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Villain Overview

This ain't a goddamn field trip people, THIS IS A F***ING WAR!
~ Captain Rhodes yelling at the other survivors.
I'm runnin' this monkey farm now, Frankenstein, and I wanna know, WHAT THE F*** YOU’RE DOIN' WITH MY TIME?!
~ One of Captain Rhodes' most well-known lines.
Choke on 'em! Choke on 'em!
~ Captain Rhodes' last words and another one of his most well-known lines.

'Captain Henry Rhodes, also known as "H-Rhodes, is the main antagonist of George A. Romero's 1985 zombie horror film Day of the Dead.

Captain Rhodes was a U.S. Captain who took charge of a military operation in search of a cure to a global zombie epidemic. However he became aggressive and psychotic due to constant failure, pushing everyone to their limits and wanting to kill the scientists and civilians and escape the zombies with his fellow soldiers.

He was portrayed by the late Joseph Pilato.

Biography

Henry Rhodes was a United States Military Captain who was part of a military operation that was ordered to protect a group of civilian scientists who were searching for an end to the zombie epidemic. Initially, Rhodes was one of 12 soldiers in the assigned unit, along with his superior Major Cooper, Private Steel, Private Rickles, Private Miguel Salazar, Private Torrez, Private Miller, Private Johnson and four other unnamed and unseen soldiers. At first, Major Cooper was in charge, while Rhodes presumably served as his second in command. However, after the deaths of Cooper and the four unknown soldiers, at the hands of the zombies, Rhodes took over as base commander, using Pvt. Steel and Pvt. Rickles as his main enforcers and henchmen. Although Cooper's death was most likely due to the zombies, Rhodes may have had a part in leading to this so he could take over and lead the group.

Day of the Dead

A zombie apocalypse has ravaged the entire world, with zombies outnumbering humans four hundred-thousand to one. The surviving humans live in security within barricaded camps and secure underground bunkers.

In an underground facility in the Everglades housing scientists and soldiers, the scientists are trying to find a solution to the zombie pandemic, as a group of military soldiers have been assigned to protect them. Dr. Sarah Bowman, her lover and soldier Private Miguel Salazar, radio operator Bill McDermott, and helicopter pilot John fly from their underground base to Fort Myers, Florida, in an attempt to locate additional survivors. They find only a large horde of the undead, and they return to the base, where they are told that the military detachment's officer-in-charge Major Cooper has died and that his second in command, Captain Henry Rhodes, has taken over leadership.

During this time, Miguel's mental state continues to crumble under the stress, violence, and mental strain. Rhodes now fully in charge, is aggressive towards the lead scientist and doctor, Dr. Logan, nicknamed "Frankenstein" by the soldiers due to his dissection of the undead. Logan believes the zombies can be domesticated and trained to resist their urge to consume human flesh. Rhode's men believe they could eventually gun down all the zombies within the base and it's outskirts but Rhodes wishes to simply abandon the scientists and make John fly him and his men out of the base.

The reactionary and aggressive Rhodes speaks for himself and his men and vehemently object to the dangers involved in capturing zombies and keeping them inside the compound. The tension between soldiers and scientists worsens in the face of dwindling supplies, loss of communication with other survivors, and slow, uncertain progress in research. During a meeting between the scientists and the soldiers, Rhodes declares that, following the death of Major Cooper, he is taking command of the base. He only grants the scientists "some" time to prove results, and declares that he will execute anyone who interferes with his leadership. He also threatens to abandon the scientists and leave the compound, cutting off their protection from the zombies. Rhode's is led under by Pvt. Steel and his more willing followers in Pvt. Rickles and Pvt. Torrez.

Shaken by Rhodes' threats, Sarah goes to the quarters shared by John and Bill to discuss the situation. John professes his conviction that the zombie-plague is a form of divine punishment against mankind, that the scientific mission is doomed to failure, and that the effort to preserve records of civilization is pointless. He suggests that the three of them should take the helicopter, abandon the soldiers, and fly to a desert island somewhere where they could live off the land and start a family.

Dr. Logan hopes to secure Rhodes' goodwill by showing him the results of his research. Logan is especially proud of "Bub", a friendly and non-aggressive zombie who remembers some parts of his past life and engages in rudimentary human behavior: listening to music, aiming a pistol, saluting Captain Rhodes, and repeating a string of garbled words. "Civility must be rewarded", Logan tells Rhodes, "If it's not rewarded, there's no use for it.". Rhodes, however, is not impressed and pulls a gun to shoot Bub feeling disrespected by his presence as Bub cowers in fear aware of the danger but Logan prevents this.

