Gary Lewis and the Playboys once sang everybody loves a clown. But what about psychopaths? Where’s the love for these barbaric lunatics?


Gary Lewis and the Playboys once sang everybody loves a clown. But what about psychopaths? Where’s the love for these barbaric lunatics?

It just so happens numerous thespians and moviegoers have displayed a deep affection for these deeply disturbed individuals for decades. Who wouldn’t like to play or watch a character who gets to misbehave with maniacal gusto?

While the general public’s fascination with psychopaths probably says a lot about the mental state of the general public, we’re not here to psychoanalyze society. We’re here to give props to the most psychotic psychopaths in film history.

For brevity’s sake, we’ll limit our entries to a dirty dozen, based on such fun-filled criteria as excessive violence, predatory inclinations, bizarre brutality and overall unkind treatment of other human beings and bunnies. Sorry, no cartoon characters either. Let’s just say numerous classic Disney movies feature animated whackos.

The psychopaths are listed in alphabetical order.

• Norman Bates in “Psycho” (1960). Anthony Perkins plays the ultimate momma’s boy in this Alfred Hitchcock rib-tickler. Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) picks the wrong motel to check into and then compounds her error by taking a shower. Not a good career move when the motel’s owner has some mental issues and a sharp knife. It seems Norm has poisoned his abusive mother, preserved her corpse and assumed her identity. Disassociative personality disorder has never been nastier. “Mother... isn’t quite herself today,” says Norman. You think? Mr. Bates is based on real-life murderer Ed Gein.

• Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” (1976). Robert De Niro garnered a Best Actor nomination for his performance as a vigilante with a bloody sense of justice. That his social skills need some work becomes apparent when he takes a first date to a porno film. Travis demonstrates even less finesse around pimps and, after he kills one, is hailed as a hero even though he’s nuttier than a grove of pecan trees. De Niro also plays the severely unbalanced Max Cady in the 1991 remake of “Cape Fear.” Robert Mitchum originated the role in the 1962 film. Mitchum also plays serial killer Harry Powell, a reverend with an unholy love-hate relationship, in “The Night of the Hunter” (1955).

• Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men” (2007). Javier Bardem won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor playing this ruthless hitman with whom you never want to flip a coin. His pursuit of money from a drug deal gone awry is as relentless as the cyborg’s search for Sarah Connor in “The Terminator” and almost as deadly. The difference is Chigurh allegedly is a human being.

• Alex DeLarge in “A Clockwork Orange” (1971). Malcolm McDowell gets his kicks playing a diabolical delinquent with a passion for Beethoven and “ultra-violence.” The scene where Alex uses a phallic-shaped statue as a murder weapon won’t win him any art appreciation awards. Attempts to reform him don’t turn out well. Stanley Kubrick directed and co-wrote this vicious satire that was named best picture by Family Values magazine. OK, maybe not.

• Alex Forrest in “Fatal Attraction” (1987). Glenn Close cooks in this role of an editor who proves adultery can be deadly in this affair to dismember. When Daniel Gallagher (Michael Douglas) rebuffs her attempts to continue their relationship, Alex becomes unhinged. “I’m not going to be ignored, Dan,” says Alex with a hint of malice in her voice. Boiling the family pet rabbit doesn’t exactly endear her to Danny boy. For another fine example of pathological obsession, we submit Jessica Walter’s performance as Evelyn Draper in “Play Misty for Me” (1971).

• Amon Goeth in “Schindler’s List” (1993). Ralph Fiennes received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his chilling performance of a real-life commandant of a Nazi concentration camp. Responsible for thousands of murders in a murderous time, Goeth clearly took pleasure in causing human suffering. In one scene, he randomly shoots prisoners with a rifle as they innocently walk on the camp’s grounds. Fiennes also plays the unsavory Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” films.

• The Joker in “The Dark Knight” (2008). The late Heath Ledger won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for this riveting performance of a bad guy with bad makeup and a bad attitude. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a comic-book villain crazier, creepier and deadlier than Ledger’s Joker. He can ruin your day with a pencil.

