My Take by Jim Carl - July 9


The old adage is true:  You can never go home again.  The quote means that when you grow up and discover your place in life, you’ll never be able to return to the atmosphere of your childhood.  Yes, you go back to your hometown and revisit the neighborhood where you grew up, but it won’t be the same.  People will be older or passed away, friends will have gone, landmarks will have been torn down or disappeared, and the things that made you nostalgic in the first place will have been supplanted with the unfamiliar.  The same is true with certain movies, I'm only saying.
Some of my favorite motion picture memories have nothing to do with what was happening on the screen but what was happening in my life at that moment I went to see them.  Whether it was the friends who accompanied me, the deviltry we were committing, or the gluttony of seeing my first Bo Derek movie without an adult in tow, it's these factors that made the picture so enjoyable.  Cynicism and disappointment rear their ugly heads when I revisit some of these old movies and discover the sad truth that what's now playing on the screen isn't a Memorex copy of what's been playing in my head for years.  It’s still the same motion picture, nothing’s changed.  It’s me who’s changed.  And yes, I just made a reference to Memorex.                     

When I was younger, I loved all the movies listed below.  Something must have gone ker-plooey in the guts of my dvd player, perhaps a gremlin is to blame, because when I watched them again, all I could do was scrutinize their flaws and question my own youthful naïveté.   Here’s another adage that’s equally true:  Sometimes it’s better to leave certain things well-enough the hell alone.

For liability reasons, here are 5 movies I'm not allowed to watch in the hospital rec room again:
PROJECT X (1987)
Monkey see, monkey do.
This is the movie where Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt liberate sweet-faced, sign language-speaking monkeys from an evil military installation.  Its message is earnestly child-like: Do the right thing, damned be the consequences.  It seemed like such a straightforward and honorable plight when I was eighteen years old and wasn’t in my current tax bracket.  Re-watching this movie as a forty-something, all I could think was “Oh, bullshit.”  In real life, this kid would get court-martialed (and rightfully so) before a single cage gets unhinged in this movie, whose script also goes unhinged.  What was once the story of a righteous boy and his chimp suddenly became an overwrought message movie about half-baked animal rights and a wise-ass amateur who mocks authority and recklessly puts lives in danger.  Having written that, I’m not so jaded that I don't still love its ending.  When those monkeys give that general the finger and fly off in that military airplane, my heart soars.  Who doesn’t love flying monkeys who give the finger?                

It’s so elementary, my dear Watson.
I used to think the plot of this movie was so very clever.  Because the actor playing Sherlock Holmes was about my own age in 1985, I could relate to his thirst for adventure.  Taking a page from James Bond, this is the kind of movie where the villain lives in a hollowed-out volcano and hundreds of white-cloaked minions scurry in its depths, spinning dials on consoles, and no one questions how a hollowed-out volcano just happened to appear one day on the outskirts of town or who’s paying for all those fancy high-tech gadgets those minions are operating.  Replace the volcano with an Egyptian pyramid (in England, no less) and swap the lab coats with ornamental robes, and you’ve got the same whacky plotholes in this movie.  I’m a lot more critical these days about criminal masterminds and their plans for worldwide domination.  Maybe it’s because I sorta fancy myself a mastermind, but when I viewed Holmes again a few years ago, I found myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it have been simpler if…?” or “Why don't they just explain that...?” I didn’t swallow it for a West Texas second.  Over and over again, common sense kept interrupting the movie’s unnecessarily over-plotted storyline.  You know a picture’s in trouble when the villain reveals his reasons for revenge and you find yourself siding with him.  Still, that shot of the stained-glass window coming to life was a doozy.
How I spent my summer vacation.
When I first saw this adult drama about Harrison Ford abandoning modern consumerism and transplanting his family to the Amazon to, as they say, get away from it all, I thought it was bold and fascinating.  Teenagers love stories about heroes who grasp life by the knothole and experience it at full-throttle, like Jack Sparrow or Captain Kirk, making their own rules as they go.  It's the common fantasy of every small-town kid who dreams of living in the big city.  Unfortunately, it's the common fantasy of inexperienced fools.  Watching Mosquito again as a grown-up who’s had his own share of hard knocks and moderate success (and lived in New York to boot), I found the movie’s message to be a load of overly-diagnosed American psychological crap.  What was once the exciting story of an intellectual pursuing his ideology suddenly became the overbearing tale of a lunatic suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Having once lived with someone with NPD, I can do without reminders.  I’ve not read Paul Theroux’s novel, but I do own a copy and someday plan to read it and see if Peter Weir's adaptation lost something in translation.  Get away from it all on your own time and stop wasting mine.

