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.


Dolemite. D’Urville Martin, 1975.
Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray, released 2016. English language. Runtime approximately 90 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

Much can be said, has been said, about this tale of crime, crooked cops and soul music set in the Fourth Ward. Stand-up comedian Rudy Ray Moore stars as pimp suit wearin’, trash talkin’ Dolemite, and delivers several funny monologues in the African-American story telling tradition of loosely rhymed verse.

Of specific interest is his tale of “Ol’ Shine” who worked onboard the Titanic. As the great ship is going down, fancy ladies beg Shine to save them at his own expense and he returns their pleas with smooth dismissal. 

I was surprised to hear a historical story in this context rather than another amusing string of ass-whoopin’ banter, and specifically interested by the exact content. Soon after the Titanic sank in 1912, songs sprang up in the black community using the event as a platform to discuss racial inequality. Most of these songs reference one or more prominent African-Brits who were denied boarding despite having purchased tickets, the captain saying “I ain’t haulin’ no coal.” The result of course is that the humiliated passengers were spared horrible deaths. Other songs and stories of the period suggest that the sinking was divine retribution for the black shipbuilders who lost their lives unnecessarily during construction.
In the sixty years between the mid-teens and the mid-seventies, these songs traveled from plantation fields and rural prisons of the southeast to swaggering uptown neighborhoods. They were remembered and disseminated at a time when many of the people involved were illiterate and without telephone service, and long before the easy communication of Twitter and text messages. In the thirty years between the mid-eighties and 2018, far wealthier and better educated Americans retain little awareness of major news events or cultural happenings just a few decades ago, but they sure do know a lot about college basketball and the Kardashians.

The Doll (Lubitsch)

The Doll (Die Puppe). Ernst Lubitsch, 1919.
Edition screened: Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu-ray #176, included in the box set Lubitsch in Berlin: Fairy-Tales, Melodramas, and Sex Comedies, released 2017. Scored, with German intertitles and English subtitles, no dialogue track. Runtime approximately 48 minutes.

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

A wonderful fantasy film with precociously modern sets and design.

Don’t Answer the Phone

Don’t Answer the Phone. Robert Hammer, 1980.
Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray, released 2017. English language. Runtime approximately 95 minutes.

Summary: Discussion of killing a dog.

Details: The murderer gives a brief account of killing a puppy, 1:25:30-1:25:50. The description is not graphic.

Don’t Torture a Duckling

Don’t Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino). Lucio Fulci, 1972.
😿 😿
Edition screened: Arrow Blu-ray, released 2017. Italian language with alternate English dub. Runtime approximately 102 minutes.

Summary: Abuse or killing of a reptile.

Details: A beautiful salamander is sitting on a rock at 2:05. A smug kid pelts it with a slingshot at 2:13. We see the rock hit the salamander and the stupid kid smile in smug satisfaction. We see the kid die later in the film.

The title is a metaphor. There is no real or threatened abuse to ducklings in the film.

Double Exposure

Double Exposure. William Byron Hillman, 1982.
Edition screened: Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray, released 2017. English language. Runtime approximately 95 minutes.

Summary: Dead snake.

Details: Police find a dead snake around the murder victim’s neck, 1:01:33-1:01:38. We do not see the snake’s head or get a good look at it in general, and it appears to be rubber.

Double Take (Grimonprez)

Double Take. Johan Grimonprez, 2009.
Edition screened: Kino DVD, released 2010. English language. Runtime approximately 79 minutes.

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

Downhill Racer

Downhill Racer. Michael Ritchie, 1969.
Edition screened: Criterion DVD #494, released 2009. English language. Runtime approximately 101 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.


Dracula. Tod Browning, 1931.
Edition screened: Included in Universal Classic Monsters Blu-ray set, released 2012. English language. Runtime approximately 75 minutes.

Summary: No particular depictions of violence toward animals.

