Monday, November 10, 2008

Rating Game Redux 46: "Determined to Prove a Villain"

Our local paper asked us to call into the abyss, and some boss villains called back.

The first villains are encountered in childhood. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) is the Big Bad Wolf in Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955), his fingers famously tattooed with “love” and “hate,” Mitchum’s sleepy grin relentless as he pursues the children through a black-and-white troubled dream.

Given the current global economic state, Haghi (Rudolph Kleine-Rogge), the evil banker in Fritz Lang’s Spione/Spies (1928), comes easily to mind. Sitting wheelchair-bound (unnecessarily, his disability a ruse—how’s that for a metaphor?) in his office, wired to a worldwide network of saboteurs and assorted minions, his staring eyes and goatee pointing at us like a weapon, Haghi threatens monetary chaos while his own coffers fill to bursting. Fortunately, in Lang’s version, no bailout is offered.

OK, I can’t resist another financier: Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Also in a wheelchair, Potter cannot bear the thought of regular folk owning their own homes—or George Bailey’s growing conviction that, eventually, everyone should have a conscience.

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