Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Early Movie Memories

Posted on August 22, 2012 at 3:10 AM

Not/Quite Remembering:

Early Movie Memories

Boy, have I been busy lately.  That's a statement, not a question.  Trying to find the time to do a weekly longer-esque article is tough. So I'm just going to dive into my memories as a youngling.


Movies are a part of everyone's life.


Oh man, that's how I'm starting this? Seriosly, that cliche line that drips with over-zealous sentimentality was the first thing that came into my head?


Anyways…movies are things that become some of our most distinct memories. They are an experience…but more importantly is, like a good song, movies can become interconnected to specifics of your memories and childhood. So here's some very fuzzy, vague memories of early movie going/watching experiences of mind that would eventually shape who I am now…for better or worse.


The First Movie I Ever Saw

This is a tough one. I can remember seeing parts of movies as a child on television and so forth, but I don't remember ever really seeing one entire until I was, at least, in Elementary School and we watched Disney VHS tapes in the library. More on that later.


But the first movie I can really, fully say I saw for 100% certain, even though I don't remember how old I was at all, was Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Most spceicially, the moment of the Dwarves singing Hi-ho as their shadows bounced along the walls of the cave. I saw this in a theater, therefore I have to conclude I probably saw the whole thing even though I only remember that one specific part and the fact we sat towards the back. It was, as far as I know, the very first movie I saw in its entirety.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go...ummm...something something something...does anybody actually know the rest of the lyrics to this song?

Unfortunately, when looking up releases and so forth, it's hard to nail down a specific date. There were two re-releases of the film in the 80s, in 1983 and again in 1987. There's a good chance it was the 83 release because we went to a smaller theater where it was playing, not the bigger theater, so it was probably in that theater for quite a while meaning it would fit right in with my "somewhere around 1984" assessment. 1987 feels too late, I have far more specific memories for the later 80s when it comes to movies.


The First Home Video I Saw

Was the 1989 Batman film. I was at a friend's house and either his parents or some other adult showed up and whipped out the copy. I don't know if it was a rental or if they had just bought it, and I also can't recall if it was VHS or Beta exactly, but I remember that box, simple black with the gold logo and letters, and I remember laying on the floor watching it and finding the "surgery" scene with the Joker really scary.

It was a movie that really just blew me away. Visually, there was nothing else like it. It also was the movie to really get me into other Tim Burton films at the time (which was pretty much just Beetlejuice, and I remember cracking up at the "nice fucking model" line numerous times. I don't think I saw that until years later, though, when I was probably 12 or 13.


I saw a lot of movies on VHS, far more than going to the movies. I first fully saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, ET and so forth on VHS first during the late 80s (outside the sporadic television airings). Some also on television, but I remember going over to a friend's house and he had those. Then eventually my family got a VCR and I began to dub copies of those or record off of television. I had seen parts of all those movies before, but until I got actual copies of them did I really sit and watch them.



The First Movie I Ever Rented

This one is easy. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was the first VHS I remember renting, and also the first one I remember my family buying. I loved the box of it, I just loved everything about that movie. Hell, I still do, it's probably in my personal top ten of all time. The second and third VHS movies I remember buying were Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and Terminator 2. Everything else I recorded off of television. All these would have been around 1990 and 1991.

The First Movie I Saw Many, Many Times

Now this one might surprise you:

Yeah...Little Shop of Horrors. This coming from a guy who's not too big on musicals on film, but Little Shop of Horrors really hit the right marks for me. It was funny. It had catchy songs. It had great special effects. It had that nice little dose of horror meets comedy that Ghostbusters had. No, I didn't watch the Muppets, or ET or even Ghostbusters or Goonies repeatedly. Little Shop of Horrors, for some inexplicable reason, I watched all the damn time. To the point where I don't even want to watch it anymore today.

I think it also was because it starred Louis Tully himself, Rick Moranis, who was big at the time. Not to mention Steve Martin, another big name and, of course, Bill "fucking" Murray himself. So there were recognizable stars to me as well.