The tale of a three-hour cruise.
It shames me a little to admit that I once used to vehemently argue this movie’s virtues.  One of the best Friday sequels, I used to say, as if that meant something.  Let’s face it, I love trashy 80s horror movies; otherwise, I wouldn’t be programming a film series like Retrofantasma.  Sometimes, a movie franchise becomes so engrained in your life that you're willing to forgive the producers for making a bad entry like this one in hopes that the next one will be better.  But for God’s sake, did I have to have to pick this awful movie?  How embarrassing.  Having tried to watch it again a few years back, all I can offer is a sincere apology to everyone I’ve ever met, including several therapists who no longer attend Movie Night.  I don’t know what possessed me, except it must have been something evil, foul, and odious, not unlike the demons which possess Quentin Tarrantino or Tim Burton whenever they’re on-set.  I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong.  (But not about Jason X, which is a modern horror masterpiece, I tell you.  Just wait.  Time will prove me right on that one.

Please stop the music.
My grandmother loved this Doris Day musical about the Wild West.  Growing up in West Texas in the 1970s, it was pretty much a given that you'd see a lot of movies involving rugged cowboys, villainous gunslingers, and slap-happy barnyard dances.  Sorta like you were expected to always cheer for Roger Staubach (even when he threw an interception) and forgive Lyndon Johnson for being a Lutheran.  It was a fact written in stone.  Every year when it aired on TV, my grandmother and I would gather round the Panasonic to watch Ms. Day croon about “getting back from the windy city” and having ”a woman’s touch.”  Watching it again as an adult whose favorite musical is The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, I realized that I'd strayed too far from the proverbial rodeo.  I kept glancing over my shoulder towards the living room window as the wind blew through the curtains and terrapin lamps spun from the ceiling, worrying if Ms. Day's voice was carrying onto the neighbor’s lawn.  I was truly concerned that people would talk.  People I didn’t even know.  By the time Ms. Day started cater-walling about “the black hills of Dakota”, I turned off the TV.  It made me feel sad.  Inadvertently, Calamity Jane had filled me with remorse and made me miss my grandmother.  The memory of this movie used to mean so much, sitting alongside her on the overstuffed sofa, laughing and feeling good.  Now, all it did was make me feel old and alone.  You can never go home again.

Runners-Up: 1995’s Mute Witness and 2005’s The Island.

Funny enough, there are some movies that I hated when I was younger whose reputations switcher-ooed when I got older.  For one reason or another which I'm certain my doctors will someday explain, I now enjoy Rambo: First Blood Part II, Dr. Strangelove, Smokey and the Bandit, Megaforce, Dune, and Silence of the Lambs, just to name a few.

What about you?  What are some movies whose memories you wished you’d left the hell alone?


I loved it too, Watching Mosquito again as a grown-up who’s had his own share of hard knocks and moderate success. Nice similarities.

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You were right to say this is the movie where Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt liberate sweet-faced, sign language-speaking monkeys from an evil military installation

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The movies I wish I had not re-watched are many and varied. I think the early films of those who are now (relatively) firm fixtures of the silver screen rank high in the "yuck" department; films such as SURF CITY, THE EFFICIENCY EXPERT, MEANTIME, or PRIVATE RESORT.

I bought the tapes/DVD's of these films, but have since discarded them in favor of others that age better.

