2021, the year to try to enjoy films again

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This is a blog that I have pondered putting together for some months now and a new year led me to think that now may well be the right time. I spend, probably too much, time on Social Media because I adore watching films and I like talking about them. My hope was that I would find many like minded people, on Twitter in particular. Twitter is a place where I have very few followers who know me personally so I could be somewhat anonymous, a wry stranger who would occasionally drop into a conversation uninvited and deliver a line of Shakespearean wit and then disappear, leaving the gang of merry tweeters to wonder who the humourous stranger was that had just interrupted their discussion on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Fortunately, there are many such people on Twitter, who find and take great comfort in this dazzling of artistic mediums. They generally appear to share my love and fascination with the World of Cinema, appreciating the beauty and skill involved in every frame of celluloid (or whatever the digital equivalent is). Films have always been about escapism, they have been a comfort blanket when the World has thrown crap in my general direction. “There are always movies” I would be heard to yell, after Liverpool got thumped at home, or a school exam had been failed brilliantly, or mum had decided tonight would be the night for the infamous fish pie.* Films were there to take the burden of life’s pressures from me. They were like a friend. If life appeared to be filled with excrement, stick on Back to the Future, watch Indy get chased down by a bolder, watch the Ghostbusters cross the streams, watch the three men sing the little lady to sleep with a rap song, within minutes the World would be right again.

Does anyone know the lyrics to the three men rap? (I love the song but  can't find the lyrics anywhere) - Three Men and a baby/Little Lady Answers  - Fanpop
Hey Mary, did you brush your teeth?

What I didn’t expect from my trips to Twitterland was to be encountered by the dark side. There is a popular # called #FilmTwitter which if you use at the start or end of one of your tweets will notify it to large parts of the film fan community on Twitter and hopefully start a fun conversation. However, what this hashtag does more often than not is similar to when that dude opens the puzzle box at the start of Hellraiser, it unleashes the Cenobite dwellers of Film Twitter. These are the people who hate everything, the people who’s childhoods have been ruined more times than those of us who used to watch every episode of Rolf’s Cartoon Time.

There is a more sinister side to the FilmTwitter dark troopers, and that is that their hatred now has a platform, and in most occasions a pseudonym or anonymous platform for them to spout their views. Now before I go any further, I am not for one minute suggesting that people are not allowed to dislike a film, or for that matter comment on it explaining why they don’t, of course they are. If everyone in the World liked the same things then it would be quite boring, however we would also probably be now onto Three Men and a gaggle of Great Grandkids (not sure that title would clear the censors but whatever).

The problem we have now is that people love a “like”, a “retweet” a “share”, it’s what makes the unpopular popular, and the best way to do that, is to launch into a film and let it (a piece of art designed to entertain, lest we forget) have it with two Uzi 9 millimeters.

There is an unfair phrase banded around that nobody hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. This all came about after the release of Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII The Last Jedi in 2018. Now personally, I thought it was fantastic, and here is why. I thought it dared to be different, I thought it wanted to tell a new story, with familiar characters in a Universe that had from day one embraced diversity and shown that regardless of who or what you are you can become all you are meant to be. As Yoda famously uttered in Empire Strikes Back “judge me by my size do you?”. The online response to this film (again piece of art designed primarily to entertain) was quite frightening. Again, I must reiterate, you don’t have to like a film, whether that be Star Wars, Jaws or Police Academy 7, it is perfectly ok to not like a film. But this wasn’t a dislike, this was pure hatred.

Here comes that sinister side, I was mentioning earlier. Some people hated this film so much that they PAID to watch it several times just to build up the evidence, just to back up their arguments. I followed one Twitter user who knew The Last Jedi to the most finite detail, that can only be achieved by studying the film, like a scholar of Shakespeare would. He knew so much about this film, more than I (someone who loved it) hadn’t even noticed. He knew everything about it, and hated it. There was a teeny tiny part of me that admired his dedication to his loathing, but generally I actually felt quite sorry for him. Not because he didn’t like the film, like I said perfectly entitled to that, but he seemed to be dedicating every minute to attempting to destroy this film, with every bead of energy he could muster.

STAR WARS EPISODE 8: THE LAST JEDI – US Wall Movie Poster Print - 30cm x  43cm / 12 Inches x 17 Inches VIII: Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

Now obviously he was never going to succeed, he was a nameless faceless keyboard warrior, but he obviously felt it was important enough to him to do all of this. He launched an online petition (he wasn’t the only one) to get Episode VIII officially removed from the Star Wars cannon. This was pure dedication. The reason I felt sorry for him was, I couldn’t help thinking, what a waste of time and energy, why make yourself this miserable. Why not watch something you do like and put that amount of time and energy into promoting that film so that more people can see it? By constantly going on about Star Wars either in a positive or negative way you arouse the interest of people who are yet to see it.

The repetition doesn’t help either, there is always one joker who thinks, when asked which is his favourite of the 4 Indiana Jones, that they are the first person to come up with the not very witty response “pah, not sure what you mean there are only 3 films to me (smug face, smug face). Toxic fandoms, they achieve nothing. Actually that is not strictly true, crying, basement dwelling man babies managed to force Daisy Ridley and Kellie Marie Tran off social media, bleating on about ruined childhoods like some entitled toddler who has been told to turn Paw Patrol off as its past bedtime.

The other sinister side of Social Media is that there are films that no-one has even seen yet that are apparently awful. Steven Spielberg is due to release a re-imagination of West Side Story in December 2021 (delayed from 2020). This is a film that is designed for Twitter to tear it apart before even so much of a trailer has been seen.

