When returning for a third appearance on The Matineecast, Ryan asks his guests about the moment they got serious about film, the film that turned a corner for them. Whenever I hear that question I wonder how I would answer, I have been obsessed with films for as long as I can remember. Watching copious amounts of videos as a kid, becoming a bit of a film snob as a student, and making over a hundred trips a year to the cinema for the past decade and a half.
Star Wars (1977), The original Star Wars: episode IV; A New Hope; or just Star Wars, whatever you call it wasn’t the first film I saw, it was the first film I remember seeing. The first time I saw it was on TV, we didn’t have a VCR at the time. It is credited as changing the course of movie history (for good or bad depending on your point of view) but it also hooked me on movies forever. The other film I remember seeing around the same time was Robin and Marian (1976). I didn’t watch it again for about 25 years ago and it wasn’t as good as I remember it being but it encouraged me to lookout other Robin Hood films. By the time Patrick Bergin’s Robin Hood disappeared into the shadow Kevin Costner’s and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991 I had seen the Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) countless times.
I have never been a fan of outright comedies but love films with lots of comedy, two early examples of this that I watched a lot as a kid and still enjoy now are Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and The Blues Brothers (1980). A few years later came Ghostbusters (1984) and Back to the Future (1985). This coincided with a time when we had a VCR and I started watching a lot of films relatively soon after release and not when they found their way to TV. In a rare trip to the cinema I went to see Ghostbusters II (1989) on the strength of the original film, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Having seen the second and third Star Wars movies; Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) by this time I would have watched anything in a similar vain. One such film was Starcrash (1978), another film that I looked out more recently, although it has its low budget charms, it is a poor movie. However my star wars obsession did result in watching Dune (1984). I was around ten years old when I watched it and loved it. It was also my first experience of being a film snob, as everyone I knew who had seen it at the time said they didn’t understand it. A relatively straightforward story, I think people who claim it doesn’t make sense just got board and didn’t watch it. At this point I had little knowledge or interest in who directed a film, David Lynch was possibly the first director that I began to look out films on the strength of who made it. This resulted in me watching Blue Velvet (1986) at far too young an age. I have since seen every Lynch film on or soon after release.
The other director I looked out for by name was Alfred Hitchcock. This began on Christmas eve in the early 80’s when I watched North by Northwest (1959). It remains one of my favourite films. Over the next few years by the time I was around 15 I had seen all of Hitchcock’s greatest hits: The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). I have since looked out many more of his films and think I have seen everything from 1935 on.
I saw a couple of James Bond Films in the early 80’s Live and Let Die (1973) and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Soon after that I saw From Russia With Love (1963), I was hooked and every time a Bond film came on TV I had to watch it. The first Bond films I saw on video and relatively soon after their initial release were Say Never Again and Octopussy (both 1983), both on the same day. The first one I watched in a cinema was GoldenEye Pierce Brosnan’s first and only decent Bond movie.
My introduction to horror came a few years later, I think it was 1986, when Channel 4 started a season of Hammer horror films. The first week was a double bill, Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1986) and Frankenstein Created Woman (1967). The season seemed to last about a year and covered many of the seminal Hammer movies. I then started watching more and more horror movies, both contemporary and older movies. The 80’s was a great time for horror, by the end of the decade I had seen: The Shining (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Evil Dead (1981) Scanners (1981), The Thing (1982), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Aliens (1986), Near Dark (1987), The Lost Boys (1987) and Hellraiser (1987). But the horror movie that got to me most was Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973), a disturbing rather than scary movie, especially for a 12 year old.
In my early teens I got into action movies, most notably The Terminator (1984) and Die Hard. The Terminator often unfairly overlooked in favour of its more flashy and expensive sequel. It combines all the things I loved at the time; action, adventure, horror, sci-fi and a great story, an instant classic for me, it took a little longer for the establishment to agree with me. It was around this time that I first saw Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). I didn’t see the original Mad Max (1979) for a few years. Watching them all again recently, all three films have aged really well. I have mentioned in previous articles that until I went to university at the age of eighteen I had only seen seven films at the cinema. The seventh and final of those was Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). My most anticipated film for many years prior to its release. It didn’t disappoint.
My love of films had begun on television, as had my introduction to horror but in 1988 the breadth of my watching increased with BBC2’s Moviedrome. Shown on a Sunday evening between1988 and 2000 Movidrome was a series of cult films introduced originally by director Alex Cox and later by Mark Cousins. You can see my article about Moviedrome HERE and a list of all the films they showed HERE. In 1991 my movie landscape suddenly grew. The previous year I had seen a review on TV of Nikita (1990) and was intrigued. at the time I hardly ever went to the cinema, but even if I did, my chances of getting into an 18 certificate film weren’t great. Video shops were less discerning I rented the Video the day it came out. I believe it was the first foreign language movie I ever saw. Dismissed at the time for style over substance now it has the recognition it deserves as a classic.
As I read other peoples blogs or listen to their podcasts I hear of people deciding they should “make the effort” to watch older classic films. I have never seen this as an effort, I have watched films of all ages for as long as I can remember. My parents introduced me to many films at a young age, they include films by Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford as well as two of my all time favourite films: Some Like it Hot (1959) and Casablanca (1942). From the age of around twelve I quite simply devoured movies discovering directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa, Sidney Lumet, John Huston and Sergio Leone.
When I went to university the age of eighteen not only did I study film, but I began watching films as they were intended, in the cinema. I now visit the cinema more than 100 times every year. In the last two weeks I have seen more films at the cinema than in the first eighteen years of my life. So when did my film watching turn a corner? When I first saw Star Wars or Nikita? When I started watching films at the cinema, or about five years ago when I came to the conclusion that American Graffiti (1973) is George Lucas’ best film. Probably all the above.