A trip to the movies


Back in my younger years, a trip to the theater was a real treat. It was not all that easy, since my small home-town did not have a movie theater. The nearest was about eight miles away, which made you dependent on someone taking you, usually a parent. In fact, the movies was where I took my first ever date. Having your dad drive you is not a real romantic affair, but I think I did put my arm around her in the balcony. That was a big deal, and I’m pretty sure I figured I was in love.


The first movie I remember going to was “Rodan”, a Japanese flick about an overgrown, flying half- lizard, half-bird.  It aired in 1956, so I would have been eight. The line to get into the movie was wrapped around the block. It was quite an outing. Popcorn, a pop, and some Chuckles. I think two of my best buddies were with me. No girls. We didn’t want to deal with the screaming.


Then there was “Old Yeller”, I believe out in 1957. A yellow lab, a boy, and saying goodbye. It was gut-wrenching.  The boys dog had to be put down due to rabies. This was probably the first time any of us had to deal with losing something or someone you love due to dying. There were no dry eyes among us, I do remember that.


I remember more movies from the sixties, I suppose because I was older. But I could also drive by 1964, making it easier to get to the theater. We also found a reason to go: Girls. “Psycho,” by Alfred Hitchcock, was one of the scariest movies I have every seen. It was made in 1960. “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” in 1962, was really the first time I ever thought much about black and white. The world in the small southern Illinois town I grew up in was white. The movie was an eye opener. “Dr. Strangelove,” in 1964, was the craziest movie I have ever seem up to that point. It was an odd mixture of comedy and dangerous satire which played right into the times.


Being able to drive in 1964 brought into play the drive-in movie. Now the drive-in theater was never a place to worry much about what was showing, cause you didn’t hope to see it. It was party and make-out time. My first drive-in movie was “Dr. Strangelove,” an odd mixture of comedy and dangerous satire, which played right into the times. As fate would have it, I saw way more of the movie than was hoping.


The “Sound of Music,” in 1965, was probably my first musical. It was an ok story, put I never fell in love with musicals. The singing always seems out of place for me. No one runs around singing their daily interactions in everyday life. I don’t get it. “Cool Hand Luke,” in 1967, was a whole other story. The tough guy is Paul Newman, a rebel who is having trouble with authority. Now that story-line seemed appealing. And “The Graduate,” another 1967 film.  How could a young guy not dream about an older woman seducing him?


Of special interest was the film, “In the Heat of the Night,” in 1967. Part of the film was shot in my home-town. It was quite a deal. The scene where Rod Steiger goes into a small café to have a piece of pie was filmed in a café just on the edge of Freeburg, Illinois. It took them three days to film about 2 minutes of movie time. The majority of the film was shot in Sparta, Illinois, doubling for Sparta, Mississippi. The film probably would have been a bit touchy further south.


From 1967-69, some great rebellion movies were made, again playing into the times. “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and “Easy Rider,” were all great anti-establishment movies. I think I have watched each about 25 times over the years. Helps build up my nerve to write this column.


1968 brought us another classic, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Stanley Kubrick created a film that has been called one of the greatest films ever, and deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. It envisioned space travel and the coming of age of the computer. What if computers took on human attributes? Today, scientists are wondering that very thing. Some claim computers my eventually cause us to rethink what it means to be human.


One last film that made a lasting impression on me was “Deliverance”, made in 1972. “Deliverance” really had no enduring social qualities, and really didn’t make any significant contributions to the times, but it was one hell of thriller. Having done a lot of canoeing over the years in Missouri and Arkansas, I’m not too sure that it wasn’t a documentary.