New Shoes in the Rain

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bad guys

Good morning, all.  A slight detour from my normal slice-of-life diatribes.  This morning my treatise concerns villains from movies and books.

Why are we fascinated with villains?  Is it because we secretly wish that we could act that way, with no real consequences?  Or is it because we know that most, if not all, of the time, the good guys win out in the end of a movie or book?

I don't know, but I find many "bad guys" from movies to be most interesting, possibly the MOST interesting character in a given work.  Without further introduction, and in no particular order, here are some of the villains I've found compelling in various movies and other sources:

Sir Laurence Olivier enjoyed a long and distinguished career in acting on stage and screen, but may be known best to people in my demographic for playing the Nazi war criminal Christian Szell in the '70's thriller "Marathon Man."  The plot is somewhat difficult to explain quickly, but in it Dustin Hoffman plays a student who is thought to know something significant and incriminating.  Szell and his operative capture Hoffman's character and in an uncomfortably memorable scene Szell, who was a dentist at one time, tortures his prey by drilling his teeth and irritating dental nerves, asking repeatedly "Is it safe?"  I'm shuddering just writing about it!

No discussion of movie villains would be complete without mentioning Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic psychiatrist in "The Silence of the Lambs" and its sequels.  Anthony Hopkins absolutely owns this film, winning a Best Actor Academy Award despite only 22 minutes of screen time.  Funny, revolting, terrifying and even sympathetic at times, Lecter is must more formidable than the "real" villain of that movie, the inaccurately named "Buffalo Bill."

Then there's old Mr. Potter in the Frank Capra feel-good classic "It's a Wonderful Life."  Miserly, vindictive, and ever opportunistic, Potter is most definitely a damper on the whole Bailey family, who has famously fought Potter to help the citizens of Bedford Falls.

The villains in all four of the Indiana Jones movies are interesting, for varying reasons.  None play their parts with as much relish as Cate Blanchett as the Soviet officer/scientist in the most recent of these movies, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (try saying that five times fast).  Although Paul Freeman, the British actor who played ruthless French archaeologist Belloq in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was also memorable for his bad behavior, Blanchett as Irina Spalko was top notch.

The recent Christopher Nolan renditions of Batman also bring to mind two memorable villains, though both were quite different.  Heath Ledger's take on the Joker in "The Dark Knight" was the closest thing to Hannibal Lecter that I think I've seen since.  Even if he's not on camera, his presence permeates that film, as Batman/Bruce Wayne and the Gotham police have to try to figure out what to do in response to each atrocity committed by the Joker.  And in the final installment, we have Tom Hardy bringing life to a totally different villain, Bane, in a way that's faithful to the comics and graphic novels, and yet also most convincing.  Bane isn't insane, he's just completely evil, or, as he tells someone, "I am necessary evil."  Just so.

Final villain in my list---of course, Darth Vader.  Lots and lots and LOTS of great lines, outrageously evil behavior, and, well, the voice of James Earl Jones didn't hurt, either.  My favorite line?  After a foul up an officer says he will go to Lord Vader and personally apologize.  We next see that officer on the floor gasping and as he breezes by, Vader says "Apology accepted, Admiral."  The man (plus machine) we love to hate!  Although I must say that it's a little disconcerting to hate and fear him so much and then see his image all over the place at Walt Disney World, now that Disney owns Lucasfilm!

If you have others in mind that I overlooked in this space(and I do, too), send me a comment!


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