There's an interesting story here, but basically my half-brother and myself (and I want to say a few others, I can't remember exactly) were stuck being babysat over a summer at some woman's house who I can't even remember. I remember she had a nice house...for 1986 at least or whenever it was. But she had a taped copy of Little Shop of Horrors. She also had an Atari but had barely any games, so we ended up watching Little Shop of Horrors...a lot. Over and over again. That love for it continued for a few years to where I eventaully got my own copy (taped off of television, of course) and watched it repeatedly as well.


The First Time I Was Ever Scared by a Movie

This one is tough, but there were two films that scared me as a kid. Specifically, there were scenes that scared me. The first was Ghostbusters and the opening scene where the librarian turns into a much uglier librarian and scares the shit out of Peter, Ray and Egon…and me as well.  The thing is…I liked it. I loved that moment and loved seeing it again and again.

Oh, memories...frightening, frightening memories...


Early on, though, it was hard to. Like I said, VHS and Beta were pretty new and the first movie ever in our house was Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Before that, you had to wait until you saw something on TV. Thankfully, around the mid to late 80s, playing movies on television were big, and when Ghostbusters was finally getting aired, it was a huge deal. I remember the ads on TV and the ad in TV guide. It was just as simple page, maybe a half-page, showing the poster in black and white and when it was on.


The only other film I can say might battle that scene in terms of time-line was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Oh, you know the scene, I'm sure.

You know...for kids!

Yeah. That was on TV too around this time…and they didn't cut that. I still remember seeing that hand go into that chest, pull out that heart, and the thing healing up. I ran from the room. That scene actually bothered me for years. I recall seeing it again on television, years later, and that scene was coming up. I knew it was, and I just turned my head and put my fingers in my ears.


It was also the first time I was a bit grossed out by a movie, thanks to allt he bugs and delcious cuisine we see that Indy eats.

I have to consider the possibility of Gremlins and Poltergeist as well as far as scaring the six or seven year old shit out of me, but I'm pretty sure I didn't see Gremlins until much later despite it also being out around this time and on TV quite a bit and as for Poltergeist, it was always around, but again I think I saw it slightly after being scared by the two previous films first. 

Remember, though...Poltergeist damn sure scared the child me. If you haven't read my look back at it, then go here to do so.


The First R-Rated Movie I Saw

Now this one is a little difficult. I've always just put Terminator 2: Judgement Day as the official first R-Rated movie I ever saw. I saw that movie a ton, at friends' houses, at my own house, as mentioned it was one of the first VHS movies I ever remember buying (Letterbox, no pan and scan…I was a film nerd back then too). But the more I think of it, the more I kind of regress to the idea of the horror genre. All those were rated R back then, and movies like Halloween were always on television. I remember seeing them, especially around October, but I guess I never really got the impression from them they were Rated R.

Yep, that's the one...I was eleven and apparently the only one in the world that knew what letterbox was and why pan/scan was horrible.

Then I started thinking...weren't movies like Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop also on television a lot? And wasn't I, technically, watching those R-rated flicks as well? Sure, they were edited, but they were R-rated movies I watched before Terminator 2.

But Terminator 2 was a movie I knew was rated R. That was a big deal…almost as if we were doing something so criminally illegal we might get thrown in jail by our parents.

The Other First Movies I Ever Saw


The Goonies: I was at a day care, and for some reason we took a trip to the library.


Or was it kindergarten? It was somewhere around that time.

Anyways, we went to their "screening room" which, at this library, was about the size of my office now. Small, but enough for a bunch of annoying kids and for the "handlers" to go have a smoke or whatever. I remember really getting into it, but even at that early, early age, I was easily annoyed by people around me that wouldn't shut the hell up while I watched the movie. Either way, we only had an hour, so we weren't seeing the whole thing anyways, but I remember really getting into it right around the time the bats flew out…then we had to go for some reason. I would come to enjoy The Goonies much later on. This would have been around 1985 or 86.


