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Hollywood Torches
A guy like you should think about going electric. Seriously.
Buffy in "Buffy vs. Dracula"

A Hollywood Torch is a piece of wood about a foot and a half long, the end of which burns brightly. It emits no significant smoke and never burns out. It tends to produce just enough light to fully illuminate a room, no matter the size, unless of course there's something horrible in a corner that we're not meant to see just yet. In some cases they can provide enough light to cast their own shadow, despite this being physically impossible.

Even if they've been abandoned in a dilapidated temple for a thousand years, Hollywood Torches burst into cheery flame at the slightest spark, without ever spreading this flame to their surroundings- unless intended to do so. Don't expect them to consume all the oxygen in the air, either, unless the plot demands it. In other words, they're ordinary torches suffused with improbable traits of convenience.

Some elements of this trope have their origins in simple filmmaking limitations: the audience (and the film crew) have to be able to see some of what is going on or else things are just going to be messy. If there's no plausible reason for someone to have a flashlight, or if firelight makes for better ambiance, this is practically your only other recourse.

This trope is nearly omnipresent in film and television, such that lampshades are still rare (and who puts a lampshade on a torch anyways?). However, it may or may not be present in any particular video game, depending on whether the torches serve as part of a puzzle or other challenge. If averted, expect them to burn far quicker than their Real Life counterparts.

Peasants are uncannily skilled at acquiring them in massive numbers on short notice.

Transatlantic translation note: If a British/Commonwealth person says 'torch' they might mean the flaming kind or they might mean what an American or Canadian would call a 'flashlight' (if clarification is ever needed, the latter is an electric torch).

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • Notably played straight in the lairs of Orochimaru in Naruto. His massive bunkers are lit with regularly-spaced torches which apparently never burn out. This can be deduced by the fact that the only people in one base were Orochimaru, Sasuke, and Kabuto, none of whom you would expect to spend all day switching out the hundreds of torches.

Film
  • For the horror movie variant, use the arm or leg ripped off a dried-out skeleton, wrapped with a scrap of cloth (or, worse, cobwebs). Naturally, this is just as bright and long-lasting as any other Hollywood Torch; never mind that dry bone isn't flammable at sub-crematorium temperatures.
  • Appear a couple of times in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, including when the Vizier and Sinbad are in the map room and while Sinbad's sailors are fighting the animated figurehead on the ship.
  • National Treasure is pretty blatant about this. The final scene of the first movie serves as a slight variation, where several troughs full of gunpowder are able to light up an entire cave, illuminating everything evenly, not producing smoke, and continuing to burn or far longer than chemically possible.
    • There's no reason to believe that was gunpowder in the troughs. It likely was gunpowder used to light it, but it could have been just about any flammable substance.
  • Indiana Jones
    • Happens twice in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Near the beginning, Indy's companion in the underground area carries a torch. Later, while Indy and Marion are in the Well of Souls they have a bunch of torches. A minor aversion occurs when Indy's and Marion's torches burn out.
    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade uses the "long bone plus rag" version in the scene where Indy and Dr. Schneider are exploring the flooded Venice catacomb. At least in this case, the quick and easy lighting of the torch is justified by the fact that the water was covered with a film of petroleum for Indy to dip the cloth into. Conveniently, this film of petroleum does not burst into flames as he walks near it with his glowing torch. Or when bits of flaming petroleum fall from the torch, directly into the canal. But then, they're underground in Venice, so how much realism do you want?
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Appear during the Camelot, Castle Anthrax, Swamp Castle and Cave of Caerbannog sequences.
  • Legend. Both the goblins and Jack have one at some point.
  • Labyrinth. Several appear in the Goblin City.
  • Young Frankenstein. Several appear on the outside of Castle Frankenstein when the protagonists first arrive.
  • Clash of the Titans (1981). Some appear in Calibos' encampment and in Medusa's lair.
  • Averted in Westworld when the Gunslinger character follows the protagonist to Medieval World. The heat of the torches in the throne room where the man is hiding masks his body heat from the robot's infrared vision.
  • The Sy Fy Channel Original Movie Thor: Hammer of the Gods makes frequent use of what may be a subtrope. Carrying a torch (or standing next to someone who does) helps you see in the dark, but apparently not by illuminating what you're looking at, because the protagonists can keep their torches burning while spying on the antagonists! In real life, having the torch close enough to hold it would mostly turn off your night vision, and since it emits light it would be immediately seen by your opponents; even if they're too far away to see who's holding the torch, they would see the torch itself. Nor would a torch be good when hiding behind a corner, since the one you're hiding from could still see how it illuminates the other walls near where you're standing.
  • The Princess Bride. In the underground chamber where Count Rugen tortures Westley, there are several torches burning on the walls.
  • Omnipresent in The Mummy Trilogy. Director Stephen Sommers complains in the commentary for both the first and second movies that the torches needed to be constantly lit over and over.

Literature
  • Averted in Prince Caspian where the Pevensie children try to make torches to explore the ruins of Cair Paravel. Held in the normal way, the torches get too hot to hold, and held upside-down the flame goes out, so they end up using Edmund's flashlight instead.
  • Given a sort of in-universe Shout-Out in Ready Player One. Much of the action takes place in a full-immersion world where one would not be surprised to find torches in various places. However, when the heroes go to one of the creators' houses IRL, dude has actual torches in his house. Heroes are impressed. One wonders what his insurance premiums must be.