So here is the thing. Lets make 2021 the year that we just get back to why we are interested in Movies in the first place, and that is to be entertained. We don’t need to think too deeply about them, they are there to take people away from their every day lives and offer some escapism. Yes of course they are there to make money and obviously there are a lot of films about social realism and other such issues, but they are still films and the primary aim is to entertain as an artform.

Think back to the first time you saw the Star Destroyer, engulf the big screen at the start of Star Wars, or when Marty realised what the serious shit he would experience at 88mph was, or when Sally inspired half the patrons in a New York deli to order what ever she was having, or when Cap heard a distant radio signal informing him that help was “on your left”.

Think about Donald O’Connor singing Make em’ Laugh, Harold Lloyd hanging precariously from a clock face, Charlie Chaplin making bread rolls dance, Mary Poppins inventing words like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, or Michael telling Fredo that he knew it was him, or Red walking across the beach to meet Andy, or Brody’s realisation that a bigger boat was required, or Buzz flying with Woody in Toy Story, or Axel Foley disarming an unmarked Police car with a banana, and Ripley advising the Alien Queen to step away.

Making 'Em Laugh Till You Hurt - OZY | A Modern Media Company
To Infinity and Beyond: My love for Toy Story – Pop Cultural Studies
Does Jack Latvala keep falling for the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick so he  can be CFO?

These are all magic moments that have been revered for decades. We are now at a stage where we are not allowed to enjoy such things, because ultimately waxing lyrically about things doesn’t get any likes, or retweets, it doesn’t get any attention.

Movies are a wondrous thing, the artform of my generation. They give out hope, they give credible diverse roll models. It’s time to stop trying so hard to find fault and just let yourself go. Life is way to short to be this angry about everything.

If you are the sort of person who finds fault in most films, then my guess is that its not the films that are the problem……….it’s you.

Here’s to a wonderful year of Cinema in 2021. If you let it, it could be the best ever.

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

*my mums is a phenomenal cook, just the fish pie really never again.

The magical Cinema

Cannon Bolton in Bolton, GB - Cinema Treasures

The rain was coming down heavier now, big old fat rain, the rain that only comes in the summer. The bus had gotten stuck in traffic, the film started in less than 10 minutes, with any luck I would only miss the adverts and trailers. The Bolton Cannon Cinema was showing Star Wars, the original cut as well, for the first time in over 30 years and it was for one night only. I half expected the queue to go half way back into town, like in the days pre-multiplex.

The traffic was not improving, so I decided to make a run for it. It couldn’t have been more than half a mile away. I begged the driver to let me off before the next stop, he grumpily agreed. The rain was lashing down now, I lept over lake size puddles, didn’t fancy sitting for 2 hours with soggy feet no matter how much I wanted to see the film.

I rounded the corner and there it was the old faithful, The Cannon Cinema in Bolton.

I was relieved but at the same time slightly surprised that there was no queue. Counting my luck I dashed into the foyer, checking my watch. I breathlessly stammered to the old man in the ticket office, “One for Star Wars please…….it hasn’t started has it?” With a wink and a smile that almost suggested don’t be silly we were waiting for you, the old man shook his head “No, you are just in time, go right in”.

I walked up the long dark enticing corridor and up a flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs I was actually in the auditorium, with the beautifully imposing giant red curtain bathing the whole room with a glowing expectation. This was my heaven, but it was a strangely quiet heaven. In fact I was the only person in the room. Had I come to the wrong screen?

Before I had time to contemplate, the projector at the back of the room spluttered into life, launching a beam of God light across the cavernous room onto a ginormous red velvet curtain, which almost on queue parted like the the red sea, revealing a 30-45 foot Cinema screen. I moved to a red velvet chair and perched on the edge as the projector clicked into top gear. The familiar site of the Fox searchlight blazed onto the screen with the accompanying fanfare. The screen momentarily went dark and then the following appeared in light blue writing.

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away… | Level Up | by Chris White |  Geek Family Media | Medium

As if a giant fan powered by a thousand trumpets suddenly burst into life forcing me back into my chair the yellow stencilled logo of Star Wars shot across the screen.

  1. Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars Movie Posters | Original Vintage Movie Posters | FilmArt Gallery

As soon as the yellow Star Wars logo disappeared off into the galaxy followed by that oh so familiar yellow text backstory, I sat back into the chair in anticipation for one of the most seminal moments of my life. The following minute of big screen action would give birth to my lifelong addiction to Cinema. Tantive IV raced across the screen being attacked by an invisible foe. Of course it was only momentarily invisible as the old dusty theatre began to rumble and shake as the Imperial Star Destroyer loomed into view. This scene remains as breath-taking now as it was when first viewed as giddy child sat on a chair not too dissimilar to the one I was on now.

I was instantly transported back to my 5 year old self, giddy with excitement. I must have seen Star Wars 50 times. It was my go to VHS during damp School holidays, it was the stuff of my once fervent imagination. The time literally rushed by, I had subconsciously been mouthing along with the dialogue, I knew this film word for word. I had completely forgotten that I was on my own.

The film was approaching its conclusion, General Dondonna had just briefed the rebel troops for their impending attack on the Death Star, Luke and Han had exchanged words about how much the Rebels could use Han, but he had debts to pay off and to be honest the mission was purely a suicide one. Luke climbed into his X-Wing, put on his helmet and then, right on queue a black seat belt shot across my lap and fixed itself to the other side of the chair. Instantly a control panel appeared in front of me, I had a sudden feeling of plummeting through space.

