A while back I was doing some research and landed on a movie site detailing the week-by-week releases of films in past years and their box office gross. Out of curiosity, I checked out 1982, the year that my favorite movie of all time came out (more on that later.) Upon further study, I was shocked to see the number of all-time greats that were released in a six-week period between May 28 and July 9.
So when the Alamo Drafthouse announced their ‘Summer of ’82’ film series, it didn’t come as a big surprise to me. These were classics after all, genre geek catnip one and all. And I had seen a lot of them in the theater over that eventful summer. A quality film experience is about more than the mere viewing of the movie. It’s about who you saw it with and where. It’s about the excitement in the weeks leading up to it. It’s about the excited conversation immediately after seeing it. These are film experiences I still remember and always will.
Be somebody or be somebody’s punching bag
Rocky III came out on May 28. I think it may have been the day school let out. I was 10 years old and had just gotten done with 5th grade. I went with my dad. It was at the old twin screen Movies theater in Corpus Christi. That’s a generic name for a movie theater but it was a great place to catch a flick. I saw lots of stuff there.
I had seen the first two in the series but only on TV. I was pretty excited. The wait in line to get into the movie was long (this was back when people would camp out to get a ticket. No advanced ticket sales back then.) I loved Mr. T as the villain. At the time, I had no idea who the hell Hulk Hogan was and didn’t really care. I was sad when Micky died and Rocky lost the championship. I exulted in the rivalry turned friendship of Balboa and Apollo Creed. I cheered when Rock laid Clubber Lang on the canvas. It was the prototypical Rocky movie. What wasn’t to like?
KHAAAAAA *cough* AAAAAAAANNN!
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released on June 4. By that point, I was in Victoria visiting my grandparents (Dad’s folks.) I visited them for a few weeks every summer. My uncle took me to see the continuing voyages of the Starship Enterprise the night it opened. He had grown up watching the show. This was my first real exposure though I was somewhat familiar with the concept and the characters and may have glanced up from my Hot Wheels and Star Wars action figures some summer night long enough to catch some of the original series on cable.
The movie was a follow-up to the oft maligned Star Trek: The Motion Picture which I’ve never seen and many figured it was the last gasp for the cult franchise. Boy, were they wrong. I know I was sold and never missed any of the subsequent films in the theater. I love this movie and it has over the years rather sneakily landed in my Top Ten faves of all time. I will admit to being somewhat unaffected by Spock’s death but then again I didn’t have the context to appreciate the emotion of the moment. Little did I know that another death in another movie to be released but a week later would wreck my fragile 10-year-old soul.
You will believe a boy and a frog alien can fly
E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial was released on June 11. I didn’t see it the opening weekend. I was strictly forbidden by my father to see it until he came to visit his folks and pick me up at the end of my stay in Victoria. I don’t really remember what I was expecting or how much I knew about it. I do know that Dad had sent me a bookmark with E.T.’s visage on it. It fueled my interest and by the end of June when he arrived we went that very night to go see it. That was the night it became my favorite movie. Nothing I’ve seen since has even come close.
My father, I believe, was privy to some of the twists and turns of the plot or he was at least, having been quite the movie hound, aware that when E.T. died with about 30 minutes left in the running time that this was not likely the end for our otherworldly hero. But when I broke down crying, like the 10-year old I was, he couldn’t very well tell me that E.T. was going to come back. That would have ruined that magical moment when his heart once more lights at the return of his parents. They came back for him after all. I walked out of that theater in love with the movie. Hell, in love with movies themselves.
There were other films I saw that summer. Some good, like Tron. Some bad, like MegaForce. Some forgettable, like Firefox. I missed others that went on to become classics. The Thing has become quite possibly my favorite sci-fi horror film. Blade Runner is one of the most influential movies ever. Poltergeist is just a damn good popcorn flick that is ageless.
It was a great summer to be a kid with nothing better to do but spend a couple of hours in a well air-conditioned concrete box watching moving images with like-minded folks. If there’s anything I miss about my youth, it’s that freedom.
There will always be good movies. But it seems they are few and far between. Maybe 30 years from now, the Alamo Spacehouse will be celebrating the Summer of ’12 with vintage digital screenings of Men in Black III, Dark Shadows, Battleship & Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
Though I kind of doubt it.