As this is Speak Out With Your Geek Out! Week, I’m going to spend part of the week blogging about things that gets my geek up, that brings out the geeky part of my personality, that has people turn in my direction, point at me and say, “Geek!”
And I wear this title proudly.
So what’s on tap today? Movies.
As a kid I grew up in a time where TV was the “vast wasteland”, where there was 5 channels and nothing on, and I do mean that: you had the Big Three networks and WGN on VHF, and WDLD, Channel 32, on UFH. That was it. And if you think TV bites it these days, hey, man, I was made to watch My Mother the Car, which is about as close to existential horror as once can get when you are 8.
But there was one good thing about growing up then: there were a lot of movies. ABC showed literally every monster and sci fi flick from 3:30 to 5:00 PM every weekday, and WGN ran old movies from 10:30 PM on. Since I was home from school by 3:15 PM–and I was the sort of kid who didn’t do homework because, well, it bored me–I sat down and watched things that you almost never see these days: The Monolith Monsters, Teenagers From Outer Space, The Giant Gila Monster, The Mole Men (which really scared me for some reason–it’s the eyes, you know). But I also caught Them! and Kronos (the giant energy stealing robot) and It Came From Outer Space and Invaders from Mars (another flick that scared me a lot).
At the other end of the spectrum I had a huge amount of exposure to all things classic: the Jimmy Cagney catalog, Humphrey Bogart and George Raft goodness, the Thin Man series . . . it was all there for the taking, and it was free. Just con your parents (in this case my mom, who owed me big for the mental torture of having to watch her stuff) into letting you stay up late and promise to get up for school the next day (which I could, since I could get by on 4 hours of sleep without a problem), and you were In Like Flint (which I also saw).
It was by using this scam that I was able to stay up until 11:00 PM one night and, with no one else awake, watch Forbidden Planet for the first time. That was really a bit of magic that, these days, you’d be hard pressed to match that.
But late night TV wasn’t the only place to find this magic. To me, the 1960′s and 1970′s were a time of major insanity for film, as it seemed like just about everything and anything was up for grabs. Sure, I didn’t see Midnight Cowboy as a kid (no getting into X-Rated movies then, you know?), but I remember getting hauled off to a drive-in to watch a double bill of Patton and MASH, and how you can get a greater dichotomy on that subject, I don’t know–triple bill it 10 years later with Apocalypse Now, I suppose. (And my slice of morning trivia: MASH was the first major Hollywood release to drop the f-bomb, done so in an ad-lib by actor John Schuck. So I was there at the beginning, so to speak.)
I saw The Godfather; I saw The Exorcist two weeks after it premiered in a theater that was nearly empty; I saw Jaws; I saw Silent Running and The Black Hole . . . I conned some friends into going off to see the original Rollerball and wondered when we could see guys on roller skates beating the hell out of each other. I hauled at least a half-dozen friends off to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on 5 different occasions . . . let put it this way: if the movie is listed in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, I saw it in the theaters (and if you haven’t read this book, you should).
And as the ’80′s and ’90′s came around, there was the discovery of movies from Europe, of movies from Hong Kong–and if you’ve never seen the pre-Hollywood catalog of John Woo, you should do this while reading Sex and Zen and a Bullet in the Head, ’cause it doesn’t get any crazier.
Sadly, these days I’m not as much a film geek as I once was. Maybe it’s the feeling that everything these days is little more than an effort to put butts in the seat while convincing movie goers that a billion dollars spent on the production of 3 movies detailing the exploits of a line of 1980′s toys is really a good thing leaves me wanting. Maybe it’s the feeling that the visual is all and story is something that gets in the way of putting pretty CGI on the screen that bothers me. Maybe it’s the notion that Touch of Evil and Sunset Boulevard are really a quantum leap ahead in everything when compared to just about anything made today, save that done by Christopher Nolan.
Still, movies have soothed my jones for decades. They affect each of us differently, and while what you like isn’t likely going to be what I like, never the mind: it’s the magic within that counts.
And this is the glue that real binds all us film geeks together.