Dreams (Kurosawa)

Dreams (Yume/Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams). Akira Kurosawa, 1990.
Edition screened: Criterion Blu-ray #842, released 2016. Japanese language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 120 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

Dreams includes eight short films that are unrelated in plot but unified by themes of happy and ethical living:

1) Sunshine Through the Rain
2) The Peach Orchard
3) The Blizzard
4) The Tunnel
5) Crows
6) Mount Fuji in Red
7) The Weeping Demon
8) Village of the Watermills

The Peach Orchard is one of the most visually beautiful sequences I’ve seen.

The Criterion release includes Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s documentary Making of Dreams, filmed during production of Dreams (1990, 150 minutes), and Catherine Cadou’s Kurosawa’s Way (2011, 50 minutes), assembled interviews with regarded directors who explain their indebtedness to Kurosawa. Both free of animal violence.

The Driller Killer

The Driller Killer. Abel Ferrara, 1979.
Edition screened: Arrow Blu-ray, released 2016. English language. Theatrical Version runtime approximately 96 minutes; Prerelease Version runtime approximately 101 minutes.

Summary: Skinned and butchered rabbit.

1) Beginning at 37:04, we a skinned rabbit hanging by its feet, followed by butchering and violent mutilation through 39:03.
2) The head of the butchered rabbit, 1:28:40-1:28:49.

Dry Summer

Dry Summer (Susuz yaz). Metin Erksan and David E. Durston, 1964.
Edition screened: Criterion Blu-ray #688 in box set #684 Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 1, released 2013. Turkish with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 90 minutes.

Summary: Actual murder of a dog and a chicken.

1) Beginning 29:20, a chicken is held down, her head cut off, and the body thrown at a young woman as misguided flirtation by the jackass protagonist in the film. The body of the chicken flaps around at the woman’s feet until a cut at 29:42.
2) A dog, sitting calmly and watching the other actors, is shot – for real – at 34:03. The camera stays on him as he howls, rolls over on his side, and dies through 34:14. The dog’s body is found and carried home, 34:50-35:53.

If a ever a film needed to be remade, it is Dry Summer. This otherwise exquisite, beautiful film addresses the most important social and interpersonal issues, and is marred horribly by the shockingly brutal murder of the dog and the more common chicken butchering. Please, let some sensitive contemporary director realize the potential in re-making this masterpiece.

Du côté d’Orouët

Du côté d’Orouët (Near Orouët/The Beaches of Orouët). Jacques Rozier, 1969.
Edition screened: Included in Potemkine DVD box set Jacques Rozier, released 2008. French language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 154 minutes.

Summary: Mistreatment and butchering of eels.

1) A tub of eels is spilled on a floor, then grappled and chased around a house, 1:05:40-1:09:35.
2) A Conger eel (a very large eel with a disconcertingly happy smile) is brought back dead and hanging from a cord, 1:51:50-1:52:42. It is cleaned for cooking 1:56:42-1:57:25.

A delightful viewing experience that makes you feel like you had a three-week vacation on the French coast with three giggly girls. Please do not be put off by eel sequences. There is no harm or injury in the first scene mentioned, just a lot of girly screaming and grappling. The cleaning and cooking scene is averagely graphic, not exceptionally. Just skip them if you want, but enjoy the experience of this film!


Dudes. Penelope Spheeris, 1987.
Edition screened: Shout! Factory Blu-ray, released 2017. English language. Runtime approximately 90 minutes.

Summary: Dead deer.

Details: While the boys are looking for their car keys in the stream, a dead dear suddenly slams down into the water (35:58-36:05), thrown from the bridge overhead.

The Dying Swan

The Dying Swan (Umirayushchii lebed). Evgeni Bauer, 1917.
Edition screened: Included on Milestone DVD Mad Love: The Films of Evgeni Bauer, released 2002. Russian intertitles with English subtitles, no dialogue track. Runtime approximately 49 minutes.

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

E-CLIP-SE of Sets

E-CLIP-SE of Sets. Chris Marker, 1999.
Edition screened: Included in Soda Blu-ray/DVD set Chris Marker Collection, released 2014. Scored, with French intertitles and English subtitles, no dialogue track. Runtime approximately 8 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.