“ARRGGHHHH” I yelled into the void

“Red 5 are you ok?” a voice came from within my headset

“Hello, who, what, Red 5…..me?” I jabbered frantically

“I just lost my starboard engine, get set up to start your attack run” the voice in my head said

“What the hell………I don’t know how to fly one of these things” before I knew it the X-Wing that I was somehow in control of plummeted at great speed and into an all too familiar trench. “Woahhhhh” I shouted as I grabbed the steering controls in front of me. I had two other fighters on either side of me, I assumed these to be Biggs and Wedge. I knew it wasn’t going to end well for either of them. A screen in front of me showed that enemy fighters were closing in. Wedge took a hit and had to bail out, going against the script slightly I didn’t tell him that was ok, if anything I thought it a little bit cowardly.

We carried on down the trench, Biggs was explaining that he would keep the fighters away from me long enough to do what I needed to do, which at this precise moment was desperately go to the toilet. Biggs inevitably met his doom in a shower of explosion. It was just me now, being chased by 3 imperial fighters, one of which was being piloted by a long lost family member maybe.

Without a clue what to do, I felt my time was up. Just then one of the three fighters exploded and a second one lost control and flew into a wall, at the same time knocking the middle guy, the leader spinning out into space. A voice came over the headset

“You’re all clear kid, now lets blow this thing and go home”

“Erm…….ok, er quick question, how do I do that? I asked

“What?” came the slightly put out reply

“Well you see I have never been in one of these things before, and there was very little training so I’m kind of just pleased I’m keeping it in a straight line at the moment”

After a long pause the voice said “Can’t you just use the force or some shit like that?

“Well, you see I was just watching a film and not really sure what is going on”

“You see that red button on the end of the steering wheel?”

“Yes”

“Just press it…..jeez”

I did what the voice told me to and sure enough two proton torpedoes fired out from the gun turrets of my X-Wing, I pulled back on the steering mechanism which lifted me out of the trench and back towards the deepest space. Behind me I heard (which is odd for Space) an enormous explosion that threw me back into my seat. At that precise moment I was back in the standard red velvet chair, Han and Luke were on screen receiving their medals, not sure why Luke was getting one, I’d done all the hard work. I always watch the end titles of any film I watch, I always have. I always thought it was important to look at every name, not just the stars, but every name of every person who had dedicated their time and dedication to making a piece of entertainment, designed to make people smile. All of these names belonged to individuals with greater talent than I could ever dream of.

2. Mary Poppins (1964)

See the Original 'Mary Poppins' and Have Hot Chocolate at Darien Library on  Wednesday, Dec 26 - DarieniteDarienite

Star Wars had finished the screen was now blank. I sat there is stunned silence. What had just happened? What was this place? I had heard of immersive cinema before, but had never been thrown so helplessly ill-prepared straight into the heart of the action. I had just flown an X-Wing, I had just destroyed the Death Star and this was no simulator, I had actually done it. Just as the enormity of it all started to hit me, the projector behind me began to splutter into life again, am I going to be thrown straight into the Empire Strikes Back, which would be partly cool, but also the thought of being attacked by a Wampa, crashing my X-Wing into a swamp or for that matter losing my right hand suddenly had me desperately needing the toilet again.

However it wasn’t the Empire Strikes Back, I was now facing a blue screen with the words Walt Disney presents, closely followed by the words Mary Poppins. Now Mary Poppins was another one of my favourite films growing up, however unlike Star Wars, I had to keep that a secret until I reached adulthood through fear of the playground beatings that come with such a revelation. It was a film that always reminded me of Christmas, probably because it was on BBC 1 every year throughout the 1980s. I had always loved the songs, and the mixture of live action and animation used to blow my mind as a kid (it still does to be honest).

With my experience of watching Star Wars very much fresh in my mind, I did start to wonder whether the same would happen again with Mary Poppins. Even if it did, there was nothing much to fear here surely, I could jump on a carousel if I had to, I would quite happily have a tea party on the ceiling if called upon. Nearly 90 mins and I still haven’t been called, maybe my Star Wars experience was just down to too much cheese before bedtime or some off meat in a sandwich I ate earlier, and I was actually just here to watch and enjoy.

We were now on the rooftops of London and Bert is currently dancing Stepping Time “wiv all iz pals”. Bert continuously shouts instruction to his jolly friends such as “over the rooftops, Step in Time” and his friends would dance over the rooftops. After a magical section of daredevil choreography, Bert approached the screen and shouted “Mary Poppins, Step in Time”. All the dancers on the screen stopped. Bert looking puzzled said again “Mary Poppins, Step in Time”, still nothing. “Come on Mary, Step in Time” – Bert lent a bit closer and through a forced smile and gritted teeth said “You’re holding the film up”. Oh shit. He’s talking to me, but he must be wrong I am a man, I don’t know how to dance, I looked down and saw I was wearing a red velvet floor length coat, covered in soot. I stood up and caught myself in a rooftop window. I was a woman, quite fit one actually, but that’s beside the point.

Mary Poppins | Comédie musicale, Ramoneur, Acteur disney

“Come on Mary, Step in Time” Bert urged, almost pleadingly.

“Its’s ok you carry on, I’ll just watch thanks” I sheepishly responded with a plum English accent that shocked me more than suddenly flying an X-Wing, and pulled away, but there was no getting away. Bert’s chimney sweep friends gathered around me and started their dance again, with me in the middle. I suddenly found myself tapping along, and before I knew I was kicking my knees up in perfect time, it was getting close to my crowning moment, the mid-air twirls, I was going to go for it, this was going to be brilliant. I launched into the twirls. In the film Mary spins at least a dozen times, I knew I could do better and proper went for it. On the 20th spin I started to feel a bit sick, I came crashing down to the rooftop but in fact I landed once again in the velvet chair. Bert and his pals took turns to waltz past the screen, each of them doffing their caps to me as they went by.