In relation, in the late 80s into the early 90s, Poltergeist was always on television. I don't know why, it just was. It seemed that movie and Back to the Future were always on, and I watched them all the time. In fact, movies like that, The Goonies or ET were recorded by me, personally, on VHS. We'd buy blank tapes once we had a VCR (at one point we had two, and I would dub new copies for people) and we could fit a good three movies on to one tape. At the time, though, I didn't realize it also degraded the quality. I was too busy hitting "pause" when the commercials came up so, when I played it back on VHS, the commercials would be cut out.

As mentioned, we watched a lot of movies at school too. Through elementary school, I probably saw every Disney flick under the sun. Now that I think about it, I didn't actually own any Disney movies. Maybe because they weren't on TV enough or something…because I rarely bought movies, just recorded them. I suppose that makes sense, but considering how big of an Aladdin fan I was, surely I saw it sometime, somewhere….I just can't remember where, so I have to assume it was at school where I watched Pinocchio and felt really uncomfortable with that whole donkey-transformation scene. I also felt really uncomfortable with the entire Alice in Wonderland movie. Who did drugs and decided to make that one?

I'm starting to realize that if it weren't for VHS coming out at just the perfect time, an era when it was new and fresh and it had a good amount of content perfectly suited for my age group, I wouldn't be the film fan I am today.

Other group watching of kids movies throughout my youth are a little vague. I slightly remember The Explorers and watching it a sleepover, but just barely. I also recall someone, somewhere, having a VHS of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was older by this time, so that horrible tunnel scene didn't make my "first time scared" list, but it did scare the shit out of me either way and I remember all the other kids in that room a little disturbed as well.


As for more theatrical goings, I do recall seeing Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Ghostbusters II and in the theater. Again, that's getting more into later 80s/early 90s so those are easier to recall.

Back to the Future: First saw on television, and much later recorded my own copy on a blank tape. Talk about a timeless movie, I still watch it to this day.


Another late 80s movie going experience for me was going to see Back to the Future Part II. We sat right up front, and keep in mind this theater was pretty standard stuff so no "good seats" and a nice screen, so sitting up front was pretty stupid in hindsight. Everything was great. Wonderful…then came that ending. We had no idea that there was going to be a third. You might think people left happy, but they were pissed. "To be continued?" Come on!

By the way...the hell is my hoverboard? It's 2012.

On a side note, I learned later on that many open-ended movies had that reaction in theaters. My film professor shared a similar experience when he went to see The Empire Strikes Back as a teenager. People hated how that one ended too. Strange how time makes us forget and forgive, isn't it?

ET: As mentioned, this was another "over at my friend's house who had a VCR" experience and I later recorded my own version off of television. The same one who I watched Batman with. I had seen ET before, on television, but for some reason I only remember seeing it entirely for the fist time at my friend's house, probably around 1988 or so. I've always loved that movie, but honestly not quite as much as I loved Back  to the Future or Ghostbusters or even The Goonies. It's a film most from my generation cite as a major part of their childhood..but for me it just barely was. Which is odd considering that Elliott and I were about the same age when I watched it, so you think I would get right into it.

You know, I also have the same reaction to The Wizard of Oz. I actually didn't even bother seeing that movie until I was well into Junior high. I just never got in to it as a kid despite it being on television constantly.  Why? Well...even back then...I really couldn't stand musicals. At least film musicals (there are exceptions, of course). I'll go to the theatre to see one performed, but watching on thanks.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids: I actually think i went to the theater twice to see this. I can't be for sure, but it was a big, big movie back then. The special effects just blew me away.


Somehow that movie made ants cute.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: This one is probably one of the first movies I remember seeing without an adult involved. And boy, that was a good thing…because the Turtles used bad words. You know…the word "damn."