Of all these you mention, I've only seen PRIVATE RESORT. Is SURF CITY the TV movie about Jan and Dean, the singing duo from the 60s? From that same era, the ones I can no longer watch are SCREWBALLS and HARDBODIES. LOL Jim

Two words: Logan's Run.

I just missed seeing this in the theater when it first came out — as with "Rollerball", my parents thought I was too young at the time for anything so adult and violent — but never mind: this movie was in constant rotation on the early premium movie stations (Channel 100 out of Philadelphia!), and was guaranteed to be on when I dropped by my friend's suburban split level.

It wasn't just the brief nudity in the orgy room that appealed to the 12-year-olds in us, but, as aspiring filmmakers who went around the neighborhood blowing up plastic models and filming them with an Super 8 camera, we loved the whole city of the future and its destruction at the end. I also loved the ruins of Washington DC and Peter Ustinov's crazy old man with all the cats.

Fast forward a quarter century. We are snowed in and I see Logan's Run is on Cinemax. Excitedly I insist that my wife watch it with me. A crazy cat lady herself, I tell her she's going to love the scene with Ustinov. I am stunned with how ... bad ... it is. Nothing in Logan's Run has aged well at all: the models look cheap, the matte paintings are bad, and you suddenly realize how idiotic the whole plot is. But the worst is yet to come—

It turns out there are NO CATS in the cat scene. Over the years, my imagination had filled in the shot of Ustinov in a ruined senate with hundreds of cats, cats sitting on desks, cats lounging on books, cats, cats, cats — and yet there is not one in the scene; only recordings of meows dropped in by a foley artist.

This didn't just shake my memory of the movie, it lead me to begin to question everything about memory and the way we remember things. It did nothing less than drive me to reconsider everything I thought I knew about my life. How's that for disappointment?

Post Script: My brother couldn't resist and gave me the DVD of Logan's Run for my next birthday. Bastard! Lol.

What do you mean there are no cats!? My memory is the same as yours...I remember tons of cats. And Farrah Fawcett. Jim PS: I've almost programmed LOGANS RUN several times for one series or another, but have not yet done it. Maybe I should leave that one alone. :-)

Ok, I just braved putting on Logan's Run again to get to that scene, and there are a few cats — less than a dozen, total, scattered about. But I *remember* hundreds. The power of sound and imagination I guess.

The movie is still awful, but my wife and I had making fun of it. Maybe if you put a couple of robot cutouts in front of the screen... :)

A final thought: Logan's Run came out in 1976, and yet it looks, feels and sounds more like something out of the 1950s (say a Forbidden Planet), than it does Star Wars or Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, which came out only a year later.

Funny thing, JP. LOGAN'S RUN won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects in 1976. It only serves to differentiate the chasm that would happen when STAR WARS appeared the next summer, and why that film was so influential. The only other time I can recall something similar happening was in 1992 when DEATH BECOMES HER won the Oscar for Visual FX for its then-amazing CGI, One year later, JURASSIC PARK raised the bar. Jim

There were so many films in the good VHS days that I revisited regularly. DRAGNET with a young Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd was one, as was K9 and FILOFAX, both with James Belushi. I wouldn't dare rewatching those. Same with the first two POLICE ACADEMY movies - boy, did I want to be like Mahoney! I reckon TEEN WOLF won't hold up today. Also, I should veer away from COMING TO AMERICA, and never ever return to any CANNONBALL RUN or SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT.
On the other hand I can say that I remain true to my takes on TEMPLE OF DOOM (bloody annoying!), WILLOW (hilarious and exciting), JURASSIC PARK (dull dull dull), GOONIES (terrific! And the audio commentary is gold!), and OVER THE TOP (my favourite bad bad movie I love).
And by the way: Back then I enjoyed YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES (didn't it have the same showdown as DRAGNET somehow?).

I had to IMDB the film, FILOFAX. Here in the US, it was released as TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS. I watched CANNONBALL RUN as recently as the past 6 months and, surprisingly, it was still a lot of fun, so I'd say that one is safe. TEEN WOLF, on the other hand, has indeed badly aged. Jim

I feel your pain, Jim. Like we talked about last week, my husband and I can't watch Xanadu ever again for the same reasons! Such is life...