The film carried on as if nothing had happened. Dame Julie Andrews was now back on screen where I had moments earlier been. I was starting to think that I was having some sort of psychotic episode, but a strangely enjoyable one.

3. Raider of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark - Paddock Picturehouse

Mary flew away after the wind changed and Mr Banks had learned the lesson that it was more important to spend time with your kids and that money wasn’t everything, I tried to comprehend what had happened to me in the last couple of hours. Was I done now, was I free to go? I hoped not but also feared what would possibly appear next. I didn’t have to wait long. As if someone who knew me was orchestrating all of this from somewhere the Paramount logo appeared on the big screen and then dissolved into the actual mountain. I started to sweat, but it wasn’t a nervous sweat it was brought on by the incredibly heat I was now experiencing, there was a buzz of insects and in the distance the howls of monkey’s dominated the Cinema. Of course I wasn’t in the cinema was I, that’s right, I was in a Peruvian jungle, wearing a fedora with a bullwhip by my side.

Now under any normal circumstances being dressed as Indiana Jones would be awesome, but I wasn’t stood in my living room anymore or in the father/son fancy dress competition at the work summer fair (he was Short Round). I was stood in the Peruvian jungle in front of a rather cobweb filled temple with my rather useless and even more treacherous colleague Satipo. I let out a huge puff of the cheeks. “Ok then lets do this” I reluctantly say and trudged through the entrance.

Satipo stops me to inform that a couple of large spiders are on my back “Ah well, you just wait till you see what is on your back” I inform him with a touch of snark. True to form he turns to realise he has the entire cast of Arachnophobia crawling his personage. We approach the beam of light. I should let him walk into it really as the conniving git is only going to stitch me up later anyway. I’m nice, I don’t do that. We swing across the gap and enter the chamber with the golden idol at the end. Satipo doesn’t know what I know and assumes there is nothing to fear here. Now according to the script I’m supposed to stop him, but sod it

“Yeah go ahead, fetch the gold statue for me”. Satipo gives me a look that suggests I’m not supposed to say that.

“Are you sure Senor?”

“Yeah, it be right” I respond.

Reluctantly Satipo sets off. Two steps in he triggers the booby trap and smack, a poison dart straight through his face.

“Oh dear, nevermind” I say to his lifeless body “I’ll go get it”. Balancing carefully along the cracks I reached the altar and carefully replace the idol with a handy bag of sand that I seemed to suddenly have on me. As the temple begins to slowly implode, i dash through the chamber dodging the poison darts, leap over the chasm and slide under the slowly closing door. I get under the door a bit too easily so I quickly throw the whip through again just so I can swiftly retrieve it before the door crashes to the ground. I have a little giggle at how cool all of this is.

It was at that point that the rocks above my head started to shift, of course the rolling bolder, again the first thought was, this is very cool, I’ll run away from it but maybe throw in a little stumble along the way. Then I thought, these Hovitos are genius’s getting that thing to stay up there in the World’s most elaborate booby trap. However I really should have just got on with it. The bolder was there heading right for me. It was actually a lot faster than it looked. “Oh shit” I turned and pegged it as fast as I could but it was constantly catching me, this was going to be close. I saw the cave entrance and dived full length through a cloud of cobwebs and landed at the feet of the seriously pissed off Hovitos. However I wasn’t at their feet, in fact I was now face down on the floor of the Cinema.

Gathering my bearings I turned to look at the big screen as Indy, now in the more suitable guise of Harrison Ford was heading across the field, with the Hovitos in hot pursuit, yelling to his friend Jack to start the engine. I climbed back into the seat, as Indy’s adventures played out in front of me. A feeling of exhiliration swept through me. A few hours ago, I had blown up the Death Star, danced on a London rooftop with a bunch of chimney sweeps and had now just been Indiana Jones. I never wanted this to end. Talk about your best day ever.

4. Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3: The Gang's All Here (Video 2010) - IMDb

As the Ark of the Covenant is wheeled away to be looked after by “top men” I relax in my seat. I should be tired but I’m anything but, I am packed full of nervous tension, what will happen next? I didn’t have to wait long.

Oh fantastic, the Disney castle had just appeared on the screen, but hang on, whatever this is, how am i going to be transported into it. The familiar blue sky with white ice cream clouds appears, it’s Toy Story 3, one of the finest films of the past decade. Script perfection and narrative storytelling has never seemed so effortless, its a work of wonder from the start. The film progresses along at a steady rate, but we are approaching the films climax and I have not been transported yet, then I start to develop an uneasy feeling, I take a quick glance around the Cinema, quickly turn to the screen and shout, to no-one in particular

“the furnace scene!”

I could hear a creaking above me, I looked up at the cavernous ceiling just as a large metal object crashed down onto my face. All was dark, all was quiet, I could still hear the film playing in the background. Slinky Dog was calling out Buzz’s name, he strangely seemed to be getting closer. Then I felt somebody pulling my hands and I slid out from underneath whatever it was (turns out it was a big TV) that had pinned me and came face to face with red haired cowgirl Jesse.

“Buzz are you ok?”

There you go I was Buzz Lightyear and I was in the trash conveyor belt. As we approached the metal crusher at the end of the conveyor belt the call to grab something magnetic to rise to the magnified ceiling went up. Quickly grabbing a discarded lunch box I shot to the ceiling with my new friends. Of course the complete tosser of a bear Lotso abandoned us as we headed straight for the furnace. As the conveyor belt reached it summit we toppled into the mass of discarded metal and headed slowly towards our fiery grave. Despite our best efforts, the game was up, this was it. My friend Woody reached across and grabbed my arm, we shared a moment, a moment of friendship, a moment of togetherness.