• Roger “Verbal” Kint in “The Usual Suspects” (1995). Kevin Spacey received the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in this spellbinding role of a small-time crook with a bigtime secret. During an interrogation, Kint tells the tale of the nefarious Keyser Soze to a smug customs agent (Chazz Palminteri), who thinks Verbal is an idiot. Let’s just say appearances can be deceiving. Spacey also gets to act unnaturally in “Se7en” (1995) where he plays a serial killer who bases his grisly ritualist murders on the seven deadly sins.

• Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar for his tour-de-force portrayal of a psychiatrist with a fondness for fava beans, chianti and human flesh. This multiple Academy Award-winning film actually features two psychopaths as Lecter’s knowledge of loonies is used to track down Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb (Ted Levine), a mildly disturbed individual who skins his victims in order to fashion himself “a woman suit.” A cannibal and a butcher — now there’s a tasty two-for.

• Scorpio in “Dirty Harry” (1971). Andy Robinson’s portrayal of this serial killer rates as one of the great demented performances of all time. Upon hijacking a school bus filled with children, Scorpio tries to calm down the kiddies by leading them in a sing-along. When one of the children says, “I wanna go home to my mommy,” Scorpio is not amused. He slaps the tot and barks, “Sing or I’ll go home and kill all your mommies!” He also hires a thug to beat him to a pulp so he can claim police brutality. What a sweetheart.

• JACK TORRANCE in “The Shining” (1980). Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, a writer who becomes the caretaker of a hotel and descends into insanity after coming down with a serious case of writer’s block. The scene where he attacks his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) with an ax while proclaiming “Here’s Johnny!” is slightly unsettling. He also tries to murder his young son. Jack’s not exactly a family guy. The film is based on a novel by Stephen King and directed by Stanley Kubrick, two people who never met a mental illness they didn’t like to exploit.

• ANNIE WILKES in “Misery” (1990). Kathy Bates won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as a deranged "fan" of romance novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan). That Annie has developed an unhealthy obsession with Paul and his writings gets manifested in such heartwarming scenes as when she takes a sledgehammer to the author’s feet. It turns out that Annie is a serial killer with a strong dislike for profanity. The film is based on another Stephen King novel. How to explain King’s penchant for insanity? He’s a lifelong Red Sox fan.

Dishonorable mentions, in no particular order, go to Jason Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” films, Michael Myers in the “Halloween” films, Freddy Krueger in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films, Aileen Wuornos in “Monster,” Mickey and Mallory Knox in “Natural Born Killers,” Bob Wolverton in “Freeway,” the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz,” Frank Booth in “Blue Velvet,” John Ryder in “Hitcher,” Perry Smith and Richard Hickock in “In Cold Blood,” Peter and Paul in “Funny Games,” Peyton Flanders in “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” Hedy Carlson in “Single White Female,” Tommy Udo in “Kiss of Death” and Cody Jarrett in “White Heat.”

There’s also Col. Walter Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now,” Cyrus Grissom in “Con Air,” Mitch Leary in “In the Line of Fire,” Stanfield in “The Professional,” Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho,” Peter Lorre in “M,” Sweeney Todd in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” Tommy DeVito in “GoodFellas,” Don Logan in “Sexy Beast,” Hayley Stark in “Hard Candy,” Asami Yamasaki in “Audition,” Esther in “Orphan,” Rhoda Penmark in “The Bad Seed,” Alonzo in “Training Day” and Baby Jane Hudson in “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”

Boxed in

It’s now time for TRIVIA.

Last month’s tester: Forty years after starring in a blockbuster, this leading man appeared in a supporting role in a film which featured clips from the earlier film. Name the two movies and the actor.

Answer: The actor is Charlton Heston, who played a supporting role in “Any Given Sunday” (1999), a film which contains a scene where clips of “Ben-Hur” (1959) are shown. Heston starred in “Ben-Hur.”

No one answered the question correctly.

This month’s tester: What film includes three real-life, ex-boxers who were knocked out a total of four times by a heavyweight champion? Name the film, the boxers and the champ.

The first reader to answer the trivia question correctly will receive Winter Berries Scented De-Icing Salts, valued at $16, from Fruit and Passion. For more information about the company, go to www.fruits-passion.com.

Trivia enthusiasts can call Bob Tremblay at (508) 626-4409 or e-mail me at robt@cnc.com.