my favorite blog, arbogast on film, has issued an invitation to participate in a floating blog-a-thon with the theme being "the one you might have saved". which of the doomed characters whose corpses litter the horror cinema landscape would you offer a reprieve from their grisly fate if you could breach that fourth wall?
this is nearly impossible to narrow down.
i kicked around the idea of renfield from dracula (1931) for a while but something wasn't quite right about that one. he certainly didn't deserve to be strangled and tossed down the steps of carfax abbey like so much rubbish but he doesn't inspire enough sympathy or empathy to merit being the one i would save - too weak, too subservient.
saul femm from the old dark house (1932) is a sentimental favorite. this film is a desert island choice, no hesitation, and i love this character. like all the best psychotics, he almost convinces you that he is completely sane but can't quite keep the madness under wraps. there is a gleam in his eye at the prospect of doing evil that he cannot hide. in an instant, he turns from pious victim into knife-wielding pyromaniac. i take great delight in his malicious, insane glee but i can't justify making him the one. if i saved him i would feel responsible for looking after him and that would mean i would have to be forever on my guard because the little bastard is nuts. and, while it would never be boring having him around, i don't relish the thought of pulling into the driveway only to find him dancing a jig in the pile of ashes that was previously our happy home.
but then it came to me. i know who i would save in a heartbeat. this man:
good ol' dick hallorann from the shining (1980). no sweeter guy has ever been done dirtier than him. i would actually go back to working in kitchens if i knew he was going to be my boss. dick hallorann would loan you ten bucks if you needed it and never once ask about getting it back. he would sit out on the loading dock and teach you to play the banjo when it was slow. he would tell you about all the places he'd been and it would never get boring. he would make the best glass of lemonade you ever had. he was good to his grandmother. he would tell you to get your shit together if it was necessary and you would never get mad at him for it. dick hallorann is where it's at.
and he's great with kids,
kids that shine, anyway. as much as dick hallorann would gladly give you the shirt off his back that just goes double for danny. in a very short amount of screen time you feel that there's a true connection here; that he cares about, and fears for, this kid. and when danny puts out the call
dick gets on a plane and goes. roads blocked? get the man a snowcat! nothing is going to stop him.
well, almost nothing. jack, you are a son of a bitch. so, yes, if i could prevent that, i would. dick hallorann was a righteous man, doing the right thing. it's a damn shame that the shining isn't so hot at picking up axe-wielding maniacs hiding a few feet away. i'm not going to dwell on it, though. i am going to remember dick hallorann the way i want, the way i think he'd want us to remember him.
how'd you like some ice cream, doc?