I have always fancied the idea of being a writer, but never in my wildest imagination could I possibly write anything with the emotional wallop of what was happening to me now. My plastic arm was starting to gently bubble as we edged ever closer to the PIXAR equivalent of Dante’s Inferno.

As the impending doom approached, a saviour from above arrived as the claw from heaven reached into the down and plucked us all to safety.

I was soon back in my chair. I had just been a cartoon character, bizarrely this one had felt the most real. As the end titles played across the screen, I finally began to feel exhaustion consume me, both physically and mentally.

As the PIXAR lamp jumped across the screen for one final time, the red curtain cruised across the screen and the house lights came on.

5. Avengers Endgame (2019)

Avengers Endgame POSTER Glossy Premium Borderless Movie Poster of Various  Sizes (POSTER - A2 size 23.4 x 16.5 Inch / 594 x 420 mm, Endgame (V1)):  Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home

I collected my thoughts and headed out towards the foyer which was now in total darkness, there was an orange glow coming through the glass square on the front door to the cinema, the smell of destruction wafted through the main door which appeared now to be hanging on by the edge of its hinges. As I approached the door, those hinges gave up the fight and door crashed to the floor.

The rain had stopped, that was for sure, but where the building opposite once stood was the remains of it, reduced to a pile of rubble, with the four corners still sticking out of the ground. In front of me I can see the scorched remains of those corners flames still licking the sides of them the sky is filled with thick dense smoke. What the hell has happened here?

The ground began to shake as a figure approached from within the smog. A giant of a man at least 10 feet tall, he had a bald head and a chin that resembled a purple nutsack. As the giant came into view, i realised that he was not alone. Appearing alongside him was hundreds, no actually thousands of extras, all of whom looked like they didn’t want to ask me any questions, just to tear me apart. I was severely outnumbered, the coward in me suggested I just turned around and run back into the Cinema. The coward won, I turned with the sole intention of sprinting back in to the Cinema, closing the door and hiding under my completely inadequate red velvet chair. Small problem, when I turned round the Cinema had gone, replaced by, you guessed it a huge pile of rubble.

I turned back to look at my soon to be arriving assailant, he was getting close. I suddenly heard a strange gust of wind, out of the corner of my eye I saw something hurtling towards me at great speed, it was coming right for my face. I instinctively put up my hand, with a clanging thump I caught the steel handle of a very familiar hammer. Purple guy was still edging closer to me, as were his hoardes of angry followers. My first thought was “there is something awfully familiar about all of this”. That thought was interrupted by a radio signal that simply said four words “Captain…….on your left”.

To the left of me a bright orange portal appeared, sparking into life like a Catherine Wheel on Bonfire Night. From within it walked T’Challa, Black Panther in all his regal glory flanked by Okoye and Shuri. Over head, strangely accompanied by Alan Silvestri’s rousing score flew Falcon. More and more of the Portals began to appear, heroes were appearing to help me against the purple gonad who was facing me. Spiderman, Dr Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman, Zammo from Grange Hill and the entire cast of Rentaghost all arrived in a blaze of glory. Within moments an army had formed that was a match for the opposition. The musical score had reached its climax, there was only one thing left to do. As once again the familiar hammer flew straight towards me, I called all to arms

“Avengers!!!” – thump the hammer landed perfectly in my grasp……..

This blog has been written as part of the “Five-Films Forever” blogathon challenge, created by the brilliant Claire Packer owner of the Cinematic Delights blog page https://cinematicdelights.com/

More details on the Blogathon can be found here:

Claire can be found on Twitter as @C_Packer (https://twitter.com/C_Packer) and catch her reviews at https://letterboxd.com/C_Packer/

About me

My name is Dominic Holder and I like to promote the beauty and wonder of Cinema in my writing. I spend a lot of time promoting the power of Cinema as a tool of wellbeing to anyone and everyone. I love all kinds of films but in particular, I am a devoted fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Star Wars, Disney and Marvel. My love of Cinema stems from a trip as a 4-year-old to local cinema in Bolton to watch a Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back double bill, it was the first in a series of life-changing moments, I knew from the moment the Imperial Star Destroyer engulfed the screen at the start of  A New Hope I was hooked. Thankfully nearly 40 years later I still get excited and still find escapism and happiness within this wonderful medium.

You can follow me on Twitter @DomHolder and read some of my reviews on Letterboxd at letterboxd.com/DomH

You can read more of my blogs on Film at www.dominicholder.wordpress.com

The tragedy of Rebso and the wait for a Jedi

The Emperor's New Score: The Story of the Return of the Jedi Music

Several months ago I wrote a blog about my earliest experiences of Cinema and the way it changed my life forever, feel free to read it here. That was a tale about the wonders of seeing a film called Star Wars and its sequel the Empire Strikes Back in this cavernous dark room on a screen the size of a football pitch. It had changed my life and given me the love of cinema that has never left me 37 years later.

I wouldn’t say I became a Cineaste straight away, I was only 5 years old at the time, but the seeds had been sown and the excitement of walking down the plush carpet corridor of any screen room has never left me, the thrill of seeing that giant screen even today is one of my happiest sights, even if the following 2 hours or so don’t always live up to the wondrous promise.

What was certain, I was now obsessed with all things Star Wars. This is a blog post about how Star Wars fuelled my imagination as a kid, made wet School holidays bearable and the indescribable pain of having to wait see the latest installment.

