My Take by Jim Carl - July 17, 2012
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) and FREAKY FRIDAY (1976)
There was just a single theatre in my hometown of Sweetwater, Texas. Not surprisingly, it was located on one side of the town square, across the street from the Nolan County Courthouse and named the Texas Theatre. It had one of those huge neon marquees which hung out over the street and was popular in the 50s, and which flickered like a starburst. When I was a kid, the theatre had just a single screen. Later in the late-70s, someone had the ambitious idea to convert the balcony into a second movie house by adding a drop ceiling (which is what I'm told is what it's called but still have no idea what it means) and putting a second screen upstairs. This was big news in Sweetwater, a small West Texas town where gun racks were common, rattlesnakes ran wild, and domestic disputes were usually resolved by storming onto somebody's property and smacking the shit upside-down their head. By the time I was 18 years old, I'd lived all over America, including Los Angeles and Omaha, and I'd seen plenty of movies in other theatres, but when I think about movie houses in my younger days, it's the Texas Theatre that comes to mind. In fact sitting here now, my memories begin thickening agreeably with so many secrets, dark revelations, betrayals and mysteries that it all begins to seem familiarly and comfortably absorbing.
Here's one memory: I'm standing alone in the darkened hallway outside the main theatre and staring at a one-sheet for Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein. Either I was heading to the bathroom or getting more popcorn, I don't remember. Anyways, the image from that one-sheet stopped me dead-to-rights. Remember how I once wrote that some one-sheets appeal while others are as repulsive as a 3-day Tim Burton retrospective? Let’s give in and say that all those vomited colors and fanciful artwork embraced just the right level of over-the-top-ed-ness. Maybe it was Peter Boyle's face, all gussied-up to look like a monster. I don't know if this is necessarily true, but I suspect one of the reasons I've never been much of a fan of Young Frankenstein was my disappointment to later discover that it's a black-and-white film. It doesn't seem fair, I guess, for such a colorless movie to have such a colorful and pretty movie poster. It's a cheat. Yes, yes I know the movie’s supposed to be homage; and that's French, and a language which, like most of the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp oeuvre, also leaves me repulsed. I know the reason that I cannot speak French is because I first heard it from Mrs. Kreps, my elderly middle school lunch lady, who served meatloaf with a hearty proclamation of "Bone Apple Tits!"
Another memory: My entire 3rd grade class gets treated in 1976 to a special kids screening of Freaky Friday, the version with Jodie Foster. The mistake, I believe, was in taking us to the Texas Theatre in the first place, which I suspect is how they still feel about the whole incident down there. In my defense, I’ll say they should have known better. After all, we were West Texas children and unwilling to settle for a double-cross when a triple could be executed. It’s amazing how absurdly gullible adults can seem to the average third grader, liable to believe anything anyone tells them (except, often, when it is the truth.) Of course we were going to misbehave, who wouldn’t? Nothing beats a class field trip than some good old-fashioned deviltry. Sometime during the middle of the movie, someone (I have no clue who) had the inspiration to play hide-and-seek behind the thick, velvet curtains which hung along either side of the auditorium's cinderblock walls. As the future Clarice Starling looked down from the screen, panic seized the gathered throng of future farmers of America. There were screams and voices raised in alarm. In my memory, gunshots rang out. The lights came on and the movie stopped. No one snitched on anyone, which made the whole thing even worse. Marching in, we had been the very models of perfectly-behaved Christian children. Being thrown out, we were barbarians to the core. To this day, I have never seen the ending of Freaky Friday. Whenever I hear the name of that movie, all I remember is getting paddled so hard that people would have thought I had tattoos on my ass.