During a undead recruitment mission, Miguel zones out which indirectly allows a zombie to escape its restraints and bite and infect sergeant Miller. In the struggle, Miller in a panic fires his gun and indirectly kills a friendly soldier named Johnson. Miguel is also bitten on the arm while trying to murder the initial zombie. Miller is put down by Steel and Sarah amputates the arm and cauterizes it with fire to stop the spreading infection from killing Miguel and re-animating him into a zombie.

A furious and enraged Rhodes then calls off the experiments and demands that all captive zombies be destroyed, as well as severing any further help from him and his remaining men and threatening Logan before being calmed down.

Sarah and Dr. Ted Fisher later discover that Logan had been experimenting on the remains of the dead soldiers and an audio recording of him rambling to himself through some wires plugged into Sergeant Miller's severed head. Fearing that Logan has gone insane and with the conditions worsening, Bill decides that they should leave in the helicopter immediately.

During this same time, Rhodes discovers Logan had been feeding the remains of his dead men to Bub for rewards of his progress causing Rhodes to snap and become irate and saying "those were his men" before pulling a gun and gunning Logan down in cold blood for his actions. Finally done with the experiment bullshit, he turns hostile and seizes the remaining scientists and non-military personnel, stripping them of their weapons. Rhodes brings his prisoners and attempts to force John to fly him and his remaining soldiers away from the base, which John refuses to do. In response, Rhodes kills Fisher as a warning to John if he continues to deny him stating he is in charge, and locks Sarah and Bill inside the zombie corral with the zombies, and orders Steel to beat John into submission.

Back in Dr. Logan's laboratory, Bub manages to escape from his chains and finds Dr. Logan's corpse. In a display of human emotion, he mourns the loss of his instructor, then picks up a pistol and goes in search of revenge on Rhodes. John overcomes his captors, steals their weapons and goes into the zombie corral to rescue Sarah and Bill after Rhodes and Steel get distracted by the base lifting gate being activated by someone.

Meanwhile, a suicidal Miguel heads off to the outside fence being revealed as the cause, where he first opens the gate to allow hundreds of zombies to walk through, and then allows the zombies to begin tearing him apart before he presses the release button that lowers the steel loading gate and gives the zombies access to the base. Miguel is devoured by the horde as Rhodes, Steel, Rickles, and Torrez react in shock and horror as the horde descends further down as Rhodes orders them to run.

During this time, Bill and Sarah shoot through the corral and are saved by John as the three escape the base and rush to the helicopter. In the face of certain death, Rhodes betrays his remaining men and locks his men within the base and rushes to escape through the hallways of the base. The three soldiers attempts to shoot down the oncoming horde but they are overwhelmed and eventually Torrez and Rickles are both ripped apart and feasted upon by the horde with Rickles laughing in insanity before turning to screaming as the pain overtakes him.

Steel flees further and comes across Bub and hides to reload, however, another horde arrives from around the corner and Steel is bitten twice. He watches as Bub walks on as he sees the oncoming threat. In a last stand, he shoots down four of the horde before turning the gun on himself. In a redeeming moment, he makes a cross symbol and prayers for mercy before shooting himself before the horde could get him any further. The dead close in and consume his corpse.

Bub finds Rhodes and fires at him while Rhodes is far too panic to reload his rifle properly. Rhodes hastily tries to escape, but he runs into a huge mass of zombies after opening a door, and is shot in the stomach by Bub. Bub sarcastically salutes Rhodes who freezes in place in horror and shock from the horde and the wound, as he is then torn apart by the zombies. In his dying words, Rhodes screams "choke on 'em!" to mock the undead as he succumbs.

Elsewhere, John, Sarah and Bill manage to get to the surface, escape, and fly in the helicopter to a deserted island, as John had earlier suggested.

Personality

Captain Rhodes is a cold, ruthless and psychotic authoritarian who uses intimidation and death threats to subjugate and threaten those who he sees as of lesser importance, namely the scientists he was assigned to protect. While his personality before the zombie apocalypse is unknown, Dr. Fisher stated that Rhodes was an asshole even when Cooper was still alive and in charge. He's shown to be willing to kill those who disobey his orders or question his authority with little to no hesitation, showing how homicidal he's become with the increased stress and death toll across the world.

