"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit." Elbert Hubbard

Monday, July 19, 2010

Motion Pictures and Memories of my Father

Yeah I know, that's an old term that no one uses anymore. I just love the sound of it. Also the way it's called the cinema in England. It just gives film that special something that the term movies doesn't have in my mind. As noted in my profile, I'm a film snob. Why? Frankly I consider most contemporary stuff to be absolute crap. An insult to the intelligence of the film-going audience.

One of the things I do miss about living in Noo Yawk is the fact that there were alternatives to the latest dreck at the monsterplex. Theaters such as the Film Forum and the Angelika are amongst my favorites. Foreign films, revivals, limited release "arthouse", you name it. Anything but the latest "I saw what you screamed at the final destination last summer IV" garbage.

I can remember seeing William Castle's classics, House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler shown as they were originally screened with the gimmicks Castle added to make it an interactive experience. A rare film geek pleasure it was. I even have a vague memory of my father telling me about seeing House on Haunted Hill and 13 Ghosts when they originally ran in theaters.

My father was a fan of classic horror films and he passed that on to me. Some of my childhood's most treasured memories are of watching the classics on an old black & white television set with him. Creature Features and Chiller Theatre were what I grew up on and I don't believe my mother approved of such material at my tender age. In fact my father used to wait until mom, who worked overnights, left for her commute to Manhattan before waking me up to watch whatever was on that night. Of course dad also allowed me to do other things mom didn't approve of either such as a cup of coffee to start my day before getting on the bus to kindergarden.

We also shared going to see films too and I can remember some of them such as Yellow Submarine (which was way over my head at four years old), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Valdez Is Coming, Farewell, My Lovely, and The Wind and the Lion. I begged him to take me to see The House That Dripped Blood and spent the entire film hiding my face in the seatback in front of me as I was terrified out of my six year old mind by the vampire in the film. We stayed for the entire film. Not sure if it was because my father was enjoying it or he was too busy laughing at my reaction. I do know it was a long time before I asked him to take me to a film like that again.

Nowadays I'll watch these films, especially the horror classics with a sense of nostalgia and longing. For the experience of sitting there in the darkened theater or our living room with the lights turned off and sharing the enjoyment of it all with my father. One of those things that was just between us. Everytime I watch one, I think of him and how I wish he was still sitting there beside me. Somehow I think he is.

I can't forget mom though. She took me to films on the opposite side of the spectrum such as The Adventures of the Wilderness Family and The Goodbye Girl. Of course there was the time that my sister Linda was home from college and the three of us went to see Blazing Saddles. My mother was mortified if I remember correctly and said something to my sister about such a film for a ten year old (me). But then Linda was the one who unwittingly turned me on to Monty Python's Flying Circus. It was late one night in our living room and we were watching PBS. Even at such a young age I found the show hilarious.

Once I did watch a horror film with my mother. I was up late one summer night, watching television in the dining room when mom came out to see what I was doing. Somehow I convinced her to sit and watch The Comedy of Terrors with me. Mom said that she couldn't believe I got her to watch this "silly" film but laughing and enjoying herself as she said it.

Here for your viewing pleasure, are some films that I highly recommend if you've never seen them.
1.Mister Roberts (1955)
2.The Thin Man (1934)
3.The Night of the Hunter (1955)
4.The Mind of Mr. Soames (1970)
5.The Getaway (1972)
6.The City of Lost Children (1995)
7.Key Largo (1948)
8.The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
9.Paint Your Wagon (1969)
10.The Anniversary (1968)


  1. Growing up on the Texas Panhandle, I waited up for "Shock Theater" every Saturday night at 10:30, and then discussed the films every Monday at school. Lots of Universal horror classics. I still feel a thrill seeing the little airplane circle the black and white globe!

    We had one movie theater in town, and I usually got dropped off on Saturday to see whatever was playing, be it Disney, Jerry Lewis or more adult fare. The only one I ever freaked out at was some godawful think called "Trog". I don't remember now if I was freaked out more at the grotesque caveman, or at fright faced Joan Crawford, who played the research scientist!

  2. "Night of the Hunter" is just wierd. We rented it off of Netflix with some other Mitchum films See "The Yakuza". Mitchum is pretty good, but the rest of NotH borders on incoherence at times.

    I can see why they didn't let Laughton direct again after that. I don't know what he thought he was doing.

  3. The only problem with Laughton's directing was that the general audience didn't "get" the film at the time. The sequences as seen through child-like imaginations are incredible, dreamy/nightmarish like.

    Watch THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN for something similar.