Last night, in the midst in a vicodin-induced haze (I twisted my back–this has been some summer), I watched the appropriately-titled A Decade Under the Influence, a documentary about the influential films of the 1970s. While I watched Martin Scorsese and William Friedkin talk about who influenced them while they were growing up, I began to think about what films influenced me, for good or for ill. Actually, I think about this all the time, but heck–this is the first time I’ve tried codifying it, so here goes:
- 1963?: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes–I don’t remember much of this movie (I was five, ferchrissakes), other than the fact that the movie opens with an image of two eyeballs boiling inside a beacker–that and the fact that Ray Milland had black eyes with white pupils. I think that movie had a lot to do with how I perceive the world, no pun intended….
- 1963: The Music Man–ahhh….my very first crush: Robert Preston. It must have been all those shiny buttons on his uniform–that and the fact that he had the good taste to woo a librarian.
- 1967: Jason and the Argonauts–It was a hot summer night at a cheap motel in the Midwest (cheap motels in those days had playsets and kids you could actually play with). We were driving to California to catch a flight to Japan. I remember sitting on the bed, watching the movie on an ancient black-and-white portable. I found the movie hugely entertaining until the Argonauts come across the status of Talos. When the statue’s head turned and looked down at Jason, I don’t think I got a full-night’s sleep until we flew back to Travis AFB five years later.
Okinawa, 1968 – 1971: My movie watching habits were very squirrelly, due to the fact that there was only one movie theater on the base that changed movies about once a month. I was reduced to watching most movies on Armed Forces Radio & Television, whose broacasting hours were 3:00 pm – 1:00 am daily (excepting typhoon conditions–then I was in hog-heaven because it was 24 hours/day). At the time, they had about ten movies they showed over and over. Fortunately five of them made very big impressions on me:
- The Member of the Wedding
- Father Was a Fullback
- La Strada
- Unfaithfully Yours–Any movie that depicts Rex Harrison fantasizing about slicing his wife to bits and can still make you laugh is okay in my book.
- Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol–I actually watched this twice in 24 hours during an especially long-lasting typhoon. It wasn’t the story so much as the Styne/Merrill score (they were the ones who scored Funny Girl). I’ve always been mystified why no one has ever covered “Winter Was Warm”. A classic.
–I think this movie launched my life-long love for Carson McCullers. A haunting, delicate movie about a young girl struggling to find her place. Plus it had Julie Harris, Ethel Waters and Brandon De Wilde sitting in the growing dark, singing at a kitchen table so many, many years ago….
–one of the first teenage angst movies. This film and Batchelor and the Bobby-Soxer pretty much made up Hollywood’s oeuvre on teenage girls in the 1940s.
Next Time: My high-school film influences, or “look at Roger Daltrey in those pants!!!”