by Bob Schneider
During the following years, on most Saturdays, post morning prayer, once freed from the shackles of an itchy, off-the-rack Robert Hall suit (where the value goes up, up, up, and the prices go down, down, down), stuffed on a lunch of chopped liver, double-boilered pot roast, and canned Spanish rice, after the Mr. Moto or Charlie Chan feature had played itself out and there would be nothing more on the tube (except for the endless repeats of Million Dollar Movie) until Saturday Night at the Movies, I would jaunty jolly to the Deuce and study the titles that were verboten. Allusive and poetic, they promised me worlds of wonder: Who was The Thing from Another World? What happened on The Day the Earth Stood Still? Would a Steel Helmet keep me safe on the road To Hell and Back? And would Fixed Bayonets be the only way to stay safe on the Sands of Iwo Jima? Would we be able to repel the Invasion of the Body Snatchers or survive an Attack of the Crab Monsters? In The Naked City could Gun Crazy * Killers from Space make their Pickup on South Street? Why could Abbott and Costello Go to Mars but I couldn’t? And was the sphere they landed on The Angry Red Planet or simply Red Planet Mars? When was Bedtime for Bonzo? Was it later than mine? How would I ever be able to identify Invaders from Mars if I couldn’t see them in 3-D?
This was the nature of my thirst for knowledge, and I had to figure out a way to slake it. As usual, the answer came in an unexpected way. One afternoon as I waited for Lenny the Barber to cut my hair, I grabbed an outdated issue of TV Guide from among the periodicals littering the store. When I opened it, I saw that it had a section detailing the movies playing on TV at all times and on all channels. As I studied it, I realized to my amazement that had I possessed this mag at its most relevant point in the space-time continuum, I might have been able to watch both The Day the Earth Stood Still and Sands of Iwo Jima not only in the same week but on the same day!
At dinner that night, after numerous reminders that children were starving in Europe and that I was too smart for my own good, I told the nukes that my continued obeyance of their (oppressive, fahrcocktah, provincial, arbitrary, hypocritical, inhibitive) codes of behavior and study was contingent on the purchase of a subscription to TV Guide. To my surprise, they agreed.
From then on, I was in the business of watching movies: I got the titles from the Deuce and the time and place from the Guide; I had motive, and the DuMont gave me opportunity.
During the party sequence at the beginning of Pierrot Le Fou, Godard places Jean Paul Belmondo, Gauloise in one hand, champagne glass in the other, next to Sam Fuller, who wears shades and nurses a stogie.
JPB leans over to Sam: I’ve always wanted to know exactly what cinema is.
Fuller explains: A film is like a battleground . . . love, hate, action, violence, death, in one word—emotions.
Well played, Monsieur Godard, well played, particularly from the auteur who had offered his own, Bartlett’s-level epigrammatic definition of film: Cinema is truth at twenty-four frames a second.
And they were both right—once movies began to unspool before me on my tiny home screen, I was hooked, jonesing for hits of emotion and truth.
When I found out that The Thing From Another World was an intellectual carrot, it boggled my mind just as it did Scotty the Newsman’s.
I blissfully soared on the winds of absurdity when, in Attack of the Crab Monsters, the babe Ichthyologist’s beau cited Darwin to explain why the disappeared had been incorporated into the collective crab consciousness: . . . preservation of the species—once they were men, now they are land crabs. I felt the same bliss of meaninglessness as John Agar swung deliriously between protag and possessed in The Brain from Planet Arous.
I was moved to tears when Mr. Rodan chose death with the missus rather than life alone, just as I became similarly weepy when Dr. Serizawa nobly sacrificed himself at the end of Godzilla, King of Monsters, so that his oxygen destroyer would never fall into the wrong hands once it had successfully dispatched der König der Monster.
My idea of a hero was personified by Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly. He was a one-man gang of hard-boiled destruction as he swept through Los Angeles in his covetous pursuit of the great whatsit. I identified (perhaps too much) with Jack Palance in Attack. Once his arm had been ground into hamburger by the treads of the Nazi tank he had bazooka’d out of commission, the only thing that kept him alive long enough to (almost) realize his quest for vengeance was his adrenaline-fueled rage.
Yet I never made the connection between either hero’s lower-chakra energy and Forbidden Planet’s monsters from the id. Had I been more perspicacious, I would have noted that my introduction to Freud’s self-centered Trinity also served as the (SFX) objective correlative for the source of both my heroes’ animus.
© 2013 Bob Schneider