April 2008, issue 32
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way." --Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner), Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The Cruelest Month: Some Great Villains in our Collections
"Better angels of our nature?" Not this month, pally. We're talking bad guys and wicked women.
Richard Widmark recently passed away, which has given us all cause to remember his indelible feature film debut, Kiss of Death, in which he was a bad guy named Tommy Udo who was so psychopathic, he gleefully pushed a wheelchair-bound old woman down a flight of stairs, giggling all the while.
Wanna play with fire, Scarecrow? The Wizard of Oz is on my mind lately, partly because of last month's issue, but nevertheless it's pretty obvious that you can't leave old pointy nose greenface off any list of villainy. I knew kids growing up who had nightmares about her. I never had it that bad, but that could be because my first few exposures to that film were on our family's black and white set, so it was years before I experienced that explosion from grey Kansas cornfields to Oz's brilliant yellow-brick technicolor, and really got the crazy green shade of the Wicked Witch's skin, or the blazing color of the fireballs. Those flying monkeys, though, are as creepy in monochrome as they are in full-blown, bombastic, horse-of-a-different-color color.
Michael Myers in Halloween: silent, relentless, deadly. And all wrapped up in a William Shatner mask!
Let's make plenty of room for the sexy femme fatales of film noir, old and new -- Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Ann Savage in Detour, Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction, Bette Davis in just about anything.
Random Big Bads:
Bad cowboy: Jack Palance in Shane. "You mean I'll kill him if you have to."
Bad cowgirl: Mercedes McCambridge in Johnny Guitar. "You all think she's some fine lady and that doing nothing makes you fine gentlemen! Well, she ain't! And you're not!"
Bad cop: Denzel Washington in Training Day. "There's nothing I can do about it, you know. I'm just a lowly civil servant."
Bad mother (no, we ain't talkin bout Shaft): Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate. "Why don't you pass the time with a game of solitaire?"
Bad automobile: The Car. "Well, uh...she said...there was no driver in that car...."
Bad fish: Jaws. "This was no boat accident!"
Bad medical professional: Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. "You know, Billy, what worries me is how your mother is going to take this."
Bad computer: Hal 9000 in 2001, A Space Odyssey. "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
Bad ex-girlfriend: Nina Meyers in 24. "Look, I realize this is a terrible time for you to discover all this."
Bad Fairy: Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. "Oh, they're hopeless. A disgrace to the forces of evil."
Bad step-mom: The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. "But to make doubly sure you don't fail, bring back her heart in this...."
Bad frat boy: Doug Niedermeyer from National Lampoon's Animal House. "You're all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty!"
Hank Quinlan and Harry Lime
Like Richard Widmark, cited above, Charlton Heston is another screen legend who recently passed away. But where Widmark was often ambiguous, Heston was almost always a character of sterling moral character (Moses, anyone? El Cid?), so it's hard to point to any star turns he made as a villain. Not even Michael Moore could make him an onscreen villain.
On the other hand, in Touch of Evil, Heston played good to Orson Welles' monstrously bad local lawman Hank Quinlan, and Welles has a whale of a time chewing the scenery as this corpulent baddie. Which reminds us, of course, of Welles' more charming bad guy, Harry Lime from Carol Reed's The Third Man, from a story and screenplay by Graham Greene.
And speaking of Heston, remember, soylent green is people, people.
"What did you want me to do? Be reasonable. You didn't expect me to give myself up... 'It's a far, far better thing that I do.' The old limelight. The fall of the curtain. Oh, Holly, you and I aren't heroes. The world doesn't make any heroes outside of your stories." --Harry Lime (Orson Welles), The Third Man.
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Geekfight #1: Dracula vs. Darth Vader
It would have to be a pretty good fight, although timing is everything (Drac eats the whiny pretty boy Anakin Skywalker of those atrocious latter day prequels for lunch. Literally. What did Natalie Portman see in him?). And furthermore, we have to consider which Dracula we're talking about, Christopher Lee or Bela Lugosi (we're going with franchise Dracs here, not one-hit wonders like Gary Oldman, Jack Palance, Max Shreck, or Frank Langella).
Also, can lightsabers kill vampires? Very important question. I'm guessing yes, if they contain some part of the light spectrum that is produced by the Earth's sun (I told you this was the geek corner). Or if Darthy just manages to sever the head with one neat cyber swish. I'm also betting that Drac's vampiric mesmerism and Vader's Jedi mind control cancel each other out, so one or the other can't make the other one beat himself over the head with a Louisville Slugger or anything. Finally, since vampires are dead, they don't breathe, so Darthy can't do that little pinchy thing with his fingers from across the room and stop the count's airflow.
So I do think it's a pretty fair match up, especially if we're talking about Christopher Lee's rangy and imposing count: both have super strength, a fair array of supernatural powers, and generally bad attitudes. Darth Vader has the advantage in technological weaponry, and Dracula would have to crack some pretty heavy duty armor to get to the creamy nougat of Vader's neck, so I think I have to say, slight advantage to Darth Vader.
Miss Peel, we're needed -- 'nuff said. They're all fierce, but she was just sooo fierce.
This issue of BCLMC is brought to you all the way from the back row by eye-blinking, moustache-twisting Media Assistant Patrick Jewell. Boo, hiss. Tell your friends.
BCLMC BROOKLYN CAMPUS LIBRARY MEDIA CENTER
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