This post is my contribution to the "Fabulous Films of the 1940s Blogathon," sponsored by the Classic Movie Blog Association. For a full list of excellent entries from the other blog participants, please click here.
"The grand age of the adventure epic gave to the American people, as to people all over the world, an image of grandeur and glitter and flair which our own eccentrically stable country could barely approach. Most importantly, it gave a sense of grace. Grace - the ability to make the difficult look easy and the simple look profound - was the stylistic hallmark of the swashbuckler and the gentleman adventurer." (1)
I love a good swashbuckler.
The swashbuckler is a particular subgenre of the period adventure film, or costume epic. It's a particularly fun little corner of the movie universe, where good always triumphs over evil; disagreements are settled with swordplay and, if at all possible, accompanied by a witty verbal riposte; where heroes are dashing and villains hissable; and where historical accuracy adds plenty of background color but never gets in the way of a ripping good yarn.
Though swashbucklers have always been made by the major studios, the genre enjoyed three distinct heydays: the 1920s, when Douglas Fairbanks Sr. came bounding onto the scene; the mid-to-late 1930s, when Errol Flynn and his cheeky grin ruled the box office; and a late blossoming in the 1950s, when studios used the color and pageantry of the form to liven up their new widescreen processes and lure audiences back from the upstart medium of television.
I think most moviegoers will agree that a movie is only as good as its villain. If you go to a lot of trouble to craft a film with a terrific central hero, or group of heroes, but pit them against a weak, ineffectual, or even just plain anonymous villain, then the movie itself weakens as a result.
But if the bad guy is one for the books, a real larger-than-life, powerfully evil, hissable monster... chances are it'll be a film you’ll never forget.
In the real world, bad guys often go unpunished…in fact, as history has sadly proven time and again, they often prosper. Is it any wonder then that when it comes to the fantasy land of moviemaking, we love to see the bad guys get theirs.
Hans Gruber says sayonara at the end of Die Hard.
Of course, even in movies, the villains sometimes go unpunished. Certainly, many of the “villains” in dramas and comedies don’t die, they merely get humiliated, thwarted, lose the girl and/or the game, get shown up as the creep they are, etc. -- which is justice enough.
But in the arena of genre films, where a movie often triumphs or fails on the strength of its bad guy(s), a good villain deserves, and usually gets, a good, violent – and if possible, poetic and grandiose -- death.
I’ve seen more than my share of these kinds of films. Here are some of the more memorable examples of demonic demises which come to mind.
Beware! SPOILERS (and some violent images) ahoy!!!
Opinionated ramblings about new and old movies (mostly old, as that's the way I like 'em!)
Blogs of Note
Stuart Galbraith IV's World Cinema Paradise
Movie Morlocks (TCM's Classic Movie Blog)
50 Westerns from the 50s
Riding the High Country
Tipping My Fedora
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Classic TV and Film Cafe
Just a Cineast
She Blogged By Night
Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema
Out of the Past -
A Classic Film Blog
Pretty Sinister Books
They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To
In So Many Words...
Greenbriar Picture Shows
My Love of Old Hollywood
Tales of the Easily Distracted
Another Old Movie Blog
Lasso the Movies
Kevin's Movie Corner
Films From Beyond the Time Barrier
Carole & Co.
Rupert Pupkin Speaks
Vienna's Classic Hollywood
The Lady Eve's Reel Life
ClassicBecky's Brain Food
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