Posted on October 10, 2015
The other day, I heard someone ask the question, “What was the first movie you realized was bad?” and it got me thinking. When you’re a kid, just going to the movies is a treat. Your friends will be there, candy will be there, cartoons and previews will be there and then the curtain will go up and the actual movie will be there.
Honestly, as a child you don’t realize that some movies are better than others. Even the movies I watched on TV, and I can remember some real stinkers now, were all cool in some way. Probably the only thing that will kick a boy out of a movie is too much kissing. The kissing scenes are what you had to sit through in order to get to the chase scene but a boy can only stand so much.
Take something as stupendously awful as Monolith Monsters. A kid can’t spot the badly made models or the holes in the logic about a small, desert town being invaded by giant crystals that are hydrophobic. All the kid sees is giant crystals erupting from the ground and crushing houses.
The danger of these movies lies in trying to revisit them in adulthood when you’re much more critical and you can spot bad model work a mile away.
When I was stationed overseas there were no English speaking movie theaters on the economy so we were pretty much stuck with whatever came to the base theater. I was also working a weird, rotating shift schedule so seeing a movie sometimes came down to getting the majority of the people on shift to agree to go to a late show and have the theater stay open for us.
I saw Terminator there. I saw Doctor Detroit there. It wasn’t a bad theater. One large screen and a pretty good sound system. The movie came on Thursday, played through the Sunday matinee, and then was gone forever.
At some point, I heard that Stephen Spielberg had remade one of my favorite childhood science fiction movies ; a little gem called Invaders From Mars. This movie alternately terrified and thrilled me whenever I managed to catch it on Saturday Night Creature Features all through my childhood.
The head without a body being carried around in a glass orb by the giant, ape like mutant. The shifting sands that sucked people underground into the Martian spaceship where they had mind control devices installed their heads by a giant drill. The members of the town, even the kindly old policeman, turning one by one into slack faced slaves.
Terrifying! And the SFX were out of this world!
To an eight year old.
Needless to say, I convinced my tribe to pony up their hard earned bucks to go see a really bad 80s remake of a pretty corny 1950s movie. I lost some skin on that one.
Years later when I first got Netflix, one of the first things I did was to rent the original only to discover it was just a half-assed piece of kiddie sci-fi that actually ends with “it was all a dream” and then a question mark.
The same thing happened when I found X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes on VHS and showed it to friends. The only difference was that I felt — and still feel — it was a good movie with a weird, Lovecraftian edge to it that my friends just didn’t get.
I guess the moral of this post is to leave your childhood memories undisturbed by your adult sensibility. We watch movies and read books as part of a time and place, without that context they can come off as raw and uninformed by current standards.
Whenever that urge to go back and visit one of those childhood favorites, go out and see a new movie, instead. Make a new memory.