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.

A Christmas Past: Vintage Holiday Films

A Christmas Past: Vintage Holiday Films. Various directors, 1901-1925.

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Edition screened: Kino DVD, released 2000. Scored, no dialogue tracks, and some films with English intertitles. Cumulative runtime approximately 121 minutes.


Summary: A Christmas Accident includes the discovery of a small dog found dead, presumably poisoned, 5:42-6:24. The other films are free of depictions of violence or harm to animals.


An enjoyable group of primitive winter-themed films, as much documentaries of a lost world as Holiday fantasies:


A Holiday Pageant at Home (unknown director, 1901, 5 minutes)

A Winter Straw Ride (Edwin S. Porter, 1906, 7 minutes)

A Trap for Santa (D.W. Griffith, 1909, 16 minutes)

A Christmas Accident (Bannister Merwin, 1912, 15 minutes)

The Adventures of the Wrong Santa Claus (unknown director, 1914, 14 minutes)

Santa Claus vs. Cupid (Will Louis, 1915, 16 minutes)

Santa Claus (unknown director, 1925, 29 minutes)

A Christmas Carol (unknown director, 1910, 10 minutes)

The Night Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1905, 9 minutes)


Jacques Rozier

Jacques Rozier. Jacques Rozier, 1955-1986.

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Edition screened: Potemkine DVD box set, released 2008. French language with English subtitles. Cumulative runtime approximately 573 minutes.


Summary: Rentrée des classes obsesses over a child finding and harassing a small snake, and Du côté d’Orouët includes flirtatious shenanigans with eels. Nothing horrible.


The five-DVD collection includes six films:


Rentrée des classes (1955) - a waste of film intended to be a nostalgic look back at simpler times, like the worst of early Malle.

Blue Jeans (1958) - an embarrassing celebration of impending date rape, but with good images of Cannes in the late 50s. 

Adieu Philippine (1961) - a truly wonderful film.

Du côté d’Orouët (1969) - a truly wonderful film.

The Castaways of Turtle Island (1976) - odd, but also oddly entertaining.

Maine Océan (1986) - long, trite, self-charmed and boring, like the worst of late Malle.


Knife of Ice

Knife of Ice (Il coltello di ghiaccio). Umberto Lenzi, 1972.

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Edition screened: Wham! DVD, released 2009. Italian language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 92 minutes.


Summary: Complete bullfight.


The film opens with the bull released explosively into the arena. The title sequence then is superimposed over the whole spectacle. We see the entire “fight”, the disgusting kill, and the dead bull dragged away by a rope afterwards, up through 2:18.


Lake Michigan Monster

Lake Michigan Monster. Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, 2018.

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Edition screened: Arrow Blu-ray, released 2020. English language. Runtime approximately 78 minutes.


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


I found Lake Michigan Monster to be quite entertaining although it might not hold up to a second viewing. The Arrow Blu-ray also includes the innovative animation short L.I.P.S. (2016, 23 minutes), also starring Tews.


The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse. Robert Eggers, 2019.

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Edition screened: Lionsgate Blu-ray, released 2020. English language. Runtime approximately 109 minutes.


Summary: Murder of a seagull.


Details: A seagull attacks Robert Pattinson, who grabs the bird by the legs or head and beats it to death against a cement cistern, 40:22-40:46. The scene is brutal and seems to go on for a long time, four weeks perhaps or maybe just one day.


 

L.I.P.S.

L.I.P.S. Mike Cheslik, 2016.

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Edition screened: Included on Arrow Blu-ray Lake Michigan Monster, released 2020. English language. Runtime approximately 23 minutes.


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


The Lake Michigan Monster BD includes this entertaining animation short about an agent in the League of Interplanetary Process Servers, identified as “the first season”, and also a 9-minute episode identified as the ‘pilot episode”.


Lisa and the Devil (The House of Exorcism)

Lisa and the Devil (Lisa e il diavolo). Mario Bava, 1973.

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Edition screened: Arrow Blu-ray, released 2014. Original English language, with original Italian dub as an option. Runtime approximately 92 minutes.