Live-Action TV
  • The torches on LOST will stay lit through just about anything, including torrential rain, and generally burn as brightly as the plot needs.
  • During the Danger Island segments on The Banana Splits show.
  • Subverted in Castle: When about to explore a secret passage way, his first thought is to jury-rig one of these out of a plunger, toilet paper and lighter fluid. Beckett gives him the Dope Slap and tells him they're going to need breathable air and hands him an electric lantern after pulling out her own flashlight.
  • 1960's Batman series.
    • In "The Bloody Tower", Lord Fogg has some of these in his dungeon.
    • "Marsha's Scheme With Diamonds". Marsha's Aunt Hilda has some on the walls of her underground cave.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series
    • In "Errand of Mercy" they can be seen in the Organian prison where Kirk and Spock are locked up and in Kor's headquarters.
    • "Catspaw". They provided light in Sylvia and Korob's underground dungeon.
  • Get Smart. A Mad Scientist and The Igor have these lighting their hidden cave, and keep burning themselves as a result.

Tabletop Games
  • In many Role-Playing Games, torches, once lit, burn until they are actively extinguished by the player (or the plot).
    • Averted in The Dark Eye: torches are used as a measure of light intensity, in the sequence firefly, candle, torch, camp fire and so on.
  • Dungeons & Dragons actually has rules for torches and they give a pretty small amount of light. Which is why most people get Everburning Torches, or just cast Continual Flame. For those who cannot afford either, there is the low-level adventurer's two best friends: the bullseye lantern and the 1st-level spell light.
  • Call of Cthulhu. In Worlds of Cthulhu magazine #3, the adventure "The Golden Scorpion" has some in the underground temple area.
  • Dawg the RPG. In Knights of the Dinner Table #169 the adventure "The Terrifying Tomb of Ankhatton" had some of these in the Pharaoh's Play Room.

Video Games
  • Averted with torches used for puzzles in Ape Escape 2, but they burnt out quickly; thus making the challenge.
  • Averted in the NES Dragon Quest I: the torch only illuminates a 3x3 square area and burns out. Eventually you learn much better illumination spells that render the torches obsolete.
  • Played straight in The Legend of Zelda games...except when the player tries to light a hand-held stick, and it burns right through after a few seconds.
    • Many other games also zigzag this trope as well. Some torches you light will go out after a short amount of time if the quest is to light many torches very quickly. However, the minute they are all lit, the torches will never go out.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, you obtain a torch near the beginning, and keep it, still lit, for the game's entirety. Justified in that the torch is almost certainly magic, given that you obtain it in an eldritch cave and burns green.
  • Played mostly straight in the Thief series - torches do not go out on their own, and do not emit significant smoke.
  • In the Zork spoof in Kingdom of Loathing, picking a stick up off the ground and lighting it on fire turns it into a standard torch.
    • In Zork itself, the torch item is basically a superior lantern that will never go out on you. Although it does become somewhat less desirable when you come across rooms filled with highly flammable gas. It's also made of precious materials, so the Thief might steal it at any moment.
      • Zork Zero uses and averts it; there are several torches kept near the kitchen that burn forever, but go out soon after you remove them from their holders. The only way to do any underground exploring is with a magic candle.
      • Zork: Grand Inquisitor references the torches from Zork Zero with a pair of standard torches that talk with distinct personalities and quirks: the Bickering Torch is argumentative and uncooperative, while the Flickering Torch is nervous and tends to go out at random times.
  • Played straight and averted in British Legends. Torches tend to light swamp gas and kill any character who carries them into a swamp, but they aren't extinguished when it starts raining, you can carry them into cramped, poorly-ventilated spaces with no major problems (in fact, you have to in at least one puzzle), and they burn forever. Also, while they ignite swamp gas, setting one down in the middle of a forest for any amount of time does nothing.
  • Averted in Shadowgate. The torches eventually burn out and you have to light another one before that happens. In some versions, the background music changes slightly right before it's too late. If you're not quick enough, you will end up in the dark, trip over something, and die.
  • Partially averted in Oblivion where torches burn out over time, but are still far too bright.
  • Aside from lighting a limited range, Minecraft torches play this straight. They burn indefinitely, and the smoke is purely cosmetic, posing no risk of fire, suffocation, or smoke discoloration. Torchlight can even be used to help crops grow.
    • As of Beta 1.8, you can find torches in abandoned flooded mineshafts that still burn nicely.
    • Keep in mind it's one of the Acceptable Breaks from Reality, as it was originally planned for torches to go out and for lasting light fixtures to be more complicated, with all existing torches planned on being converted to the new item on patch.
      • The joke Version 2.0 previews created for April Fools' Day 2013 implemented the torches burning out as one of the many "features". Each torch would go out after a random, short amount of time and could be relighted with Flint and Steel or taken down and replaced.
  • Lampshaded in the video game adaptation of Callahans Crosstime Saloon. The butler to the aristocratic vampire family reveals the family's fortune is founded on supplying torches to angry peasant mobs. As the butler points out, the angry mobbing goes on for hours and hours, but the torches only last fifteen minutes.
  • Several Tomb Raider games use a modern twist on the trope, with magnesium flares that burn for about fifteen seconds. Played straight in Tomb Raider (2013), where Lara only needs two torches over the course of a multi-day adventure, and only needs to replace the first one because she dropped it. Both burn indefinitely unless passed through water or deliberately extinguished (And apparently dry fast enough that they can be relit the moment she gets them out of the water if she has access to flame or a flint).
  • Used in Eternal Darkness. Torches never run out, and aside from two breeds of zombie which ignite, they're horribly weak weapons, barely better than your fists.

Webcomics

Web Original

Western Animation
  • The Arabian Knights segment on The Banana Splits show, episode "The Royal Visitor". Used by several characters inside a pyramid.
  • Jonny Quest TOS episode "The House of Seven Gargoyles". They appear on the walls of Professor Ericson's castle.
  • Scooby-Doo Where Are You. Shaggy finds and uses one in episode "Spooky Space Kook".


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