and falling. Click on titles for details.


The Criterion set includes copious supplemental material and three wonderful features:


The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)


Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace. Marc Forster, 2008.

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Edition screened: 20th Century Fox DVD, released 2009. English language. Runtime approximately 106 minutes.


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


This film was easier to to sit through than most James Bond movies, perhaps in part because I knew it would be over comparatively quickly.

Nishi Ginza Station

Nishi Ginza Station (Nishi Ginza ekimae). Shôhei Imamura, 1958.

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Edition screened: Included on Masters of Cinema Blu-ray #22 The Insect Woman, released 2012. Japanese language with English subtitles.


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


Man Yuk: A Portrait of Maggie Cheung

Man Yuk: A Portrait of Maggie Cheung. Olivier Assayas, 1997.

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Edition screened: Included on Criterion Blu-ray #1074 Irma Vep, released 2021. Silent.


Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals


The Last Command

The Last Command. Josef von Sternberg, 1928.

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Edition screened: Criterion DVD #530, included in Criterion 3-DVD set #528 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, released 2010. Scored and with English intertitles, no dialogue track. Runtime approximately 88 minutes.


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


Irreversible

Irreversible (Original Theatrical Cut & ‘Straight Cut’). Gaspar Noé, 2002 & 2020.

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Edition screened: Indicator 2-Blu-ray set, released 2021. French language with English subtitles. Original Theatrical Cut approximately 98 minutes, Straight Cut approximately 90 minutes.


Summary: No animals or references to animals in either version of the film.


The Indicator BD set is the best presentation of Noé’s original 2002 horror tragedy, beautifully remastered, along with his 2020 ‘Straight Cut’ re-sequencing which presents the story in chronological order rather than reversed.


Irma Vep

Irma Vep. Olivier Assayas, 1997.

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Edition screened: Criterion Blu-ray #1074, released 2021. Mostly French language with English subtitles, some English. Runtime approximately 99 minutes.


Summary: No particular depictions of violence or harm to animals


The Criterion release also includes Assayas’s short film Man Yuk: A Portrait of Maggie Cheung (1997), and one complete episode from Feuillade’s Les vampires (1915) in which two bulls are graphically murdered.


The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie). Luis Buñuel, 1972.

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Edition screened: Criterion Blu-ray #102, in box set Three Films by Luis Buñuel, released 2021. French language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 101 minutes.


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


Key Largo

Key Largo. John Huston, 1948.

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Edition screened: Warner DVD, released 2000. English language. Runtime approximately 97 minutes.


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


Life of Brian

Life of Brian. Terry Jones, 1979.

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Edition screened: Criterion DVD # 61, released 1999. English language. Runtime approximately 93 minutes.


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


The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon. John Huston, 1941.

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Edition screened: Warner DVD, released 2006. English language. Runtime approximately 101 minutes.


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