Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Gauntlet

Virtually all of our discussions on this blog have been about flogging a man as he is tied helpless.  But what about another form of flogging, one in which the man must take an active part?  I am speaking of course, of the gauntlet.  I had read about it in stories of how they used it on ships to punish thieves.  I have seen a few movies that depicted its use—or tried to (I can’t recall the names of the movies because the scenes themselves were so unmemorable).  The reason I found them so lacking was that the prisoner actually “ran” the gauntlet: he was free to get through it as fast as he could. 

However, there is a scene in the movie Barry Lyndon (the punishment scene starts at about 3:45), where a Prussian soldier is walked slowly through a gauntlet of his peers, and each hits his back hard with a switch (some of them look to be small tree branches), while the officer in charge slowly rides behind one of the ranks to ensure that each soldier does his duty and lays on with a will. 


This scene always sparked my imagination.  I have been flogged with a cat and a quirt and a strap, but always tied up.  Passive.  I couldn’t move, all I could do is wait for the next blow.  Imagine the terror a soldier felt as he slowly walked the gauntlet (with a corporal marching in front with a bayonet pointed at his chest to ensure he didn’t run).  Being tied up and having to take it is one thing, but having to march straight into a punishment—seeing all the pain that awaits you—must be the height of psychological agony. 

I especially liked the way the narrator set up the scene:  “Life in the Prussian service was considerably worse than the English.  The life that the private soldier led was a frightful one.  Punishment was incessant, and every officer had the right to inflict it”.  How do I become a officer in the Prussian Army?

11 comments:

  1. There is a scene in "Horatio Hornblower: The Gauntlet" much like what you describe:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1BoNgCR8NU&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

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  2. Gary of MILWAUKEEMarch 10, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    The gauntlet is truly a challenge for anyone who wants to receive or give a whipping. With bondage there is a certain element of the involuntary. However, with the gauntlet, you are walking into the whipping. With each lash you must decide again whether to continue or to run away. For the men whipping the man being punished, there is the realization that this is a joint effort. I greatly respect anyone who could endure the gauntlet.

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  3. If you watch the clip I posted above (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1BoNgCR8NU&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL), there is no deciding if you will continue – not with a sword at your back and one in front. You must continue! If you drop from the pain, the flogging gets even worse.

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  4. Does anyone have a clue how these were made? I mean, I really don't think any of the dudes really allowed themselves to be whipped. I read that for that movie, Master and Commander on the far side of the world, something like that anyway, the dude getting flogged wore a protective piece on his back. Some whipping clips are easy to explain, like Star Ship Troopers.

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  5. In the movies, of course they're simulated floggings. I don't think the actors are into this as much as we are on this blog. But my vids are real--I take the lash!

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  6. Whoa, dude, chill...no one's questioning your vids...I was just looking for an explanation as to how the movie world re-creates whippings...

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  7. I didn't mean it that way. I wasn't saying--or even implying--that you were attacking my vids. I am just (overly, perhaps) proud of my work.

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  8. Richie, in the older movies, the whippings are frequently offscreen, and sometimes, we seldom see the whip strike the culprit's back. When we do, the whip likely falls short of the back, but sound effects and "blood" (usually ketchup) supply the illusion. The visual aspect is important, because with the actor tied up, shirtless, and straining and grimacing, we think we are seeing an actual whipping.

    In modern films, like Starship Troopers, play the scene in slow motion. You will see the whip fall short of the back, but a red stripe "appears" on his back. Amazing what special effects can accomplish!

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  9. As to the gauntlet, the scene from Hornblower is one of my favorites for several reasons. You can see every reaction on the man's face, and it's extremely believable. It also ends with one of my favorite elements in the aftermath scene. That's when he's laying on his bed in obvious pain, and the camera pans over his back so we can see the extent of the injury. It's one of the elements for my ideal scene personally.

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  10. Update...
    I once watched a behind-the-scenes documentary of a movie (can't recall which one, sorry) that had a really brutal whipping scene. The director said they used a whip made of actually very soft material that was textured to look like leather. They struck the actor, but very lightly, so he knew when to react. Then they dubbed in the whip 'crack' sound, and added the lash marks by CG afterward. A lot of it was special effects, but also the way the actor had to 'sell' that he was in pain. Not unlike professional wrestling ;)

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