Star Wars was my life growing up, a classic case of good vs evil. In the 1980s, ITV would occasionally show Star Wars on a Sunday night and it was a big event, it was as important as Cup Final day, sure to be talked about at School the following day, not just by pupils but by the teachers as well. I always remember our headmaster at primary school doing an assembly on the diversity of Star Wars and how characters like Chewbacca were generally just accepted for who they were and how Yoda, diminutive in size, was a giant of ability and self belief.

It was everywhere in the 1980s , every little glimpse in a magazine or on a poster was enough to send a tingle of excitement through me. Star Wars figures were all the rage, not just the figure itself but the back of the packaging had an indexed role-call of all the figures available. A handy little Christmas list that could be left in places where Fr Christmas would easily be able to take note.

I used to spend hours pouring over this small piece of card admiring the ones that I owned and dreaming of the ones that would hopefully arrive the next time those reindeers “jingled all the way”. It even made the weekly shopping trips with Mum to ASDA bearable as she would just dump my brother and I in the toy isle where we would just stare at the rows of figures, desperately practicing our puppy dog eyes so that when Mum returned we could convince her that Luke Skywalker in Bespin Fatigues (number 46) was worth £1.99 of anyone’s money.

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Of course this was the 1980s, there were no games consoles (not that I’ve personally ever been interested), we did have a ZX Spectrum which would take 3 days just to load up one game, so during wet school holidays there was only one thing for it, it was time to build Star Wars bases. My brother and I would lay all the figures out on the carpet and take it turns to pick one each at a time until all were gone. It was similar to the way you picked players for the School playground football matches. It was sadly always the same ones who got picked last.

Anyway, embracing the diversity of the Star Wars universe we mixed all Rebels and Imperials together, we were not going to let political nonsense get in the way of us building a true battalion. We both had our favourites, I always had to have the AT-AT driver (number 30 on the above card) and the Rebel Commando (number 7) and my brother always had Bib Fortuna (6) and Nien Numb (13). Strangely Ben Obi Wan Kenobi always seemed to be left until last, I blame the annoying and cumbersome plastic cape that meant he couldn’t sit or do anything. Once the “teams” were picked we set off to separate parts of the house to construct our bases, this was the best bit. I always had the stairs and the under stairs area and my brother would have the TV cabinet and lounge window and armchair.

The bannister of the staircase was made with white circular spindles which the gaps between made for excellent sentry posts. My sentry’s would be made up of a diverse collection of characters, there was always a biker scout, possibly an Imperial Royal Guard and for the element of surprise General Madine possibly borrowing Han Solo’s Endor coat as a cunning disguise.

On one occasion I tied a piece of string around one of the spindles and attached the other end around the neck of Rebel Soldier (number 62) and let him swing down to attack enemy troops if they ever breached the defenses I was assembling on the back of the sofa. In fact, and this is actually quite difficult to type, but my Rebel Soldier actually came to a tragic end. I took him outside for a mission one hot sunny day and attached him to a small plastic carrier bag (now 10p at Tesco). The idea was that I would throw the Rebel Soldier up into the air and as Gravity did its worst, as he plummeted towards the Earth the air would inflate the bag creating a parachute that Rebel Soldier could float down to Earth and attack the enemy. Rebso (as I affectionately called him) had completed several successful missions and was about to return to base when out of the corner of his eye, he spied a pesky Gamorreon Guard among the Begonias. He had to attack, that was his job, but we weren’t set up for another mission yet, but Rebso only had the safety of the team in his head, that’s the kind of guy he was. He launched himself before we were set. The parachute was tangled around his legs………..it was twisted………..it wouldn’t inflate. He reached the apex of his flight and hung momentarily in the air before that old git Gravity swept in. Rebso turned in mid air to give me a metaphorical thumbs up but then plummeted. It’s ok, its Rebso he will have a plan, the parachute will unfurl I thought……….no it didn’t. Rebso tumbelled towards the ground, wrapped in this plastic death blanket……worse still he was heading away from the flowerbeds and to the hard concrete. I can still hear the thud of plastic on stone. We found Rebso’s decapitated body lying on the floor next to his own severed head, witnesses say that he had no name, I told everyone…….i know his name. RIP Rebso.

It wasn’t just the figures that we picked at random, the spaceships also went through the ignominy of having to wait to hear their name called out. There was 2 big ones, the Falcon, always mine, or the Rebel Transporter, which my brother was quite happy to have. Then came the smaller short range fighters, there was an X-Wing, a Tie-Fighter (with detachable wings) and a Y-Wing which was the coolest of the toys. My brother got the Y-Wing, small compensation for never having the Falcon and I took the X-Wing. We would take one wing each of the Tie Fighter to create a shield bunker at our bases and leave the circular pilot pod as a neutral ground bunker (usually somewhere near the coffee table).

Once the bases were constructed and each figure had been fully debriefed on what their role was to be in the upcoming battle, we would invite each other for a friendly look round each others bases. I would always be impressed by my brothers ingenuity of hiding a Stormtrooper in the ginger jar on top of the TV and how the fireplace now resembled a fortress of impregnability. He too would note admiringly how the falcon had been submerged by an old car blanket creating the element of surprise if we were pinned back to the edge of our lair. I had come up with unusual subplots for some of my characters and I would run through these with my brother before the battle so he understood. For example, Lando Calrissian (in Skiff guard disguise) would mutate into Chewbacca (Hulk style) if he was cornered. I always loved characters that metamorphosed in stories and always felt Star Wars lacked that, so I made my own.

