As a child I can recall being dragged to countless movies with my father; movies that I had no interest in and, quite frankly, no business seeing. I don’t regard this in any way as a criticism of my father…just one of those odd, and quirky things that makes my memories of my childhood a bit more colorful.
The reason I was taken to these movies varies. Some were drive-in movies, and I guess it was just easier to take us along in the back of the station wagon than to get a sitter. We would play in the park in front of the movie screen until showtime, then eat popcorn and sodas. Who cared what was playing?
Other times I think dad wanted to see the movie, while mom was like, “I’ll pass.” This posed a dilemma to my dad, who hated doing anything alone. His solution? Take one of us along! The promise of popcorn and candy was enough to get us to tag along, and then dread our decision once the movie got underway.
So let’s take a look at some of the cinematic classics I saw as a child.
A Man Called Horse (1970) – Seen at a drive-in
In 1825, an English aristocrat is captured by Native Americans. He lives with them and begins to understand their way of life.
Not exactly the movie I was looking for as a 5-year old. I was hoping it would be a bit more Flicka-esque. I remember nothing about this movie, only that I was bored stiff.
Walkabout (1971) – Seen at a drive-in
A white, city-bred teenage schoolgirl and her much younger brother become stranded in the Australian wilderness after their father goes berserk.
I was only 6 1/2 when this came out. Half the time I had no clue what was going on. The only scene I remember is the kids being thirsty and being shown how to dig a hole and drink up dirty water through a reed. Then I went to sleep in the back of the car.
The Emigrants (1972 – USA Release) – Seen in the theaters
In the middle of the 19th century, Kristina and Karl-Oskar live in a small rural village in Smaaland (southern Sweden).
This movie was TWO HOURS AND 32 MINUTES LONG, and I was only 7. Do you see a problem here? I may be wrong, but I think the movie also had subtitles. WTF dad? The only thing I remember is a scene where one kid is so hungry, he/she eats a giant bowl of hot cereal before the grains are fully cooked. They swell in his/her stomach and death ensues.
BTW – I may have that totally wrong. I was only 7.
Dr. Zhivago (1965) – Seen in the theaters
The life of a Russian physician and poet who, although married to another, falls in love with a political activist’s wife and experiences hardship during the First World War.
Okay, I obviously did not see this when it first ran. Even my father wouldn’t take an infant to the movies. It must have been some sort of revival, because I know he took my sisters and me to see this at the Park Lane theater in Palisades Park, NJ.
THREE HOURS AND 17 MINUTES LATER I was thankful to get the hell out of there. The only scene I remember is when he was marching in the cold and had icicles in his mustache.
Death Wish (1974) – Seen in the theaters
A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark.
I am 9 by this time, and there is a very violent rape scene in the beginning of this movie. Hey Joan, why not bring the kids? I was sitting next to my mom, who put her hands over my eyes throughout the scene. But my sister, who was 11, peeked through her fingers.
I’m fairly certain we were the only minors in the theater. I can only imagine what the ticket-taker thought of us.
To my father’s defense, at least all these movies were critically acclaimed. Well, maybe not Death Wish, but some of the others were nominated for a ton of awards.
As adults my sibs and I laugh about dad’s epic fails at the cinema. One movie I didn’t include, because it didn’t happen to me, was The Last House on the Left. My dad took my older brother and sister to see this movie, which was horrifying for them at the time because it involves the rape and murder of two young girls. Then the parents take revenge on the killers. One dude gets his genitals bit off by the mother.
Hey dad! Pass the popcorn!