"Holy fucking shit!" I said. "Raphael just fucking cussed!"


Yeah…people who think kids didn't use bad words are fooling themselves. We did. You did too. Get over it. But I will say, thanks to Raphael saying "damn" twice, I remember going to that movie very, very vividly. You just didn't see kid's icons use bad words.


By the way, have you seen that movie lately? It holds up surprisingly well, far better than it's two sequels (the second of which I also went to the theater to see and felt really awkward when Vanilla Ice did his cameo…man I hated that guy, give me the Beastie Boys any day)


Not/Quite Remembering Anything Accurately

Funny thing about memory and nostalgia: it's never exactly as we remember. Memory, as a whole, is completely subjective. Sure, you might think something actually happened, but it didn't. You just heard a story one time and somehow, now, you remember yourself in that story instead of remembering it was actually just a story. Or, most likely, all those memories kind of/sort of happened like that...but you were way off on everything other than remembering you were wearing a green shirt.

It wasn't green, actually, it was red.

Eventually you start to fictionalize things, and as you get older it all comes together into less an accurate memory and more of an idealized one. So, with that in mind, though I can remember the baseline facts (that was the first movie I saw, that was the movies I taped off of TV) the details of when and how and why are completely lost and I'm left to fill in the blanks. Sure, I taped Back to the Future on VHS...but when and why I did is gone. I can slightly recall where (home, on a small television in the living room with our new VCR) but I don't remember if anyone else was actually there, what time of day it was or why I wanted to tape it so badly other than to just have it. Actually, that's probably true. I still collect movies, and gathering up such a library with old, badly dubbed VHS copies is probalby where it all began.

What's weird is that I remember taping Back to the Future and there was a commercial break around the time Doc and Marty go to the high school for the first time to learn about the Under the Sea dance. I recall I pushed pause when it faded to black for the commercials, then left the room for just a second, and came back and the movie was back on...but I hadn't re-pushed pause so it would start recording again. I. Was. Pissed.

I quickly stumbled over to the controller and hit the pause button, but it was too late...I missed 0.23 seconds of the it was completely ruined and I would have to wait for another airing to re-record it and pause the recording when the commercials came on.

Yet, I can't recall ever re-recording it. Want to know something even more interesting? I can't recall ever watching that dubbed VHS either. In fact, I can't recall watching any of them except for Ernest Goes to Camp for some reason. Did I watch any of them at all? I taped them. My parents still have some of them, believe it or not. But did I actually go back and watch them, or was I just hording them to collect?

From this early age, I can see my origins of enjoying a movie at home over going to a movie theater. Well, first off I could watch R-rated flicks at home, as noted with Terminator 2, but I also liked the privacy. There was a time when going to the movies was a social activity, but I think I'm in that generation that didn't really get in to that. We liked to have our time with our favorite films and wanted to spend it with those movies, not with the people. I can never quite figure out why that occurred until I started writing this little concluding section: home video.


Yes, I wouldn't have seen most of those movies here if it weren't for VHS in the 80s and 90s. The whole point of VHS buying and renting was to watch at home. Home is a private I grew up with that mentality, not going to the movie theater. Now, 20 or so years later, that is still how I approach it. I'll go to the theater if there's something I just absolutely have to see, but otherwise, I'm pretty content watching it at home. In fact, I prefer it astronomically.

As the 90s rolled in further, my love of movies grew. It's all thanks to these loving little memories I have, and if it weren't for them, I never would have gone back to see a lot of movies or discover great filmmakers. Hell, growing up I had no idea who Steven Spielberg was, but when I found out that Jurassic Park was by the same guy that did ET and Raiders of the Lost Ark, I knew I had to see it. Turns out, he did a lot more movies too...I was just too young to realize it.

From those beginnings I worked at a video store where my love of movies exploded in high school (seriously, I didn't even see Alien or The Godfather until high school), then on to college and film studies and, well, the rest is history.

Categories: None

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In