It was that conversation, Linda, which probably got me thinking about this article. Jim

Great post and so funny about Jason Takes Manhattan. "Let's take Jason away from Camp Crystal Lake, put him on a cramped boat for 90 percent of the movie! What's not to love!"

I still think the one with Tina the psychic was great.

Great post! For me, it's "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn". I recently saw it again at a festival and it did not hold up for me at all. It was like being trapped in some 10 year old's fever dream. It's one long slapstick pratfall of a movie that I wish would take it's meds and calm down. I still love the first and third movies in that series, but the second one, bah.

I agree with you on "Dune". I got to catch that when you programmed it last fall and love it more the older I get. There's a uniqueness to that Lynch captured that I've never seen in any other sci-fi flick. I wish he'd make another genre film.

I'm tired of Evil Dead 2 as well, Hal, but for reasons different than your own. I still genuinely enjoy the movie. As the programmer for a series like Retro, I grow tired of getting the same requests, over and over, on the surveys for, seemingly, the same 5-6 films, no matter than I've screened them in the past months. They include: The entire Evil Dead trilogy, The Shining, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, Labyrinth, Star Trek II, and The Dark Crystal, just to name a few. I try to rotate them into the series every other year to keep the fans happy and because they always sell well, but Lord, I am weary of these films, no matter whether they're good movies or not. I can honestly write that I have no interest whatsoever in sitting in the cinema while these films are playing to an audience. The first half-dozen times was enough. Jim

I can dig it. I love "JC's The Thing" and "Big Trouble...", but I would not make a special trip to the theater to see them on the big screen again.

On another note, some films I recently rewatched and enjoyed immensely were a couple of Doug McClure, Edgar Rice Burroughs flicks from the 70s, "At the Earth's Core" and "The Land that Time Forgot". Pure mac & cheese comfort flicks that I think would play well to the right crowd. Have you ever programmed them?


I love the Doug McClure films, Hal. We ran 1978's Warlords of Atlantis a few years ago. And I have tracked down rights and prints for The People that Time Forgot, but can't locate prints for Land that Time Forgot. In fact, I used a clip from People during the Intro Reel for RetroClassics for its first 2 years. True tale: I watched At the Earth's Core on Netflix again just last year. Marvelous 70s cheese. I do indeed hope to run one of these films as the B title for Retro someday! Jim

I enjoyed Young Sherlock Holmes (along with Explorers at Escapism a few years back) with a few caveats.

1) The biggest reason is probably that I never saw it as a kid... I have no idea why.

2) Felt like a Harry Potter movie, kids, private school... surprise, look at the screenplay credit.

3) This movie screams Temple of Doom, I knew it had to have a connection... Amblin another big surprise there.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm looking forward to revisiting BMX Bandits but I'm 99% sure I'll wish I didn't. :-)

Andy, I've never seen BMX Bandits but remember the VHS box well. Does it count that I've seen RAD and Gleaming the Cube? Lol. Let me know if Bandits is worth watching. I love almost anything from the 70s and 80s, as you know. Jim

First thing that came to my mind, Resident Evil. I remember liking it enough to purchase it, but after a re-watch I was just completely turned off. I hate poor cgi and those zombie dogs are just horrid. As a gamer I dislike Paul Anderson take and his instance on putting his wife at the center of the universe.

Same thing happened to me with the first Underworld movie. I watched it, liked it well-enough, bought it on DVD and then, several years later, re-watched it and wondered what note tied to a blood-stained rock through my window ever caused me to like it in the first place. Completely understand your feelings. Jim

Without a doubt, Predator. I remembered it very differently than it actually was. Guess my 10 year old self had filled in a low spots.

Funny thing, Susan. Although I was the perfect age to love this when it appeared in 1987, I never did. Actually, I preferred the sequel with Danny Glover. Jim

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