Films of my life – 1971

Films of my life – 1971

I am currently making my way through an excellent book called “1971- Never a Dull Moment” in which the author (music journalist David Hepworth) claims this year to be the greatest in rock history. This inspired me to cover the same year for the next entry in this series.

Consett-Empire-Theatre-small

Empire Theatre Consett (courtesy of Consett Magazine) – long before I went there

Nineteen seventy one has a real significance for me and my life through movies, as it is the first year I can remember actually going to see movies. Specifically, I remember going to see the James bond flick “Diamonds Are Forever” with my dad at the old Empire Cinema / Theatre in Consett. One of the prevailing memories of watching movies in the 1970s was the poster advertising the movie, with 3 still images and tempting text underneath. To this day, Diamonds are Forever is one of my favourite Bonds, but I suspect more for nostalgic reasons than for it’s quality. DAF, like Goldfinger, had an iconic Corgi toy – the Moon Buggy, and I still remember playing with it at our caravan near Crook.

corgi_moonbuggy_original

Courtesy of 007 Magazine

This was the start of regular, almost weekly trips to the Empire with my dad, and sometimes my uncle David and one of dad’s best friends – Johnny. My abiding memory of these visits was my dad’s annoying habit of just deciding we would go to see a movie. In those days, you could just go in when you wanted, so most of the movies we saw at that time, we came in half way through! We would then stay for the next showing, and dad would try to leave when we reached the part where we arrived. I always refused to leave, and insisted we stay to the end. I especially remember song this with another film released that year – “Escape from the Planet of the Apes” and being totally confused about what was going on (doubly so as this was the 3rd in the “Apes” series, but the first one I saw). To this day, I still hate missing the start of a movie, especially as they now clear the cinema and you can’t just stay for the next showing.

Much as I love DAF, it is not my favourite movie of 1971. Most of the films on the list below I fell in love with years after they were released, usually after seeing them on TV. “Willy Wonka” is a great example of this. I love this version of the Roald Dahl story.

Here is my list of runners-up (in no particular order)

  • Get Carter (Michael Cane as the least likely returning Geordie)
  • Straw Dogs (infamous rape scene)
  • The French Connection (great car chase, and very gritty)
  • Bed knobs & Broomsticks (the mixed animation / real life football match)
  • Dirty Harry (“You feeling’ lucky, punk?” iconic 1970s cop, originally written for Frank Sinatra)
  • Walkabout (Jenny Agutter nude was a staple of 1970s movie viewing)
  • McCabe & Mrs Miller
  • A Clockwork Orange (banned until after Kubrick’s death in 1999, due to the violence it inspired)
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Willy Wonka
  • Diamonds Are Forever

 

AStrainposterMy favourite movie of 1971 was another in Michael Crichton’s repertoire of warnings about  science and technology going wrong (he also wrote Westworld, soon to be remade as a TV series, and Jurassic Park). This film is almost documentary like, but many of the images are truly terrifying, especially the walk through the tiny village wiped out by a virus. The climax is one of the most tense ever, as the scientists race against a countdown that will result in the  destruction of the lab they are in, designed to contain any breach of infection. This has been repeated many times in movies, most notable in Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), but it was never done better than here.

It is also important to put this movie into the context of the time it was made; this was the height of the cold war and fear of biological warfare was very prominent in the minds of the pubic.

Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain – my favourite movie of 1971

Quite simply, The Andromeda Strain is one of the best science fiction movies of all time.

 

Films of my life – 1975

“1975 is one of my favourite movie years. Not all of the movies were great, but the memories certainly were”

Films of my life – 1975

What a year! This is the year when I remember becoming more “independent” in my movie habits. Not as in seeing more independent rather than mainstream Hollywood movies, but in being able to go to the cinema without my parents.

At this time I was growing up in Gateshead, and most of the movies I saw were shown at the Classic Cinema in Low Fell. I used to go with my Three Amigos – Tessa, Andy & Sean

Classic Cinema

Title: Classic Cinema, Durham Road, Low Fell Courtesy of: Photographer: Manders, Frank Date: 28/7/1977 iSee Gateshead Old Photographs Ref: GL001191

and the certificates in those days were;

  • U (universal, same as today)
  • A (a bit like today’s PG, but many cinema’s would not allow children to see movies on an evening, without an adult, especially for popular films)
  • AA – like a 15
  • X – like an 18

I remember trying to go and see “The Towering Inferno” in 1974 with my mates, and getting turned away from a evening show, despite queuing for 30 minutes!

So what were my favourite movies of 1975? Well, I got to see my first AA (despite being 11) when we got into “Tommy”. I barely enjoyed the film on that occasion as I kept expecting the police to come in and arrest us for being under age! I have to say, Tommy is still one of my favourite movies, a crazy mix of a great album from The Who and the trippy visuals of Ken Russell.

The following week, I tried to get into “Rollerball” and failed. After several failed attempts I eventually got to see it in 70mm at the Queen’s Cinema in Newcastle (with a giant curved screen) about 2 years later! It is still one of my favourite movies of any year.

