Sep 4, 2007
My Life In The Cheap Seats
Welcome to Paleo-Cinema.
My name is Terry Frost and I’m a self-confessed, die-hard, immutable movie junkie.
Before I go any further, I should outline what I want this blog to be.
Basically, it’s about sharing the love. There are thousands of movies from the last century of cinema that have slipped below the radar for various reasons. This year I have been alive for half a century and in that time I’ve seen pretty much every kind of movie. Rom-coms, splatterflicks, giallo, pinku films, grindhouse movies, anime, spy flicks, torture porn, caper films, nudie-cuties, Filipino vampire epics, New Wave French cinema, Italian neorealism and mockumentaries. There’s some sick, weird and wonderful stuff out there and I’ve seen a lot of it.
I first started going to movies without parental supervision in the 1960s. Where I grew up, in Liverpool, New South Wales, the local fleapit was the Regal. It had only one screen. In fact all cinemas in Sydney had a single screen until the Academy Twin in Paddington came along in the 1970s. It was still economically viable to run a cinema with one movie showing at a time. Instead of being a multiplex, the Regal multitasked. The programming could change every few days and even between sessions. They showed a double feature matinee at noon on Saturday. At night, a different double feature. Everything was double features. The only time I can ever remember the Regal showing a single film was when they showed Dr Zhivago. That movie is at least ten minutes longer than a Hollywood celebutard's prison sentence.
At midnight every December 31st the Regal had a horror triple feature. Very cool flicks like The Creature From The Black Lagoon, It Came From Outer Space and The Incredible Shrinking Man. These movies were ten or fifteen years old at the time but they were rarely screened on television. Those were the days before we had VCRs – if you saw a movie once you might not see it again for years. (or that reason I still see owning a copy of a movie as a very cool experience. I was in my twenties before I had a copy of any film. My first one was Orson Welles’ F For Fake which I taped off SBS with my first VHS VCR.)
But I’m digressing a bit here. I saw a lot of Saturday matinees at the Regal and there was a simple but unpleasant reason for this. The cinema, down near the railway station at Liverpool was close to three pubs, the Commercial, the Railway and the Golden Sheaf. From the age of eight my babysitter on Saturdays from noon to five in the afternoon was a silver screen.
The Regal was a suburban working class cinema. You weren’t going to see 8 ½ or La Dolce Vita there. But I did see a wide range of films at the Regal: spy movies, Carry On films, Ray Harryhausen’s The Valley of Gwangi, westerns, a little science fiction and some best forgotten comedies. There were times when the matinees pissed me off – mostly when there was one of those lame-arsed 1960s live-action Disney comedies which saw family life in simplistic terms that were nothing like my own experience of it.
As the 1970s came about, I saw a lot of grindhouse and blaxploitation movies there. I was in my mid-teens and once I worked out that the guy at the ticket box didn’t care if you were underaged, I saw a lot of R-rated movies that legally, I wasn’t permitted to view. Weirdly enough, the first R-rated movie I saw was by Martin Scorcese. Boxcar Bertha, which was on a double bill with Slaughter, a blaxploitation flick starring Jim Brown, Stella Stevens and Rip Torn. I also saw a lot of other Roger Corman produced flicks and about two hundred movies that had exactly the same plotline as Slaughter: big black Vietnam war veteran comes back to the ghetto and kick the shit out of white gangsters. You can never get enough of that kind of thing, especially if there’s gratuitous female nudity thrown in.
I now look at my DVD collection, and there are a lot of films there that I first saw at the Regal. Good fleapits are vanishingly rare now but still I have an immense and intense fondness for them. The Regal was both a school and a sanctuary for me during a difficult time in my life. Like a lot of things from my childhood, the Regal isn’t there any more but if I could, I’d put up a brass plaque to acknowledge its’ existence. The movies I saw there have had a lasting effect on my cinematic taste, or lack thereof.
That isn’t to say that my tastes are entirely lowbrow. These days I’m willing to give Ingmar Bergman a go and thanks to Scorcese’s documentary “My Voyage To Italy”, I’m getting into neorealist 20th Century cinema. That’s the coolest thing about being a student of film. It doesn’t matter how many movies you see and enjoy, there are always more being made and even more that were made years and decades before that you’ve never watched or even heard of. In cinematic terms, gluttony is its’ own reward.
Someone told me that a blog needs structure, so I free associated on this under the mind-altering influence of extra strong ristretto shots and came up with a guiding principle. I’m going to do retro movie reviews, but also look at new genre works, and TV shows that I like. I'll be using labels on the posts depending on what kind of thing I'm writing about and the blog will be updated at least weekly and probably much more than that. Enjoy!