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DEATH TRAPS, FATES WORSE THAN DEATH AND DAMSELS IN DISTRESS

- an examination of the importance of perilous situations in the Hannibal King Saga -

"I know that the very fact that you have tied me up beneath a suspended sword shows a general lack of interest in my welfare but that blade looks rusty and I don't want to survive being impaled only to die of tetanus in three months! Oh, that's your answer for everything 'gag her' that'll shut her up, you people are so predictable" Honey O'Hara (Hannibal King and the Spear of Destiny)

One of the standard conventions of heroic fiction has always been the damsel in distress. After all the hero needs someone to rescue from the evil villainous forces. In the notoriously sexist pulp magazines of the 1930's and 40's the heroines had something of a rough ride - almost each cover would have a lurid depiction of some beauteous damsel in some form of bondage and dire peril. Doc Savage's feisty, tough and beautiful cousin Pat Savage was consistently being kidnapped and terrorised no matter how good she was with her gold plated pistol. The Spider's adoring, understanding but often very violent fiancée Nita Van Sloan suffered badly at the hands of many a vile and sadistic villain (in one horrendously evil peril she was offered up to a vicious and quite frankly ill mannered Orang-utan). Tarzan rescued Jane from jungle cults, white slavers and evil big game hunters on numerous occasions. Even in the 1960's one of the strongest female characters in the history of adventure fiction, namely Emma Peel from the Avengers was put into dire peril week after week. Often so that Steed could arrive, as dapper as ever, and rescue her (more often than not Emma had freed herself and knocked seven types of stuffing out of the bad guys.

Often, the nature of these perils would really reflect the nature of the hero. The perils of Nita Van Sloan in "The Spider" pulps were far beyond those of Pat Savage or Margo Lane in "The Shadow" - was this because Richard Wentworth's crime fighting alter ego was a hideous fanged, hunchbacked creature of the night and therefore needed even more hideous villains to face? Probably. The perils of Emma Peel and Tara King in the Avengers were almost gentile and eccentrically out of place in the 1960's - much like John Steed himself. The perils faced by women in contemporary movies tend to be harder edged and violent compared to the adventure fiction of the past. Trends may change - but more often than not women do get the short end of the stick. Even in the 1990's "Lois and Clark" Teri Hatter faced bondage and death almost every episode - almost as much as her 1940's contemporaries. When the serials first started I suspect that because of budget constraints it was easier financially to tie the girl up to a chair next to a non functioning bomb than to create huge perils such as being entombed alongside thousands of snakes in the "Well of Souls" from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or the exploding undersea base from "The Spy who loved me". However, no matter what the peril, it is often assumed that the hero's girlfriend or female companion is there to be used as bait or for someone to be rescued.


The other reason for putting characters - more often than not women into peril is that a well designed death trap can create palpable tension. Imagine the clean cut hero battling seemingly insurmountable odds as the helpless heroine lies bound to a conveyor belt which is inching inexorably towards an evil, razor sharp buzzsaw. It's a universal image that almost everyone will recognise - even if they have never actually watched such a scene in a movie, television programme or cartoon.

Trends are changing and more movies are being made where strong, self-sufficient women battle almost insurmountable odds without needing a man's help. Ripley, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena - Warrior Princess and Lara Croft are all prime examples of this new breed of tough girl. However, even in this new liberated climate - tough women still get captured and tied up (Charlie's Angels). However, now they can escape themselves and battle their way to freedom without the help of a man.

The Hannibal King movies, which moved away from the Indiana Jones template towards the pulp and serial adventures of the 1930's and 1940's with the second movie have created some dastardly fates for it's heroines. Most of these were due to budgetary constraints - I had enough budget for a clothesline from an ironmongers, but not quite enough for an exploding subterranean villains lair! From the plucky American journalist Jessie Hale being tied up behind a car with her neck in a noose to the gutsy, tough archaeologist Kate Malone who was bound helplessly to a conveyor belt in a sawmill and then roped to a black altar in a forgotten Atlantean Temple - the Hannibal King series has had it's fair share of helpless heroines.

On this page you will find images from many of these death traps. It is a flavour of Hannibal King and a tribute to the actresses who have spent many an uncomfortable hour bound and gagged on set. I salute you all and thanks for making Hannibal King look competent at his job.

Barbara Dunne - "HUNTERS of the FORBIDDEN TEMPLE"
Charlie Madigan - HANNIBAL KING and the HARBINGERS of DOOM


Jessie Hale - HANNIBAL KING and the HARBINGERS of DOOM

Caitlin O'Donnell - HANNIBAL KING and the ATLANTEAN CHRONICLES
Kate Malone - HANNIBAL KING and the ATLANTEAN CHRONICLES

Jade DeLucia - HANNIBAL KING and the FIST of VALHALLA
Katariona Romanisoff - HANNIBAL KING and the FIST of VALHALLA

Hannah Wilder - HANNIBAL KING and the EYE of the GODS
Natasha Radichenko - HANNIBAL KING and the EYE of the GODS

Stacey Dunne - HANNIBAL KING and the BRIDE of the BLOODSTAINED GOD
Dr Adrienne MacKenzie - HANNIBAL KING and the BRIDE of the BLOODSTAINED GOD












Caitlin O'Donnell - HANNIBAL KING and the ATLANTEAN CHRONICLES
Kate Malone - HANNIBAL KING and the ATLANTEAN CHRONICLES







Emma Storm - HANNIBAL KING and the SLAVES of the COBRA GOD


Katariona Romanisoff - HANNIBAL KING and the FIST of VALHALLA





All photo images and text copyright - ZIPPY RODENT FILMS 2001