Friday, May 18, 2012

The 25th movie post anniversary

Here we are: 25 confirmed pigeon appearances in films and over 50 films pending to report on.

Picture source

For this special event we have prepared the Second Edition of Pigeon Quest and a summary of the Five characters that pigeons most love or hate.

I hope you enjoy it. Thank you for your support!!!

King Pigeon Jr.

The five characters that pigeons most love or hate

This is a summary of the five characters that have most contributed to pigeon welfare and another five that caused them the most offense. If you know of any other character that fits in this ranking please, write it as a comment. It will be considered for the next edition of this ranking. There is also a survey where you can vote for your own most-loved and hated character.

Beloved characters

Hated characters

Old beggar woman from Mary Poppins
She sells bags of breadcrumbs on the steps of Saint Paul's Cathedral. She has everything pigeons like: tenderness, food provisions and close contact. For this commendable action pigeons will love her forever. Links: post, video
Sandy Bates from Stardust memories
A first class pigeon maniac and anti-pigeon propaganda maker. He is specially hated for spreading the expression -rats with wings- which currently is widely used when referring to pigeons. Links: post, video
Terry Malloy from On the waterfront
Marlon Brando plays the part of a dockworker that raises pigeons. Pigeons love him for taking care of them and for a remarkable characterization, where he uses a pigeon for attracting a woman. This is the best example of pigeon-based seduction. Links: post, video.
Silas from How High
Behind this funny looking guy resides a cruel pigeon murderer. He planned and executed the worst pigeon massacre even recorded in a film: he fed pigeons with a mix of laxatives and birdseed that make them blow up. Links: post, video.

Roy from Blade Runner
Roy is a replicant that decides to die with a dove in his hands. At his finest hour he pronounces one of the most memorable speeches in Sci-fi in this feathered company.  Mr. Roy, you deserve plenty of pigeon gratitude for this preferential act. Links: post, video.
Alien ambassador from Mars Attacks
He and his alien fellows came to conquer the Earth. They enjoy killing humans, which is always disturbing for pigeons. But the straw that broke the camel's back was the murder of a peaceful-innocent dove. Links: post, video.

Barca from Spartacus
On one hand, Barca is a enslaved gladiator that fights to the death on the arena. On the other, he is a tender pigeon raiser. His absolute dedication to pigeons under extremely violent conditions is well appreciated by the feathered community. Links: post.
Motorbike pimp from Hard Target
First Pigeon Rule: never poo on a bad guy armed with a machine gun. Unfortunately, an absent-minded pigeon didn't obey this rule and suffered a cruel and bloody reprisal. Too much pigeon blood for a mere dropping. Links: post, video.

Chance from Hard Target
Before starting (in self defense) a killing rampage, and wiping out more than a dozen men in many original ways, Chance devotes some of his valuable time to establishing a friendship with a pigeon. Pigeons recognise the friendly gestures of this nice tough guy. Links: post.
Lee Adama from Battlestar Galactica
Lee is a successful public figure. At the beginning he is captain of the colonial fleet but later he was elected Vice President of the Twelve Colonies. However, his career has a dark secret in the past that pigeons will never forgive and forget: he was a hysterical pigeon tormentor. Links: post, video.

Second Edition of Pigeon Quest: spot the movie!!

Welcome to the Second Edition of Pigeon Quest. Here, instead of finding the pigeon in the film, you have to find the film with the pigeon.

Just write in the comments the film name with a recognized user name. An anonymous comment will produce an anonymous winner. The first one in succeeding will win and will receive an honorary certificate. 

(14/10/12): I'm sorry but this quest is closed. No one has answered it. A new quest will be published soo. The film can be see here.

You can see other editions of this Quest here.

These are the movie photograms:

In the first photogram we see a distant pigeon flying away

In the second photogram we see a group of women watching the pigeon with a mixed expression of happiness and fear

Mary Poppins: feed the pigeons

Title: Mary Poppins
Year:  1964
Director: Robert Stevenson
Running time: 140 min.
Country: United States

Mary Poppins is one of the most popular Walt Disney musicals. We will see that pigeons left an important footprint (should I say clawprint?) on the film and soundtrack. 
Bert with pigeons around.
One of the first pigeon appearances is when Bert (Dick Van Dyke), a friend of Mary (Julie Andrews) appears working in a park as a street artist. We can notice that he is not actually alone, and a flock of these feathered creatures wander over his paintings. Typical pigeon activity in urban park environments. Bert seems not to care about the pigeons. This is not the case of the next character who is devoted to pigeons. At bed time Mary sings the Feed the birds song to the children. It is the story of an old woman (Jane Darwell) that sits on the steps of Saint Paul's and sells bags full of crumbs to feed the little birds (actually they are pigeons). The main theme of the song is very bird-friendly:

Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag

The complete scene can be seen here. Nowadays, in most cities, this old woman would receive many complaints from the public and she would probably get a fine from the police because the city council has  forbidden feeding birds.