He also displays no compassion or worry towards the scientists trying to find a solution to the zombie crisis, finding them to increasingly be a nuisance and their research pointless given the irreversible state of the world as they know it. He especially despises Dr. Logan aka "Frankenstein" as the latter keeps rebuffing his orders and keeps wasting his time, exhausting resources and endangering the people, all just for lab experiments. This tension grows when he discovers Bub, and reaches it's breaking point when he finds out what Logan did to his deceased soldier's corpses, finally killing "Frankenstein" by gunning him down in cold blood.

He's also shown to be very delusional, thinking that just shooting the zombies and getting out of the facility is the best option, despite Dr. Logan clearly pointing out the flaws in that plan. Even after this, he still believes it as the best action to take.

He treats his soldiers like any captain would, keeping them in line and have them perform their duties, although due to the situation and the dwindling supplies, his mental problems have made him more aggressive towards them and puts them in their places through fear. He's even willing to threaten their lives if they don't follow his orders, like when he forced Pvt. Steel attempt to kill Susan by threatening to shoot him.

He doesn't seem especially bothered or concerned by their degrading psyches as well, showing no sympathy for Miguel's suicidal tendencies and allowing his men to cackle like maniacs and spout out obscenities towards the civilian scientists including participating in sexually harassing and cat-calling the only female scientist as well as only female of the whole group, Sarah Bowman, only ever getting annoyed with them whenever they get distracted. This may be due to Rhodes' sanity decreasing as well, though he still has enough to prevent them from annoying him.

Despite this, he's shown to be genuinely enraged whenever he loses one of his soldiers, like when Miguel got two of them, Pvt. Miller and Pvt. Johnson, killed during a mission to round up zombies for testing, Rhodes was prepared to have him killed, or when he learns that their bodies were being used by "Frankenstein" to feed Bub, which led to the doctors' death.

However when the zombies start to slowly flood the facility towards the end, Rhodes reveals himself to be a traitorous coward, leaving his own men behind and locking them out, which eventually leads to them getting brutally dismembered and eaten by the zombies.

He's also shown to be extremely tenacious, as shown in the climax. Even though the zombies have overrun the facility and he's the only one left alive, he arms himself with guns and ammo and intends to shoot his way out. This is also seen when he's confronted by Bub, who wants revenge on Rhodes for killing Dr. Logan aka "Frankenstein." Despite being defenseless and suffering from severe gunshot wounds, he continues to try and escape from him, only to die in vain and be torn apart amidst the hoard.

Victims

Although not responsible for all, he had a part in all of the following deaths whether he caused their final demise or not.

  1. Numerous counts of unnamed zombies.
  2. Possibly numerous unnamed humans.
  3. Captain Cooper (Possibly caused) - killed by zombies (off-screen)
  4. Dr. Logan - Gunned down by Rhodes.
  5. Dr. Ted Fisher - Shot in the head by Rhodes.
  6. Pvt. Rickles (Indirect, caused) - devoured by zombies.
  7. Pvt. Torrez (Indirect, caused) - devoured by zombies.
  8. Pvt. Steel (Indirect, caused) - suicide to avoid being devoured.

Trivia

  • Rhodes' actor, Joe Pilato, had previously appeared in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead in 1978, where he played an police officer at the docks. A popular theory is that the police officer is in fact a younger version of Captain Rhodes before he was in the military, however this hasn't been confirmed by either Romero or Pilato.
  • Captain Rhodes was placed in fourth place on Cinemassacre's Top Ten Baddest Bad Guys. The creator of Cinemassacre, James Rolfe aka the Angry Video Game Nerd, would later review Day of the Dead as part of Cinemassacre's Monster Madness. He stated that Joe Pilato's performance was "a large part of why this film is so awesome" and labeled him as "one of the best villains of the 80s".
  • Captain Rhodes is often regarded as the best human villain in any zombie film due to his intimidating nature and cold attitude.
  • Much like Fiddle Green soldiers in Land of the Dead, Rhodes and his men are grossly incompetent in dealing with the zombies as they are oblivious to the simple idea of headshots to effectively dispatch the undead or using melee weapons.
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