My dad would have been 81 years old today. He died back in 1980. And although I was thirteen when he passed, I still have some fond memories, especially when we went to the flicks. Thinking back, I saw some crazy shit before I was ten years old. Shit I probably shouldn’t have seen. But that was the seventies and people were crazy.
Some of these memories have blurred over the years, and I can’t recall exactly if my dad took me to see “Logan’s Run”, or “The Light at the Edge of the World” or if I just watched them on TV by myself, thinking they were the kind of flick we would have seen together. But there are a few I’m certain about.
GORDON’S WAR (1973)
Dir. Ossie Davis
Starring: Paul Winfield – Carl Lee
A buddy of mine made a documentary about the Blaxploitation era. During his research he let me watch several of the films he found. One of them was “Gordon’s War”. What I didn’t realize, until one scene in particular that jogged my memory, is that I had seen the movie before, when I was seven years old. My dad took me to it, and it’s the earliest film I remember seeing with him. There’s a scene where these dudes bust into a room on another dude and his woman, both butt naked. The naked dude dives for his gun on the night table. I remember thinking: Hey, that dude is naked! Of course he doesn’t make it, and the two thugs plug him full of lead. My first exposure to sex and violence on the big screen. Thanks Dad!
WHITE LIGHTNING (1973)
Dir. Joseph Sargent
Starring: Burt Reynolds – Ned Beatty – Bo Hopkins
Another one that fucked me up. Right off the bat the violence was unsettling. In particular the opening scene, when Sheriff Connors (Beatty) rows into a swamp, towing a canoe behind him. In the canoe are two young men, gagged and tied to heavy cinder blocks. Suddenly, the Sheriff stops, points a shotgun at the canoe’s hull and blows a hole in it. The young men sink, struggling with all their might to break free before they drown. It’s no use. The Sheriff casually rows away, barely looking back at his handy work. Just another day to this guy. His mistake was that one of the young men he kills is the brother of Gator McKlusky (Reynolds) who when he finds out what happens, gets his hickploitation on. “White Lightning” isn’t a great movie, but it’s entertaining. Tarantino used some of the music in his film “Kill Bill”.
DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY (1974)
Dir. John Hough
Starring: Peter Fonda – Susan George
I remember the ending when Mary and Larry have gotten away from the bad guys, they’re rolling down the highway at a good eighty miles an hour, then… BOOM. They collide with a train and explode. Roll credits. I remember my dad looking down at me with an expression that said: What the fuck was that?
RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975)
Dir. Blake Edwards
Starring: Peter Sellars – Christopher Plummer – Herbert Lom
What I dug about this movie was the opening scene where the jewel thief uses all these cool gadgets to bust into the museum and rip off the Pink Panther Emerald. I remember thinking: This is bad ass. Then when Peter Sellers comes on the scene, I laughed my ass off, especially the fights between him and his servant Kato. This was a new super hero I had discovered I could add to the list: Batman, The Six Million Dollar Man, Bruce Lee and now Insp. Jacques Clouseau. From then on, every time a new Pink Panther movie came out was like a holiday.
Dir. David Hand
Most people talk about the scene when Bambi’s mother gets shot. But the scene I remember is the forest fire, when Bambi and his father are trying to run through the flames and escape the inferno. We saw this one at the Broadway theater. It had high-rise seats. It seemed like you had to climb a mountain and then you were sitting on the edge of a cliff while watching the movie. I could never get comfortable. But later I would discover the Broadway was the best place to sneak into several movies, because it had about four theaters, and was so fucking dark, nobody could see you move in and out. Nor did they give a shit. It was downtown, but it was ghetto as hell. Good times.
VIGILANTE FORCE (1976)
Dir. George Armitage
Starring: Kris Kristofferson – Jan Michael Vincent – Victoria Principle
The scene that messed me up is when Kris Kristofferson tells Victoria Principle to run… then shoots her in the back where she falls dead in a ditch. That was some cold-blooded shit. I do seem to remember Kristofferson exploding in a ball of fire at the end. Oh yeah, and he and his henchmen are wearing some kind of Sgt. Pepper uniforms or something. Anyway. It sucked.