It is said that the Feed the birds song was Walt Disney's favourite song. Fragments of this song are played during the most important moments of this film. Walt Disney personally gave the role of the old woman to Jane Darwell. This was her last performance.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Mary Poppins Starring moment: 0:37:29 and 1:24:20
  • Pigeon activity: They are the typical Londoner pigeons.
  • Symbolism: there is no special symbolism.
  • Relevance: Medium. The pigeons are secondary characters. However, their friendly attitude during the feed the birds song enhances the scene's realism. Jane Darwell was a very good actress and this is one of her most remembered performances.
  • Training level: High. They behave very naturally and friendly.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

On the waterfront: pigeons for pulling

Title: On the waterfront
Year:  1954
Director: Elia Kazan
Running time: 108 min.
Country: United States

In this film, we can see practical examples of the use of pigeons for seduction and killing. Marlon Brando won an Oscar performing the role of Terry Malloy: a dockworker that breeds pigeons and sympathizes with a mob-union syndicate.  At the beginning of the film, Terry uses a one of these creatures to fool another pigeon breeder who was going to testify against the union syndicate. With the excuse of finding a lost pigeon, Terry leads him to a deadly ambush. Terry was initially on the side of the bad guys, but we will see that in the end he is not bad at all and pigeon are not only used for wicked purposes.

Terry uses a pigeon to fool another pigeon breeder.

This film is a drama but it also has some room for a memorable romance between Terry and Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint) who is the sister of the murdered pigeon breeder. Terry feels attracted to her and the problem is how to get a date. One day, she meets him on a rooftop and Terrie exploits this opportunity to impress her by showing her his pigeons. He proudly talks to her about his fondness for his racing pigeons and how loyal pigeons are.  This is a touching romantic scene where a pigeon performs with the main protagonists. The complete scene can be seen here. Unfortunately, Terry decides to face the mob union syndicate and eventually both Terry and his pigeons suffer a cruel reprisal by this organization.

Terry shows a pigeon to Edie in order to impress her.

Edie took the bait and seems to be interested in the pigeon.

The pigeon trick is working and we can appreciate a spark of interest in her eyes.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: On the waterfront  Starring moment: 0:02:10, 0:35:18
  • Pigeon activity: They are bred pigeons that live in a coop on a rooftop in New Jersey.
  • Symbolism: There are several theories about the pigeon symbolism. They can represent the dockworkers that are exploited by and kept from testifying by the mob. In this case they represent the weakest members of the community (an analysis can be seen here). The pigeons are also seen as stool pigeons, a slang expression that describes informers. In real life, the director himself became a stool pigeon providing testimony to the HUAC for anti-Communist investigations in Hollywood (analysis here).
  • Relevance: High. In the main pigeon appearances, they are used to achieve very different goals: killing an informer and attracting a woman. The pigeons also support Marlon Brando's performance contributing to his Oscar Award.
  • Training level: High. They are genuine bred pigeons that are used to being in close contact with humans.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How high: a pigeon slaughter

Title: How High
Year:  2001
Director: Jesse Dylan
Running time: 96 min.
Country: United States

This film contains one of the most villainous and violent acts against pigeons that I have seen. In the scene, innocent pigeons are used as explosive devices for orchestrating a cruel revenge against Dean Carl Cain. The evil mind behind this operation is Mr. Silas (Method Man), a Harvard student well known for being very fond of Botany, more specifically in one plant type that I will omit because it is not related to the violent acts that I'm depicting here. Silas and Dean Carl Cain have a bad relationship, so Silas planned to pay the Dean back in his own special way.

In this part of the film, Silas and two chums get into the Dean's office and scatter a mix of birdseeds and laxatives. Then, Silas opens a window allowing a flock of pigeon to come in and start a unexpected feast of seeds. The poor pigeons are unaware of the dangerous side effects of the food. After a while, the laxatives provoke a voilent attack of diarrhea that makes them bloat and then.... suddenly they start to blow up, like popcorn in a pan, covering the entire office with a nasty mixture of feathers and droppings. Very funny, Mr. Silas, very funny... but don't forget that pigeons always hold the grudge. One day you'll receive some poo and that will be no coincidence. The complete scene can be seen here

Mr. Silas smiles while he reveals his evil plan.

Happy pigeons having a birdfood feast in the Dean's office.

Snapshot of a pigeon just before blowing up.

State of the Dean Carl Cain's office after the pigeon slaughter

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: How high  Starring moment: 0:50:35
  • Pigeon activity: They are street pigeons that enter in an apartment in search of bird seeds. Pigeons are usually shy and they don't like to enter in houses. However, this kind of pigeon behaviour is frequently employed in many films -like this one. The special effects of the scene are remarkable. Instead of using computer animation they just cut the scene, and replace the original pigeon with an explosive reproduction which blows up very realistically.
  • Symbolism: This scene lacks of symbolism. The pigeons are common pigeons that avidly eat all the food that they find.
  • Relevance: Medium. With this action the Dean's office is completely devastated. This event contributes to deteriorating further the bad relationship between the Dean and the main characters of the film. 
  • Training level: Medium. The pigeons fly into the apartment in a non-natural way. It is evident that they are thrown in from outside. However, when they are in the apartment they behave pretty well eating all the seeds with great excitement.