We’re usually taught to respect our elders, but there have been plenty of characters in film who never quite got that memo. There’s a long and proud tradition in movies of elderly abuse and bad doings being transgressed on the 4:30 dinner crowd. This is the generation that did things like survive the Great Depression, fight the Nazis (and the Reds!), raise our parents and all too often us. One would think they’d earned a bit of consideration like guaranteed Social Security, adult diapers that don’t leak or generally not getting the shit beat out of them and snuffed like some third-rate red shirt. In this CHUD list, we’re going to take a look at a batch of old timers who, unfortunately, turned into having-a-really-bad-timers.
The Elder: Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers)
As the hippest, most supernaturally-gifted, best-looking 70-year-old employee at the Overlook hotel, Dick Hallorann had most certainly seen some shit over the years. There’s not a chance you spend years working in a ghost-filled facility –the appliances at which are as likely to violently menstruate as actually function– without catching on to the fact that the joint is a only a few dead black guys short of being the most terrifying goddamn hotel on the planet. Sure, you feel a little guilt each year as you introduce a new set of caretakers to a prison of horrors that will tug at the very threads of their sanity over the winter months, but most years go by without a family of honkies killing each other, and dammit you’ve got naps to take in Miami! And hell, this Torrance family even has a walking panic alarm, since this crazy little kid has the shine too. Surely he’ll keep his little ivory nose out of room 237 and leave you to rest beneath your Afro goddess for the winter though…
The Abuse: An Unceremonious Axe-hit to the Chest.
So not only do you take the special time to give the Torrence family the warmest introduction to the hotel possible, you even sit down with that Danny kid and explain to him the hidden cosmic mysteries of the Shine, demonstrating to him that he is not alone or crazy.
Your efforts don’t end there as you lay about during your vacation, completely unable to enjoy the occasional jam session to your favorite bit of above-bed titty portraiture. If occasional restlessness isn’t enough, your damn shine goes off in the middle of the night, plunging you into a dark maw of existential terror and nameless panic for the unknown events happening back at the Overlook Hotel. It’s the kind of vision that drains one of all the hope you’ve ever felt, and immediately renders that Facts of Life episode you’re watching (with Edna’s near-nip-slip) completely useless.
So fine, you start having the hotel paged over and over, jet and drive all the way back up into the snow, get ahold of a snowcat, and make the treacherous journey to the hotel… all on a hunch that something might be going down up there. It’s cold, you’re old, your bones just aren’t meant for this kind of bullshit anymore, and by god the place is creepy at night!
Still, you finally arrive and carefully tread into the lobby, fully prepared to lay your life on the line for these people you barely know, arriving just at the greatest moment of need to save the day like a true hero, and then-
Lack Of Respect By: Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson)
Dick and Jack didn’t interact all that much as the family arrived at the Overlook, but damn if Jack doesn’t end up leaving an impression on Dick by the end of thing. Jack is of course mid-psychotic breakdown when Dick arrives to save the day and by having the drop on ole Mr. Hollarand (and being armed with an axe along with the crazy-eyes that Kubrick liked so much), he pretty much makes short work of the 70-year-old caretaker.
Did He Have It Coming? Of course not! As described above, Dick did right by the Torrances every step of the way, and paid the ultimate price for it.
Doubling the disrespect is when you factor in the real-life stress actor Scatman Crothers endured to make the film, reportedly being involved in more than one set-up on which Kubrick insisted on upwards of 40 takes. It’s said that Crothers even broke down in tears midway through 80 takes of closing a refrigerator door while asking the director what he was looking for, to no avail. A seventy year old professional shouldn’t have to do a take for each year of his life!
Could the AARP Have Helped? They’d have croaked a mile out in the cold.
If Nature Had Taken Its Course? Year after year of winter seasons in Florida would have eventually ended with Mr. Hollarand never returning to the Overlook as he lived out the rest of his days, shining on the beaches of Miami. Until one day while taking one of his last walks along the tide at Sunset… Jack’d burst from the sand with an axe and taken him out anyway.
What Andy Rooney Might Say: Why always the black man? It’s not often in a Stanley Kubrick film that you’ll even see an African-American, and even more rare that you see the director make a horror film. And yet, in the film where those two rarities collide, Kubrick decided to fall into one of the oldest movie cliches in the book. What is it the director is trying to tell us by making one of the few actual deaths in the film that of the kind, black caretaker? Is this some kind of metaphor for the state of race relations in the country, or simply a lazy coincidence? I guess we’ll never know for sure, but I’ll always watch them the film dreading the scene where I have to see the kindly old gentleman –who drove so flew, drove, and trucked so very far to help– meet an unfair end. It’s enough to make you shake your head at the screen.