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


The Arrow BD also includes The House of Exorcism, a version of Lisa and the Devil recut to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist.


 

Little Tony

Little Tony (Kleine Teun). Alex van Warmerdam, 1998.

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Edition screened: Image DVD, released 2005. Dutch language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 95 minutes.


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


The white goat on the cover is an observer of character interaction in this domestic drama, and is not endangered by the prominent axe. 

The Look of Silence

The Look of Silence. Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014.

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Edition screened: Dogwoof Blu-ray, released 2015. English and Indonesian with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 98 minutes.


Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.


Maine Océan

Maine Océan. Jacques Rozier, 1986.

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Edition screened: Included in Potemkine DVD box set Jacques Rozier, released 2008. French language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 131 minutes.


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



Mako: The Jaws of Death

Mako: The Jaws of Death. William Grefé, 1976.

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Edition screened: Included in Arrow Blu-ray box set He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection, released 2020. English language. Runtime approximately 88 minutes.


Summary: Shark killing.


Details:

1) The film opens with a group of clods reef fishing for sharks. We see underwater footage of a shark hooked and partially reeled in before the line is cut. Not graphic, no blood, and over at 2:15.

2) Dead hammerhead shark hanging for a photo shoot, 53:14, and remaining in the background through conversation until 55:30.

3) Immediately after, a scene of men shooting sharks and hauling them aboard their ship, with dead sharks hanging on board. 55:40-1:00:00.

4) Piles of dead sharks in a research laboratory, 1:07:04-1:07:24.


Released a year after Jaws, the point in Mako is that sharks are not insane killing machines and we should stay out of their waters and leave them alone. Our protagonist is a vigilant advocate on the sharks’ behalf and will do anything to stop those who hunt them.


Bonus features on this disc include a 15-minute condensation of Mako released on Super-8 for home viewing.


¡Mi burro!

¡Mi burro! (Mi burro: esos huesos). Zach Passero, 2011.

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Edition screened: Included on Arrow Blu-ray The Woman, released 2020. Spanish language with English subtitle. Runtime approximately 7 minutes.


Summary: An animated short about a socially malignant animal, but with no particular depictions of violence or harm to him or to other animals.


 

The Naked Zoo

The Naked Zoo. William Grefé, 1970.

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Edition screened: In Arrow Blu-ray box set He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection, released 2020. English language. Runtime of Director’s cut approximately 92 minutes; “Barry Mahon” cut is approximately 87 minutes.


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


The disk includes an alternate cut of The Naked Zoo despite director Grefé’s disgust with that version. The so-called “Barry Mahon” cut includes a dopey topless scene that is as unnecessary as it is uninteresting, but also features Canned Heat performing “One Kind Favor” in its entirety, live in the protagonist’s small house! This party scene in the Director’s Cut just has records playing and some goofy conga drum slapping. The Canned Heat number, right around the 57 minute mark in the Barry Mahon cut, is very good, especially Blind Owl’s charisma and restrained guitar playing.


Even the Director’s Cut of The Naked Zoo is better than the other films in this set. The “Barry Mahon” version rearranges shots slightly without hurting the story, adds the excellent Canned Heat performance, and still trims 5 minutes off the runtime by omitting some pointless scenes. I’d say Barry Mahon is the man. 


A 1961 Gottlieb Flying Circus is seen several times in the writer’s house, usually blurry and indistinct but finally clear at 56:14 in the Director’s cut.

 

The Psychedelic Priest

The Psychedelic Priest (Electric Shades of Grey). William Grefé and Terry Merrill (as Stewart Merrill), 1971.

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Edition screened: Included in Arrow Blu-ray box set He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefé Collection, released 2020. English language. Runtime approximately 81 minutes.


Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

 

Rentrée des classes

Rentrée des classes. Jacques Rozier, 1955.

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Edition screened: Included in Potemkine DVD box set Jacques Rozier, released 2008. French language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 20 minutes.


Summary: A snake is handled carelessly by children throughout the last half of the film, but is not intentionally mistreated and ultimately is set free.