I’m not sure why this memory has surfaced now but I got thinking about the movies I remembered from my childhood, specifically the ones I saw in theaters. The Jungle Book was definitely in there. To this day, every once in a while, a song will go through my head, or the lines as I remember them. Such great hits as “Bongo bongo bongo, I don’t want to leave the jungle. No no no no.” Or “Ooo Ooo Ooo, I wanna be like you ooo ooo, I wanna walk like you, talk like you…” And of course the truly classic “The Bare Necessities.” Gotta say I loved that film that I saw sometime in the 70s.
I remember my sister, six years older, taking my younger brother and me to see The Sound of Music. It was winter in Calgary, or near enough that there was still snow on the ground. My sister in some vain act of teenagerhood, had worn inappropriate footwear and spent the first part of the film whimpering as her feet thawed. But in the self-centered way of children, I heard her but stayed riveted on the film. I recently had the opportunity to see this again on DVD with a friend. My friend Kit, a sound actress, and once a stage actress, did some of her first stage work as Liesel. She had very interesting other versions of songs, such as “I fell in a pile of goat poop,” which I think is “The Lonely Goatherd.” I can still sing “Do-Re-Mi” even if I’m not a singer.
Movie theaters in Calgary were still these grand affairs, seating 400 people, with large screens and the magnificent, usually red curtains that drew back in majesty. Popcorn was a must and matinees were noisy affairs. I still like the old theaters, of which there are a few in Vancouver, and not always but often, I’ll buy popcorn for the nostalgia. Because I also worked in a movie theater and know that popcorn is cheap cheap cheap I find the exorbitant prices and the oily stuff they often put on instead of butter somewhat lessens the nostalgia for me.
Herby the Love Bug was yet another matinee movie and I remember the least about this film besides a VW bug, yellow I think, bopping about and rescuing people, or something. For movies in my childhood, those three are it. We didn’t see that many. But there were the drive-ins.
Ah yes, the drive-ins, a unique invention for those big four-child families. We would go in our jammies, with blankets and pillows and homemade popcorn and snacks. That was the good memories. Unfortunately the drive-in was usually prefaced by some huge monstrous screaming (sometimes throwing) fight between my mother and my father. She would bundle us up and off to the drive-in we’d go.
They had those monster teardrop shaped, metal speakers that had to be wedged into the window. If it was a colder time of year, you would roll the window up, and every once in a while turn the heat on to defog the windows and warm the car. Imagine all that exhaust in a vast parking lot with a movie screem.
The only two movies I ever remember seeing at a drive-in were The Fall of the House of Usher and The House of Seven Gables. They’re blended together in my memory and maybe both were at the same driven-in night. The late, wonderful Vincent Price starred in both. I remember bleeding walls and a tumbling house, which was probably Usher, since it was about a sentient house, based on the Edgar Allan Poe story. There was a bleeding locket and Vinny pickaxing his sister in the forehead, which was from Seven Gables, based loosely on a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Perhaps that’s why I grew up with a penchant for weird and fantastical stories and read some of Poe and a lot of Ray Bradbury. My mother didn’t seem to mind letting us see such graphically gruesome films. I think I was six at the time. Definitely the images has stuck with me ever since, but considering what was going on in my family, they really weren’t that scary.
I should ask my brother some day if he ever had nightmares from those movies. I like those early memories from The Jungle Book to The House of Seven Gables, and yet both have strong images for me. I guess that’s why my muse comes from different corners at times, and though I write lighter or even humorous pieces, I often have a dark aspect to my stories.