Thursday, January 19, 2017

Day 1882 - Have you ever been a movie theater when the film broke?

Ahh, the good old days when the film would break in the movie theater.  It happens way less often now with all the digital projection.  However, I've had some issues with that, too.  But the two stories I have today deal with the film breaking in the theater.

The first one that made an impact was Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls,  You know, the notorious NC-17 flick that is still considered either one of the worst movies ever made or a cult classic (or both).  I went with my buddy Bob to the theater opening weekend at Great Northern.  We knew, going into it, that we were potentially in for a train wreck.  But we weren't fully prepared for the cinematic carnage that awaited us.  It was beyond awful.  Actors that I currently liked made me question my previous thoughts based on their performances in this film.  Even the mere sight of naked boobs could not cheer me up, as Showgirls might be one of the least titillating movies that has ever graced the screen.  And there was no escape.  I never leave the theater once the movie starts, and this would be no exception.

But then, miracle of miracles, the film broke halfway through.  And the group of 30 to 60 people in the theater collectively cheered!  Never has a film-going crowd ever been as happy to see a movie break. There was talk that a monkey might show up later in the movie, but even the thought of a (possible) future monkey wasn't enough to make us want that movie to start again.  We got our free passes for a future movie and left the theater happy in the thought that we just dodged a bullet.  And, no, I still have never watched the rest of the movie.  I don't need to.

The second movie that had a dramatic break in it was the Mel Gibson revenge flick, Payback.  Based off the Richard Stark novel, The Hunter, Mel Gibson plays a thief who is doubled-crossed, shot a bunch of times, and left for dead.  When he recovers, he works his way up the ladder of mob bosses simply looking for the money that was stolen from him.  So much death and destruction could have been avoided had anyone sucked up their pride and just given him the money.  But that never happens.  At one point Gibson's character (Porter) has been captured and is being tortured.  And his torture consists of getting his toes smashed in with a hammer.  It's an incredibly tense scene made even moreso by the fact that the film broke just as the hammer was coming down for the second time.  The entire audience let out a collective gasp.  It was a mixture of both astonishment and relief.  We had just been given a moment to catch our breath as the people in the booth worked to fix the film.  When the film restarted, it took place about a minute after the hammer, so we didn't know how he got out of his predicament, but we were still in.  After the film was over, my buddies and I discussed the break, and we all agreed that if the film had to break, it broke at the exact right time.

Having something go wrong with the film is one of the worst things that can happen at a theater.  But sometimes, just sometimes, it enhances the experience.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Day 1863 - Movie Memories - The Naked Gun:From the Files of Police Squad

It's a new year.  And because I always say that I'm going to write more often, I figure that an easy way for me to do that is to write a little more often about what I know.  And what I know is how movies affect me.  For certain ones, I have full-fledged experiences with them.  So, as a bit of an experiment, every once in a while (or maybe even more than that), I'm going to highlight some of those movies with my stories surrounding them.  Occasionally I may even throw in some TV shows or books, depending on the inspiration.

So, to start off this little segment, I'm going to write about The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad.  The very first time I saw the movie was when my Aunt Genie got the family tickets to see a sneak preview of it.  At the time, she knew somebody who worked at Paramount, and she would sometimes get preview passes to certain movies.  The Naked Gun was one of those movies.  And I was 16 years old when I saw it.  The perfect age.  The absurdist humor from the guys that made Airplane! was right in my wheelhouse.  I remember laughing from beginning to end.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I was in college.  At Ohio University there was never any way to watch regular television unless you watched the main TV down in the lobby or you lived off campus and had cable.  So I had to resort to videotapes if I wanted to watch anything.  I watched a lot of different movies in my four years at college, but I also watched a tape that had The Naked Gun on it more than probably any sane person.  It was my version of video comfort food.  And it wasn't that I watched bits and pieces of it.  Oh, no.  I would watch the whole movie.  And I watched it so much, that when I finally saw a version of it that they played on TV, I was able to pick out all the parts that they added for the network showing (and there were a lot).  And that wasn't the only movie on that tape.  It also had a film called Streets and Heathers on there as well.  They were watched just as often, and Streets will get one of these posts one day.  But what made that tape so watchable, besides all three being great(ish) movies, was that each movie felt different, so I could get a different experience out of each movie when I would watch that tape in full.  Sometimes I miss the days when I could waste a day just watching movies.  It was a time in my life when I could do that and not have to really worry about the world.  Not that I worry much now, but it was just different.  And I'm hard pressed to find anything that I think is as funny now, as The Naked Gun was back then.

And I'm not even going to bring up the OJ Simpson factor.