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.

The Grand Duel

The Grand Duel (Il grande duello). Giancarlo Santi, 1972.
Edition screened: Blue Underground DVD, released 2013. Italian language with English subtitles or original English dub. Runtime approximately 98 minutes.

Summary: Cruel physical abuse to a horse.

Details: A galloping horse is thrown into a fall at 19:38.

This Lee Van Cleef spaghetti western actually is not a bad movie, as it has a boatload of off-beat characters, extraordinary landscapes, a reasonable plot, a beautiful soundtrack and loads of gun-play and explosions. There are a slew of wonderful vignettes such as Van Cleef’’s leisurely walk through a gauntlet of bounty hunters in the film’s opening sequence and a wonderfully filmed lakeside sleepover for a ragtag bunch of stage coach passengers.  Many who enjoy westerns would get a kick out of The Grand Duel in spite of one moment of outlandish acrobats and a smallish budget. Unfortunately there is one disturbing scene where a galloping white horse is shot by bounty hunters and takes a terrible spill (all four legs are off the ground at one point) landing the poor animal on its neck and back. Fortunately this appears to be on sandy ground. This trick may have been accomplished by a very well-trained stunt horse, but a tripwire might have been involved. Either way, this was one of the worst horse falls in the many westerns that I have seen. It is hard to believe that this stunt did not hurt the horse. The actors then proceed to make a crude joke about the “dead” animal. This short scene was completely unnecessary and would not have changed the proceedings one iota if it were excised from the film.

- Thanks to our friend Bob Grandcolas for this submission.