KING KONG (1976)
Dir. John Guillermin
Starring: Jeff Bridges – Jessica Lang – Charles Grodin
I always get a kick out of this one whenever it’s on TV. It’s a real turd, but it’s so cheesy and the special effects are so crappy, it’s one of those: it’s so bad it’s good flicks. I remember the scene when Kong is on the World Trade Center getting shot up, and he jumps from one tower over to the other to escape. It was a worms eye shot of Kong flying through the air between the towers, and I was thinking: “There’s no way he could do that!” Never mind the fact that the whole thing was ridiculous. Man, but was I looking forward to seeing this movie, mostly because of the bad ass poster of Kong standing on the Twin Towers, crushing a rocket in one hand and holding a hot chick in the other.
I was severely disappointed when the size of Kong in the poster did not match up with the size of Kong in the film. What a fucking rip off.
OUTLAW BLUES (1977)
Dir. Richard T. Heffron
Starring: Peter Fonda – Susan Saint James
This might have been part of a double feature with “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry”. I don’t remember shit about this movie other than having to listen to Peter Fonda sing. I remember it was a pain in the ass.
Dir. Sam Peckinpah
Starring: Kris Kristofferson – Ali MacGraw – Ernest Borgnine
I remember Ali MacGraw surprising Kris Kristofferson in the cab of his truck wearing nothing but a bow. I remember thinking: Damn, she’s naked! I remember Ernest Borgnine’s ugly mug. I remember Kristofferson’s truck rolling off a bridge. Is there anything else worth remembering in this movie? I doubt it.
Dir. John Frankenheimer
Starring: Robert Foxworth – Talia Shire – Armand Assante
This was probably the last movie I saw with my dad, which is a god damn shame because it’s a piece of shit. “All The Presidents Men” was showing at the same theater that “Prophesy” was playing at. My dad wanted to see “Men”, but he deferred to me. After taking a look at the posters in the lobby, I chose “Prophecy”. I remember my dad giving me a look like: “Boy, are you crazy?” But I didn’t care. I mean… look at the posters. One is stupid and the other is bad ass.
“Prophecy” was one of the first movies I saw as an adolescent that I realized while I was watching it, that it was a piece of shit. I was getting older. And my dad was right, we should have seen “All The Presidents Men”. I wouldn’t have been able to figure out what the hell the movie was about, but then again, I couldn’t figure out “Prophecy” either. The only parts of the movie I remember are a giant fish in a lake, and some dude gets his head bit off by a deformed bear. The shit was S-T-U-P-I-D.
Dir. George Sidney
Starring: Stewart Granger – Janet Leigh – Mel Ferrer
This played at some revival theater in the late seventies. I remember my dad showing me the ad for this in the paper and asking me if I wanted to go. I knew I didn’t the minute I laid eyes on it. It looked stupid. The guy was wearing tights and looked like a ballet dance. I didn’t want to go see a damn ballet. Besides, there was all kinds of cool shit we could see, like “Superman” or “Star Wars” or just about any damn thing but “Scratch-a-my-Whatever” it’s supposed to be. I couldn’t even pronounce it. “Sure, Evan. Let’s go”. So we went, me cursing under my breath the whole way.
The minute the movie started, I was blown away. The Technicolor exploded through out the theater. Janet Leigh was beautiful. Stewart Granger was funny. And the actor playing his brother was familiar. Hey! That’s Oscar Goldman! Mel Ferrer was a bad ass villain. And the sword fighting was brilliant. This flick had everything you want from a story. I forgot I was in a theater. I forgot I was watching a movie. I forgot time.
If they have movies in the afterlife, I’m sure my dad is watching one right now and thinking to himself… what the fuck is this shit?