So after all the pleasantry’s it was time for battle, however, it never really ever was time for battle. We realised that the creation of these bases and finding all these hidden places to hide figures and spaceships was the main fun. The actual battles themselves were rather limp affairs, a couple of laps of the lounge with the Millenium Falcon firing laser cannons at my brothers base, he would counter attack with a stealth Y-Wing mission, but neither of our hearts were really in it as we didn’t want to destroy what each of us had spent most of the afternoon preparing. We were always saved by the intergalactic “tea’s ready” holler from the Empress of the Universe herself, Mum. It is with deep regret that the majority of figures are long gone now, sold at various car boot sales for a pittance when I was a moody “too cool for Star Wars” teenager. One survived, just, my now silver C3PO who lost an arm in battle still makes his annual appearance as an unexpected guest in my Mum’s nativity scene each Christmas. Apparently I thought there didn’t seem enough people witnessing the birth of Jesus so I added him to the throng, and as a result every year since you can find him hanging out with the shepherds and kings.

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I have two other Star Wars related childhood memories that will never leave me. The first was Christmas 1984, the height of Star Wars toy mania and one of the happiest times of my childhood. Now we weren’t particularly rich as a family but we certainly weren’t poor and we always did pretty well out of Christmas, but 1984 took it to the max, I still don’t know how Fr Christmas managed to get everything on the sleigh and in my room. Now the tradition in our house was for all mine and my brothers presents to be spread out across our shared room so that when we woke up we would be greeted, hopefully, with a room of wonders. The presents weren’t wrapped which in a way made it all the more magical.

Picture the scene, 3am 25/12/1984, my older brother switches on the big bedroom light, oh Lord have mercy. I was 7 at the time and you cannot comprehend as an adult that pure unadulterated feeling of happiness. To the left of my bed was a brand new sparkling white BMX with blood red tyres and handlebars grips. At the end of my bed, balanced rather precariously was the mighty Lego Castle, my brother had the equally impressive Lego technique car which once built had literally blew the minds of every visiting child for the next 3 years with its moving parts.

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Lined up alongside the lego boxes were 5 Star Wars figures each, obviously still in boxes. These were merely the aperitif to the piece de resistance that was sat to the right of my bed – a Millenium Falcon in box with strangely French writing, a lot of kids had these, I guess as Fr Christmas visits England after France he had some left over.

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This was it, I never needed anything again, ever, to coin a term used by young folk these days, I was living my best life. I was the luckiest boy in the whole world and I will never forget that feeling. My brother had the Rebel Transporter so he was happy. The room was finished off with a collection of other goodies, some chocolates, NOW that’s what I call Music 3 on vinyl, we’d got NOW 1 the Christmas before and we had kind of already become obsessed with the NOW universe. There was also a selection of books, one in particular stood out from the rest.

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As mentioned earlier and in a previous blog, my first real experience of Cinema was a Star Wars / Empire Strikes Back double bill, which had changed my life, simultaneously introducing me to the thrilling world of Star Wars and the even larger world of Cinema. So when in the summer of 1983 Return of the Jedi came out of light speed at the local picture house, my 6 year old self was as giddy as a, well 6 year old schoolboy quite frankly. The snag was that my parents were not major Cinema goers and we didn’t go. Everyone went to see that film………..we didn’t. It wasn’t even mentioned. I perhaps wouldn’t have minded so much but to rub salt into those particular coarse injuries, my dad worked just around the corner from the Cinema and walked past it twice a day on his daily commute, so he must have known about it. Besides he was clearly on the phone to Fr Christmas on a regular basis, ” Yes St Nick, its these space toys, I’ve no idea where they are from”. So I had to wait. The second part of this predicament was that we didn’t have a video player in 1983, or 1984, or 1985 for that matter, in fact we didn’t get a video player until November 1987. That was four and a half years since its release, an absolute lifetime when you are that age and have no concept of time to compare it against. I seemed to be the only one of my friends who hadn’t seen it. They would tease me with mini-spoilers such as Luke does a somersault on a floating boat, Yoda is in it, Lando becomes the coolest dude in all the Galaxy etc. I collected the Topps Return of the Jedi sticker album that gave hints of some of the action, but it was the St Michael book that acted as my visual trailer into the film. I read that book cover to cover several times. It depicted the action of the film in vivid detail, culminating in Vader’s redemption and the victory of the Rebels at the Battle of Endor. It described in detail Luke’s removal of Vaders mask to reveal in the words of the book “eyes filled with love”. Cleverly the book didn’t show a picture of Sebastian Shaw in Vader regalia so I was left to my own imagination to picture what this battle scarred face would look like. It became my main aim in life to see that face with its “eyes filled with love”.

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So November 1987 arrived and dad had bought us our first ever video player, a MATSUI from Curry’s. It was amazing, I remember recording Grange Hill, Zammo, Ziggy et al. That Christmas I recorded Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom which was the big BBC Christmas Day blockbuster movie, the following day ITV showed Ghostbusters, again recorded, this time with my brother carefully pausing the recording during the adverts, but there was only one film I was interested in committing to VCR that Christmas and that was on ITV on New Years Day 1988, it was Star Wars. I recorded it and as soon as it finished I ripped out the little black square on the corner of the tape that would prevent anyone recording over it. I finally owned Star Wars, I could watch it whenever I wanted, and oh boy, I sure did. At this point I still hadn’t seen Jedi and even the events of Empire were beginning to fade from my young memory.

Then it happened one night in Spring 1988, completely out of the blue. It was a Friday night, my dad came home from work and called me into the kitchen. I remember him distinctly saying “Hey, I wondered if you wanted to watch this tonight”. He pulled from within his coat a yellow Bolton Library video case. Bolton Library never rented videos in their original boxes, they always placed the tapes into their own branded boxes, it was probably to stop people nicking the original video box covers. I reached out for the yellow box, shaking with nervous anticipation, I cracked it open, and there it was in all its glory Return of the Jedi on VHS.

