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.

Parasite (Bong)

Parasite (Gisaengchung). Bong Joon Ho, 2019.
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Edition screened: Universal Blu-ray, released 2020. Korean language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 132 minutes.

Summary: Pointless killing of an insect.

Details: A man dispatches a camel cricket, 2:41.

Party Line

Party Line. William Webb, 1988.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #264, released 2019. English language. Runtime approximately 90 minutes.


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

The Passing

The Passing. John Huckert, 1985.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #280, released 2019. English language. Runtime approximately 96 minutes.

Summary: Simulated killing of a rat. 

Details: Depiction of a rat being killed with a cement block, 8:32-8:36. The scene begins with a real rat then cuts to a piece of goo-colored plastic. 

An unusual and emotionally complex film with diverse payoffs for an engaged viewer. Thank you Vinegar Syndrome for bringing some relatively unknown films of unique and good quality to the common marketplace.

The VS release also includes four earlier films by Huckert, all free of animal violence. Two of these, The Water That Is Passed (1976, 28 minutes) and Ernie and Rose (1982, 29 minutes) constitute significant portions of The Passing. The other two films, Quack (1976, 24 minutes) and Einmal (1979, 9 minutes) are unrelated. 


Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist

Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist. Various directors, 1925-1979.
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Edition screened: Criterion 4-DVD set #369, released 2007. English language, or silent with English intertitles. Cumulative runtime of eight feature films approximately 586 minutes.

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

This box set includes three documentaries produced by Criterion, several other historical interviews, and eight feature films. Click on individual titles for details:

Borderline (1930)
Jericho (1937)
Native Land (1942)

Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist

Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist. Saul J. Turell, 1979.
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Edition screened: Included on DVD #370 Paul Robeson: Icon, in Criterion 4-DVD set #369 Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, released 2007. English language. Runtime approximately 29 minutes.

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


Permanent Vacation

Permanent Vacation. Jim Jarmusch, 1980.
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Edition screened: Included with Criterion DVD #400 Stranger Than Paradise, released 2007. English language. Runtime approximately 75 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.


Picasso Trigger

Picasso Trigger. Andy Sidaris, 1988.
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Edition screened: Included on Mill Creek 3-DVD set Girls, Guns and G-Strings: The Andy Sidaris Collection, released 2011. English language. Runtime approximately 100 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

The Pink Ladies

The Pink Ladies. Roger Watkins (as Richard Mahler) and Michael Robert, 1979.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #286, released 2019. English language. Runtime approximately 77 minutes.


Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals. 3/5

Pistol Opera

Pistol Opera (Pisutoru opera). Seijun Suzuki, 2002.
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Edition screened: Tokyo Shock DVD, released 2003. Japanese language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 112 minutes.


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

Play Dead (Satan’s Dog)

Play Dead (Satan’s Dog). Peter Wittman, 1982.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrom Blu-ray #283, released 2019. English language. Runtime approximately 86 minutes.

Summary: Abuse and killing of animals.

Details:
1) Wealthy Aunt Hester has a secret hocus-pocus room in her basement, decorated with all types of satanic nicknacks plus a small cage of white mice and an owl who sits on a perch behind her. As part of the first spell we witness, a dove is killed off screen and we see the bird bled into a bowl 29:44-30:04.
2) In the hocus-pocus room again, the owl kills and pecks at one of the white mice, 1:00:36-1:00:46.
3) Aunt Hester attempts to murder the dog by luring it to jump to its death. The throws a frisbee over a rocky precipice at 1:19:54, the dog leaps and bounces down the rocks (fairly graphic), and we see the body lying at the bottom with some blood spatter, all through 1:20:13.  Big surprise, the dog is not dead . . .


Pledge Night

Pledge Night. Paul Ziller, 1988.
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Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray #291, released 2019. English language. Runtime approximately 86 minutes.

Summary: Worm eating

Details: An earthworm is dropped into a pledge’s mouth, 36:45-36:51, with no chewing or follow-up. Honey is then poured on his face and roaches dropped onto the honey, 37:28-37:50.


Point of No Return

Point of No Return. John Badham, 1993.
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Edition screened: Warner Blu-ray, released 2009. English language. Runtime approximately 109 minutes.

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

There are about twenty other movies with this same La Femme Nikita plot, and I recommend watching any of those rather than Point of No Return, which is dull-witted and lacking any feeling of tension or suspense. Harvey Keitel does a good job of playing Harvey Keitel.


Polyester

Polyester. John Waters, 1981.
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Edition screened: Criterion Blu-ray #995, released 2019. English language and Odorama. Runtime approximately 86 minutes.

Summary: Depiction of a hanged dog, for comedic effect.

Details: As part of the violent mayhem in the household, the family dog is seen hung by the neck from the top of the refrigerator, 1:00:33-1:00:37. 

The Poor Little Rich Girl

The Poor Little Rich Girl. Maurice Tourneur, 1917.
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Edition screened: Included in Milestone 3-DVD set Mary Pickford: Rags & Riches Collection, released 2012. Scored and with English intertitles, no dialogue track. Runtime approximately 75 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

This is an excellent film, especially the fantasy dream sequence of the last 20 minutes.

Port of Call

Port of Call (Hamnstad). Ingmar Bergman, 1948.
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Edition screened: Included in Criterion Blu-ray set Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema, released 2018, and also in Criterion’s Eclipse 1: Early Bergman DVD set released 2007. Swedish language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 897minutes.

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

Port of Call and Thirst share disc#23 of 30 (part of ‘Centerpiece 3’) in the Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema set.