Like all American kids of my generation (and beyond), I was deeply traumatized by the ending of OLD YELLER–however, it was another “heartwarming family movie” that really messed my shit up, also involving dogs: WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS. Of course the deaths of the dogs are sad, and the titular plant on the graves will bring a tear to all but the most emotionless eye. But it was the death of Rubin Pritchard, the villainous neighbor boy, that really did it to me. For those that don’t remember, Rubin sicks his dog Old Blue on Billy Coleman’s beloved dogs, hoping to take out the coon-hunting competition. When Old Blue isn’t up to the task, Rubin goes to finish the job himself with an ax, but is tripped up in the scuffle and falls on the axe blade, mortally wounding himself.
Now Rubin was the same age as Billy, which was about the same age as I was at the time–and I had never really credited the idea that a kid my age could die. Even though Rubin was the bad guy, it was inconceivable to me that he would really just DIE. Even worse, the movie gives Pritchard a lengthy death scene, complete with whispered last words about fear of dying, and the tell-tale trail of blood from his gaping mouth. At least, that’s how I remember it. It was chilling, especially to an impressionable young lad like I was.
Ah, the good old days of television. Nothing says “heartwarming family entertainment” like being forced to confront the fact of your own grim mortality at a tender age, no? Obviously it made me what I am today.”
Thanks Vicar, if WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS made you what you are today, we’re grateful. Otherwise we wouldn’t have a cool site like your MAD MAD MAD MAD MOVIES to visit!