I must have been in 1st or 2nd grade when I first saw Watership Down (1978, Nepenthe Productions) when it aired on television. It would be many, many years later before I finally got around to reading the novel by Richard Adams, but it was the lingering memories of those powerful, frightening images from that single television viewing that prompted me to do it.
Images such as these. Here, the mystic rabbit Fiver has an apocalyptic vision. "The field..it's covered with blood!"
Later, one of the larger rabbits, Big Wig, is caught in a snare. The others must act quickly if they are to save him, but they aren't sure what to do.
These disturbing images leave no doubt as to the seriousness of Big Wig's predicament.
In a horrific flashback, Holly, a rabbit that had stayed behind in the doomed warren but managed to escape, describes how their holes were filled in and the tunnels choked with the bodies of desperate rabbits.
This gives way to a subjective, dream-like vision of the construction vehicles violating the land.
We meet the monstrous chief rabbit General Wound-Wort, the cruel and ruthless leader of a neighboring warren, who gets into a vicious fight with Big Wig.
Wound-Wort meets an appropriately bloody end in the jaws of this dog...
And finally, I'll never forget this chilling scene set years later, where our protagonist, Hazel, now old and near the end of his life, is approached by the Black Rabbit, death, who convinces him to lay down and finally die.
Every so often, I'll browse the customer reviews at Amazon.com just to see what people have to say about this movie or that. Apparently there are some...uh, passionate folks out there who think a children's movie shouldn't contain anything scary, sad, violent or thought-provoking, and actually get quite mad about it if their expectations are defied. You'll find folks like these leaving angry 1-star reviews for classics like Old Yeller, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and yes, even Watership Down. One reviewer posted a tirade so hysterical it actually cracked me up.
From reviewer John K. Fisher, posted October 24, 2001:
Let me explain something. This movie is the scariest damn movie ever. Bunnies trying to claw each other's eyes out is not cool. happy bunny blood, people. Am I the only one horrified by this? HAPPY. BUNNY. BLOOD. To whoever was behind this: What the hell is wrong with you? Music by Art Garfunkel.I don't know if this guy is just a troll looking for a reaction or a sincere nutball, but either way its a funny read.
That review is hilarious! I like how he goes on and on and then just 'Music by Art Garfunkel.' I loved this movie when I was a kid. Although I was a little freaked out by the Black Rabbit of Death.
Speaking of Art Garfunkel, in Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, there's a scene with Gromit sitting in the truck and 'Bright Eyes' is playing on the radio. I laugh every time.
There's also a reference to "Bright Eyes" on a second-season episode of Flight of the Conchords, which featured a cameo by Art Garfunkle!
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