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courtesy of cinematreasures.org Queens Cinerama Theatre

 

Here are my favourite movies of 1975

  1. Jaws
  2. Rollerball
  3. Tommy
  4. One FlewOver the Cuckoo’s Nest (Jack Nicholson classic)
  5. Three Days of the Condor (classic 1970s conspiracy flick)
  6. Picnic at Hanging Rock (spooky Australian mystery)
  7. Barry Lyndon (Kubrick does Thackeray)
  8. Dog Day Afternoon
  9. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which everyone my age could quote)
Jaws

one of the most famous movie posters in history

Jaws confirmed my love of cinema. It came out on boxing Day 1975, 6 months after taking the USA by storm. I remember the hype and build up (done in a very 1970s under stated way). There were jigsaws,  an advert for Tudor crisps and the original book and the soundtrack with that theme (Da dum Daa dum). In the days before the internet, building the buzz was a long drawn out affair.

I got to see Jaws over the Christmas holiday. It was showing at the ABC Haymarket in Newcastle, and there were queues for every showing. If you wanted to see it in the first week, you had to queue for up to 2 hours. I went with my friend Dave, who’s dad was best friends with Sandy, the concierge. We walked to the front of the queue and got in first. Just like we were VIPs, though we did pay!

My abiding memories of watching the film were;

  1. I’ve never seen anything like this
  2. Seeing a fat woman in the row in front of us scream and throw her large box of popcorn all over her and us when that head comes out of the bottom of the boat. Simply magic.

1975 is one of my favourite movie years. Not all of the movies were great, but the memories certainly were

Films of my life – 1984

“So, what is my favourite movie of 1984?  I’ve chosen possibly the greatest concert movie of all time -Jonathan Demme’s  film of Talking Heads in concert – “Stop Making Sense”.

Welcome to my blog, where I reflect on different years of my life through the films released in that year.

Having previously covered the first 2 years of my life, this post looks at 1984 – one of my favourite “film” years and a significant year in my life, as it was when I first met my wife, Gill.

In researching this year, it was immediately apparent that by the 1980s far more films were in production. That said, 1984 was an especially bumper year and some great movies were released. Here are a few that stand out:

  • Ghostbusters
  • Gremlins
  • Amadeus
  • Dune
  • Splash
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Purple Rain
  • The Terminator
  • A Passage to India
  • The Killing Fields
  • Karate Kid
  • Romancing the Stone
  • Once Upon a Time in America
  • Beverley Hills Cop
  • Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Tightrope
  • 1984

GhostbustersPhew! What a list. Many of those fils are favourites of mine; Comedies like Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Spinal Tap and Beverley Hills Cop; Adventure movies such as Temple of Doom and the Indiana Jones-light “Romancing the Stone” and Karate Kid; “Once Upon a Time in America” – Sergio Leone’s last and possible greatest movie, doing for the gangster movie what he did for the Western with “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. The post-Vietnam war movie “The Killing fields” was a very affecting watch.

“Amadeus” has a special mention, as on the evening all of our student house went to see it we discovered a tiny kitten upon our return. We called it “Amadeus” (of course) but that only lasted a few weeks before we re-named him after one of our best friends – “George”. George went on to live with Gill and I, my family and eventually, Gill’s brother , Nigel.

stopmakingsense-1080x675So, what is my favourite movie of 1984?  I’ve chosen possibly the greatest concert movie of all time -Jonathan Demme’s  film of Talking Heads in concert – “Stop Making Sense”.

What I like about this movie is the concert itself is centre stage. The filming is very straight forward, because the amazing set and stage settings carry the film. This is a band at the peak of it’s powers, delivering their greatest hits in an unjust way – no shots of the audience, just the band, their music, David suits and great lighting.

Favourite scene

The concert and movie opens with David Byrne walking out to a empty stage, placing a ghetto blaster on the floor and playing an acoustic version of “Psycho Killer” whilst the stage is set around him.

Check it out

 

 

Films of My Life – 1964

clapperboardThis blog charts my life through the films I love. Each post focuses on one year of my life and I choose my favourite film from that year.

In this post we are looking at 1964 – my first full year of life and probably best remembered for Beatlemania. In fact my mother always said that my first word was “Yeah” after the Beatle hit “She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)”. The Beatles capped this year of mega popularity with a movie of their own – “A Hard Day’s Night”. It’s a good movie, but not my favourite for that year.

“There were some absolute crackers released in 1964, and I found it hard to choose a favourite”

Again, I have to say that, of course, I was too young to remember seeing any movies in 1964 – my film memories of that year are based on movies I have seen subsequently, some may years after their release.

