I intensely dislike films with real animal cruelty in them and to this end i have made this post to highlight the atrocious acts carried out by some filmmakers against animals while making their movies, it’s troubling to me that animal abuse in the movie industry still goes on in some countries, the subject is far too wide to discuss at length in one blog post so i will concentrate on five movies that shocked me and that i know to feature abuse of animals onscreen.
1) Jesse James: This film from 1939 is responsible for the American humane society monitoring movies, there is a scene where Frank and Jesse James are riding at speed to evade capture, they come to a steep cliff, at least 70 foot tall, the horse and rider go over the cliff, the horse dies, they edited it together to make it look like two horses going over but it’s one, a horse cannot be trained to jump to it’s death.
They placed the horse and stuntman onto a tilt chute, to me and you that’s a slippery platform, the chute is lifted and the horse and stuntman go over the edge of the cliff, the poor horse would have been in terrible shock, it didn’t die from the fall, it was panicking in the water and drowned, it may also have had a broken back, that scene is cut from the British version of the film due to animal cruelty laws but can be seen in most other countries in the world.
2) Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: This Sam Peckinpah western is from 1973 and features terrible animal cruelty scenes, in the Wild Bunch he drops a scorpion into an anthill and then sets it on fire, for this film he went further, for the opening scene of the film they have live chickens buried up to their necks in the soil, they use the chickens as target practice and blow their heads off in slow motion, i remember watching a documentary on Peckinpah and they explained that to stop the chickens moving they doused their heads and eyes in gasoline or lighter fluid, i can’t remember if they wired them up to explode or just shot their heads off, it was a nasty thing to do for a film and watching it once was enough.
3) Shaft In Africa: You don’t hear anything about animal cruelty in this film, i watched it closely though and my opinion is that the dog is beaten to death with a stick, i believe they filmed it in Ethiopia where there is a huge stray dog problem, it sure looks very real to me, the dog’s reaction when the guy hits it with the stick looks real and i don’t think it’s something you can get with training, it’s a sickening scene and i feel uncomfortable about it, there is debate about whether the scene is real but when you take into account where it was filmed and the low budget of the production, i think it’s a genuine case of animal abuse on film.
4) Cannibal Holocaust: A film directed by Ruggero Deodato, this Italian movie is very effective but unfortunately features real animal cruelty, a few of the worst scenes were a live monkey having it’s skull chopped off with a machete and a scene where they capture a turtle and decapitate it, the director made several other films also featuring real animal abuse, he has since went on record to say he regrets his past actions when making these films.
5) Heaven’s Gate: This 1980 film was directed by Michael Cimino, live horses provided by owners for the film were bled from the neck so that actors could have blood smeared upon them, real cockfights took place and cows were disemboweled to supply actors with fake intestines, four horses were killed and many injured on the set of this movie, it’s most infamous scene, left in the final cut of the movie, has a horse being blown up by dynamite, it’s thought that was a scene that went wrong and the stuntman riding the horse survived, it’s a terrible thing to allow to happen.
The American humane society were barred from the set and one of the horse owners filed a lawsuit against the production company, this was settled out of court, if you must watch this film then be aware of the animal cruelty within, you can now own it on blu ray, it’s been released as part of the Criterion collection.
There are many films featuring animal cruelty and awful abuse on film, Conan The Barbarian has many horse tripwire scenes, Apocalypse Now has a cow being hacked to death, supposedly as part of a native ceremony but it’s still very real, i also remember reading about Sylvester Stallone and the making of First Blood, there is a scene where Rambo is trapped in a mine and looking for escape, he comes across rats, the story i read was that Stallone was throwing the rats, basically smashing them against the set and killing them for fun and apparently laughing and all merry with the crew while doing this, i read the American humane society representative was kept from the set, now this may be an urban myth story, i don’t know, i repeat it only for gossip value as it may not have happened.
I hope there comes a time when we start to treat animals with more care and respect, not only on film but in life, too many owners get a pet and think they do not need to look after it, neglect happens, people buy dogs or cats for Xmas because their children want one, soon after they get taken to the local rescue home, cats may get thrown out all night long without any means of getting back into their house, fine in the summer, not so good if it happens in the cold of winter, during hardship times of austerity you get people who are barely able to afford food for themselves and thus the pets suffer and are abandoned, this is all animal cruelty and i think those who treat animals with care and dignity tend to also treat humans with respect, care and dignity, those people who are into animal abuse, hitting them, shooting them, treating them like dirt, those people also tend to treat humans badly too, don’t forget serial killers start out by torturing and killing animals.
You can visit the American Humane Society by clicking here, Make a donation or use the search box to check out a film you have concerns about.