Phobia of Quicksand : especially in films

by Peter
(Buxton, UK)

Okay, quicksand or quagmire is a thing I can avoid in real life. It isn't something I would normally encounter so it's not as if this is a phobia that cripples my everyday existence. I know exactly what to do if I find myself caught in wet sand or deep mud: throw myself on my back and float.
I think I've always had a dislike of this thing but it's somehow worse in a film. Writers have always been keen to use it as a plot device, it's a convenient way of giving the hero a fright or getting rid of the villain. However, I think my intense dislike was brought into focus by a film trailer I saw when I was nine. Ever since then, I haven't been able to watch a Hollywood quicksand sequence. I managed the one in 'Blazing Saddles' but that's a comedy, and the two victims manage to walk out of it.
The trailer that I believe created this phobia of quicksand was on TV in 1961, and it was shown in a commercial break one Saturday evening. The film was called 'Guns of Darkness' and it's about a revolution in a South American republic. Notice how I've done my homework? Like the spider-phobe who knows all the creatures' Latin names, I've done all the research on this film, in fact I've done about everything except watch it. Or look for stills.
The two principal actors are David Niven and Leslie Carron, who is in a distinctly darker role than in her previous film (which was 'Gigi'). In one scene they are being chased in their car and try to take a short-cut across a dry river bed. It turns out to be not as dry as they thought, and the car gets stuck. They try to wade through the mud to the bank and don't manage it... frankly I don't know what happens next but presumably, being the main protagonists in the film, they are rescued or manage to crawl out of it.
The very worst bit in this trailer was a brief glimpse of Leslie Carron right up to her pretty chin in this foul moving mud. The mud had a texture and a motion that was completely nauseating, and seeing a person in this kind of distress was really upsetting to me.
It really bugs me when you're upset or offended by something in a film, and people start saying in that patronising way they have "It's only a film.....!" For me that's missing the point completely; a film is a realistic representation of something and if the action involves somebody suffering an ugly death (or near death) then that can be disturbing.
What made this incident worse was that my Dad was intrigued by this trailer, the mud sequence in particular, and wanted to go and see the film! I managed to avoid going, but I think he was disappointed by my lack on interest. "Don't you want to see what happens to those people stuck in the mud?" he said. Aaaagh! It was the last thing on this earth I wanted to see.
So, there it is. I'm not upset by shoot-outs or the usual kind of film violence, but give me any hint of quicksand and I'm out of it.

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