There were some absolute crackers released in 1964, and I found it hard to choose a favourite. Here are some of the other contenders; all great movies and anyone could have been my movie of the year;

  • Dr Strangelove – Kubrick’s satire on nuclear war, with outstanding performances (3) from Peter Sellers.
  • Fail-Safe – Dr Strangelove without the laughs. Truly terrifying
  • Marnie – Probably Hitchcock’s last great movie
  • Zulu – another bank holiday favourite
  • Mary Poppins – Probably my all time favourite Disney movie, with memorable songs and dodgy accents
  • A Shot In The Dark – more Pink Panther frolics, this time written by the man who would go on to write The Exorcist (William Peter Blatty)
  • A Fistful of Dollars – The first of the Leone “Man With No Name” trilogy

GoldfingerMy favourite movie of 1964 is “Goldfinger”. The third of the Bond series set the template for the next 30 years, until Daniel Craig took the role. Humour, gadgets (the (souped up Aston Martin DB5), great sets (Ken Adam imagining what the inside of Fort Knox might look like), a megalomaniac villain with a bonkers plan  (played by Gert Froebe, but dubbed throughout) and best of all – an outstanding score by John Barry and THAT title song, sung by Shirley Bassey.

I managed to see all of the Bond movies in the cinema. Bond movies didn’t make it onto TV until the late 1970s. Throughout the 1970s, they were often re-released as double headers, sometimes for only 3 or 4 days, which meant that some weeks I could see 4 Bond movies at the Classic cinema in Low Fell, or the Studios in Newcastle!

The first time I saw “Goldfinger”, I persuaded my cousin, Nigel Filby, to take me one Sunday afternoon, when his family were visiting us. The deal was that he kept the money we were given for sweets (which he used to buy fags). I didn’t care, I just wanted to see the movies!

1964_Corgi_Aston_Martin_DB5My other abiding memory of “Goldfinger” was having the Corgi replica of the Aston Martin (I think every young lad, and many lasses, had that car, with its working ejector seat). I had the car for so long before I got to see the movie, I remember that when  I did see it, I was amazed that it was silver -not gold like the toy!

In my opinion Goldfinger is not the best Bond (O.H.M.S.S. and Casino Royale are better) but it is the most famous. Connery was never better and the film was the top grossing movie of 1964. It also led to a plethora of copycat productions, from “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “Mission: Impossible” on TV to “Our Man Flint” in cinemas

Yes, 1964 was a great year for Britain – it started with Beatlemania and ended with Bondmania.

 

 

Films of my life – 1963

 

“I say attend, actually I didn’t see the movie, as my mother was pregnant with me and she went to see it!”

clapperboardWelcome to my blog! Each week I will be reviewing the movies released in a particular year of my life and identifying my favourite movie from that year.

It makes sense to start this journey with the year of my birth. My first cinema experience, and one that may explain my love of movies, was “attending” a showing of the Bond movie “From Russia With Love”. I say attend, actually I didn’t see the movie, as my mother was pregnant with me and she went to see it!

“From Russia With Love” is a favourite movie and one of the best Bond’s, but it is not my film of the year. Other contenders (obviously all seen later in life) include the following classics;

  • The Birds (Hitchcock classic)
  • Jason & the Argonauts (Iconic sword & sandals from Ray Harryhausen )
  • Its A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (the very definition of madcap)
  • The Pink Panther (introducing Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau)
  • 81/2 (Fellini classic that I only saw for the first time in 2015)
  • Disney’s The Incredible Journey (household pets are lost and trying to get back home)
  • The Nutty Professor (as a child, I thought it was funny)
  • Move Over Darling (Doris Day and Rock Hudson (!) in a romantic comedy which is far funnier than I thought as a child)

Great EscapeNo,  my choice for 1963 is “The Great Escape”, a perennial bank holiday movie from my youth with a great true(ish) story, superb cast (Steve McQueen – “Cooler King”; Dicky Attenborough, James Garner, Donald Pleasence to name but a few) and one of the most familiar and iconic themes. I actually played the theme (badly) as part of my brief flirtation with the clarinet, playing in the St Cuthbert’s Grammar School Band in 1975-76.

I actually played the theme (badly) as part of my brief flirtation with the clarinet,

Why did I choose this movie over the others I mentioned? It is probably one of the best war movies and I was born at the tale end of the post-war baby boomer era (apparently it ended in 1964). As such,  we  grew up nourished on stories from the second world war, both those told by our families (Uncle Billy worked as a translator, possibly for British Intelligence during the war) and in the plethora of movies on the TV. Remember, this was in the era before video or DVD, when movies could only be seen by live transmission – at the cinema or on TV. So, I grew up on the heroism of WWII, playing “Japs and English” (I know, not PC).

Directed by John Sturges, The Great Escape is similar in tone and style to his previous movie “The Magnificent Seven”. It also includes 3 stars from that movie; McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn. The contrast between the stiff upper lip and formality of the Brits and the more laid-back approach of the Yanks (James Garner as Hendley “The Scrounger” is particularly good fun).

Although it is remembered as light hearted, the ending of the film is bitter-sweet, as not everyone gets out. That said, the various storylines are beautifully played.

All in all, the perfect movie for a wet bank holiday.

Best Scene

Steve McQueen on a motorbike! Apparently it was not based on a real event, but was added in at the actor’s request!

What do you think of “The Great Escape”?