been a while since the last full team-based CHUD LIST. Too long. With
the goal being to ease back into the swing of things and hopefully get
us on track to a list a month, here’s the latest, BAD FOR US, WORSE FOR
THEM. The concept is simple.
This isn’t a “Best Kills” list.
We’ve done that and done it better than anyone ever could (though we’ll
revisit that at some point to rewrite the history books). This is a
list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound
affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how
emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent
in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go
beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well
executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy,
brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a
We could have done hundreds of these, but here’s twenty of
each from the CHUD staff, delivered two a day for you until the list is
Day Eight - Old Folks Day on the List
Lew Ayres in All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Picking one painful for us death out of All Quiet on the Western Front [buy it from CHUD!] is almost an impossible task. There are few films that have ever captured the pain and pointlessness of war like this 1930 classic. There are scenes of utter madness and horror that rival anything put to celluloid in the modern day, and there’s more tragedy per square inch in this adaptation of the Erich Maria Remarque novel about WWI than in a year’s worth of Lifetime original movies.
There were a lot of runners up in this film for ‘Worst for Us.’ I’m always touched by the scene where German soldier Paul (Lew Ayres) shoots a French soldier and then, filled with remorse, tries to will him back to life to apologize. There’s the death of Kemmerich, slowly and painfully dying from his wounds, and whose passing is mostly noted by his friends taking his boots. There’s the death of Kat, the experienced soldier who has led the new recruits into battle.
But the real heartbreaker occurs at the end of the film. After almost dying himself, Paul lives to see the death of his friend Kat. Back at the trenches, Paul awaits a new offensive when a butterfly catches his eye. There’s this object of flitting beauty in the wasted landscape of No Man’s Land, a bloody series of inches of dirt each worth the lives of hundreds, if not thousands. After all the suffering and guilt and starvation and tragedy, Paul is taken by this omen of happiness and he reaches out to touch it – and just as he does he is sighted by a French sniper, who puts a bullet through his head. The character we’ve followed doesn’t come out of the war a hero or a changed man. He doesn’t die in a heroic moment on the battlefield. He is suddenly and unceremoniously killed by an enemy whose eyes he will never see.
Pain of Death: LOW. Maybe non-existent. Paul is alive one moment and dead the next.
Emotional Loss: STUNNING. Especially for modern audiences. We’re all led to believe that every movie made before 1969 was a happy-go-lucky piece where everyone comes out a winner.
Will There Be a Closed Casket Funeral: Headshot! You tell me.
Insult To Injury: Paul never got that butterfly.
“What do you want me to do? Draw you a picture?”
This entry might be controversial in this spot. “Worse for Them” is all about bodily damage and pain, and in the best CHUD tradition, bodily damage and pain delivered in a graphic fashion. The death of Lucy in The Searchers [buy it from CHUD!] isn’t graphic; it occurs totally offscreen. Even the aftermath of her death, the discovery of her body, happens offscreen. But John Ford, using his full and masterful command of cinema, and John Wayne, an undervalued actor using a lifetime of mythological baggage, help create something that resonates in our imaginations more painfully and horribly than could ever be shown to us.
When Comanche Indians attack a white homestead they kill the men and mother and take the two young girls: Lucy (Pippa Scott), who is marrying age, and Debbie (Natalie Wood), who is just 12. Ethan Edwards, the black sheep of the family and a Confederate soldier who refused to surrender, goes after the two girls. With him is his half-breed nephew Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) and Lucy’s fiancee, Brad (Harry Carey Jr). They track the Comanche deep into the desert and at one point Brad scouts ahead and returns with good news: he has seen Lucy in the Indian camp. She’s alive.
Suddenly Ethan’s mood turns dark and he tells Brad the terrible truth. That isn’t Lucy, it’s a buck wearing Lucy’s dress. And he knows because he found Lucy in a canyon some ways back and buried her broken corpse himself. Brad, stunned, asked what happened to her and it’s then that Wayne just goes and sells it. This man, this hard man who has fought in a war and who carries himself with a quiet steeliness, suddenly almost breaks. His voice quavers with sadness and horror as he tells Brad never again, as long he lives, to ask him what he saw.
It’s powerful. It’s emotionally powerful, and maybe you could make the argument that as such it belongs in “Bad for Us,” even though we never had a real emotional connection to Lucy. To me it’s also powerful in a true horror sort of way. What happened to Lucy? What did Ethan see that was so terrible that he almost cries? She was left naked in a canyon – was she raped? Tortured? Mutilated? How horrifying must her last minutes have been? Ford allows us to find the most horrible things we can imagine and have them all happen to Lucy. Sometimes we can do much worse than any filmmaker and FX artist.
Pain of Death: HIGH. I mean, I assume. We don’t know! But all evidence leads to believing that poor Lucy was raped and epically mistreated before being murdered.
Emotional Loss: MEDIUM. We mostly feel for these men.
Will There Be A Closed Casket Funeral: How about a closed coat funeral? Ethan wrapped her up in his Confederate coat and buried her.
Insult To Injury: So not only did the Comanche rape her, torture her and kill her, they left her naked in a canyon and then used her clothes for their own weirdo cross-dressing activities.
Today’s installment written by Devin Faraci.
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