I watched a film on Friday evening and caught a glimpse of another. Both of them got me thinking a bit about my earliest movie-going memories. Memories of Granny then invariably followed.
It was Granny who effectively kick-started my movie-going career and, I now believe, my interest in all things film related.
I don’t think she had any such high ideals at the time. There was no agenda to set me off on a lifelong course of cinematic appreciation.
If I had to guess, I would say I was under Mum’s feet a bit and Mum had my baby sister to look after so Granny was enlisted to get me out of the way for a few hours and where better to go than to the Gaiety Cinema for a Saturday afternoon matinee.
This is a topic I veer back to sometimes, my early cinema going experiences. I think I’ve figured out why. My childhood is a bit of a blur. Some people think I have a great memory, what with the stories I recount here and such, but the truth is that I’m downright hazy on those early years. I think I remember the movies more than most aspects of my childhood because they became important to me as I got older and I spent some time thinking about what I had seen and the circumstances in which I had seen it. Thus these small moments in my childhood became cemented and firm where everything else became amorphous and faded away.
The great thing about cinema memories is that you can place them in time really well. So long as you know that the movie you saw was on its first release (and I’m pretty sure mine were) then you can date them and easily figure what age you were when you saw them. These calculations, for me at least, are like little markers in the ocean of my childhood. A solid place to swim to when there is nothing else but water in sight.
The two films I saw recently, and which set me off on this reverie, could not have been more different. The only thing they have in common is that they come from roughly the same era. The end of the sixties, the start of the seventies. The films were ‘Klute’ and ‘Carry On Again Doctor’.
Fear not. My granny never brought me to see ‘Klute’. The trigger is via the poster rather than the film itself. I remember the poster displayed in the foyer as we went in to see the slightly more suitable offerings of the Gaiety matinees. I thought it looked grown-up and interesting and it was a great, hard-sounding, title ‘Klute’.
‘Carry On Again Doctor’ is one of the three movies I can clearly remember going to see with Granny. In my mind, we went to see a lot but maybe we didn’t. Maybe we only saw these three. The other two were ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and ‘A Fistful of Dynamite’. There is a good solid year between the release of these last two films, which fuels my belief that we saw many more. But I was six-going-on-seven so I hope I can be forgiven for the lapse in memory.
Despite what I wrote above, the three films do have an odd common denominator and that is they all boast some level of content which might not be best suited for a six year old lad. I remember these aspects more than I remember other things. Is that strange? I can’t say, there’s only me here.
The first (I think) was the Carry On film. I remember Barbara Windsor in some ridiculous and highly revealing heart shaped bikini thing. I remember little else.
When it came to Butch and Sundance, which Granny and I really enjoyed. I remember two things in particular. That musical bicycle ride and Robert Redford exhorting Katherine Ross to take her clothes off. I think I feared that she, too, would end up wearing Babs red cupid underhosen.
A Fistful of Dynamite, which came over a year after the others, according to the release dates, contained several ‘nudie’ scenes, just like the other two. What must poor Granny have been thinking? A harmless afternoon out at the flicks and suddenly there’s bums and boobs everywhere. There is one other thing I remember vividly from this latter film. The music. The refrain of ‘Sean-Sean, Sean-Sean’ stuck with me forever and, if ever I hear it now (as I sometimes do) it can transport me back to a much younger, much hazier time.
My movie release dates can accurately tell me when Granny and me stopped going to the movies together too. I was able to go and see the first release of Diamonds Are Forever along with my pals and without any adults. That was 1971, the same year as ‘Fistful of Dynamite’. So it was there, at the ripe old age of eight, my solo matinee-going career began in earnest. After that, I went every week.
‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was my first solo evening cinema expedition and that was in 1974. It should have been my second because, a few weeks before, my Mum had heartbreakingly told me I could have gone and seen ‘Enter The Dragon’ with my brothers if I had only asked. This still makes me sad to this day.
By 1975, at the ripe old age of 12, and fuelled by a burning desire to see all the Bruce Lee movies, my pals and me had crafted ways and means of getting in to see anything we wanted, regardless of certification. This involved hiding in cloakrooms and sneaking in under cover of darkness. In this way, in ’75, I saw things like Death Race 2000, Dog Day Afternoon and, legitimately, the most influential movie moment of my life, 'Jaws'.
My point is that the 'Granny' period ended very quickly and while I was still very young. There is no doubt, though, that it was she who planted the seed, my enduring love for the flickering light and the hours spent sitting happily in the darkness.
So thanks Granny.
That was quite the thing you left me with.