The next half hour was a bit of a blur, I seem to remember running upstairs and putting on my pyjamas, even though it was only 4:30, I put on my dressing gown and Mr T slippers and went and sat in my favourite chair with the video queued up. Tea was no longer required, we had to watch this and right now. The lights were dimmed and the oh so familiar “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…….” appeared on the screen like a reassuring friend. Then BOOM the yellow STAR WARS logo shot across the screen and off into the star filled distance. The rising from the bottom of the screen was the oh so familiar yellow font, but the words were different. It said Episode VI for a start the RETURN OF THE JEDI. From that moment I knew I was in love with a piece of video tape.

The film was everything I hoped for, the first act set in Jabba’s Palace, a suitable upgrade to Episode 4s Mos Eisley cantina, then a brief stop with our old friend Yoda, who brought the audience up to speed with a quick recap of the main events of Empire, before taking a well earned rest. Then the film for me really came into its own. The three way battle, on the ground on Endor with the Ewoks (loved them then, still love them now), in Space, as Super awesome Lando leads the rebel attack, ably assisted by Nien Numb and the imperious trap fearing Admiral Ackbar, and finally in the confines of the Emperor’s throne room as Luke, Vader and the Emperor embarked on the World’s weirdest job interview. I still wonder to this day how the BBFC gave Jedi a U certificate, I still shudder when the Emperor electrocutes Luke. This was a genuinely terrifying moment for a child to watch.

Finally we get to the moment I had waited for ever since I first read the St Michael story book, Luke was to remove Vader’s mask. Up to the very last minute I wondered what it would look like. There was even a slight tease as Luke removed the back of the helmet, delaying the moment for a few more tantalising seconds, then Luke unhooked the face part of the mask and with a low hiss there he was. Despite the deep scars and the top part of his head basically missing, St Michael had got it right, the eyes were filled with love, the characterisation had been described perfectly, it was not a disappointment. There were a few moments for me to take it all in, there he was the man behind the mask. Within seconds I was snapped out of it as Wedge Antilles went for the power regulator and announced to Lando that he was already on his way out. Of all the “punch the air” moments I’ve witnessed in my life, right up there with George McFly knocking out Biff in Back to the Future, is the Millenium Falcon blasting through the fireball at the exhaust port of the Death Star. “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAA” yelled Lando, as did we all.

In those days you could rent videos for the whole weekend for about £3. I think I watched Return of the Jedi about 8 times over that weekend and cried when we had to take it back. It still holds a very special place in my heart and is probably my favourite Star Wars film. My kids continue to be ignored when, everytime we drive past or walk through a forest I speculate loudly “Hey I bet there’s Ewoks in here”, I follow this with an embarassing dad “Be chuahaha” in perfect Ewok tongue.

As a rather bizarre postscript that following summer whilst holidaying in France, I was thrilled to see that the campsite we were staying on in Britanny was showing the Empire Strikes Back. Without any hesitation I took my seat at the front of the games room and it started. It was in French but I didn’t care, I was seeing it practically for the first time, i could follow it well enough. A few weeks later after returning back to England, I rented it from Bolton Video Library and watched it back to back all weekend. Oh Star Wars, what a time to be a kid.

Dominic Holder

A film fanatic father of three who writes to promote the beauty and wonders of Cinema. I am a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Disney, Marvel and anything that allows you to escape from the pressures of everyday life for a couple of hours. I believe that Cinema is a source of well-being and good for people. I consider it a privilege to witness the gifts and work of the thousands of film makers and collaborators who work tirelessly to provide us with films that main purpose is to entertain.

Huge thanks to Rob and the team at the Bearded Trio http://www.thebeardedtrio.com for all their support with this blog. They kindly published the above at https://www.thebeardedtrio.com/2019/10/the-tragedy-of-rebso-and-wait-for-jedi.html

A long time ago in a little old cinema in Bolton

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Cannon Cinema Bolton, circa 1996

I believe I had been to the Cinema before, possibly to see some Disney re-issues such as Snow White and Bambi, I have a vague recollection of seeing the long since forgotten Disney “classic” The Spaceman and King Arthur in about 1980, but despite growing up to truly appreciate the majesty of Snow White and Bambi, as a 3-year-old, they didn’t at the time leave much of an impression. Fast forward 2 years and my life was to be changed, forever thanks to a trip to the building captured in the above photo (albeit the photo is taken many years later).

There were 2 Cinemas in Bolton back in the early 1980s, the aforementioned Canon Cinema and the imposingly impressive Odeon seen below,

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The Odeon Cinema in Bolton circa 1962 before scandalously being turned into a Bingo Hall in 1983

The Odeon shut down in 1983, and the building became a Bingo Hall later that year. I’m sure I went to the Odeon as a kid, maybe to watch Superman 2 and I remember thinking this was the Cinema to be at. Behind the doors of this strong, obstinate stone edifice, adventures and high thrills were turned from imagination to actual moving images on a screen so big it surely could be seen from some of these distant galaxies that I would be exploring inside the walls.

I started infant School, as a 4 year old, in January 1982, in those days they always had 2 intakes into the School year so as not to frighten the kids with Summer birthdays like me into having to deal with the politics that came with being in infant school when you had only just turned 4. I had settled in quite well and had made a good friend who I will refer to as Cozi. I seem to recall Cozi would often go on about a film called Star Wars and how it was an adventure set in Space and had lots of creatures in it including a giant walking bear. I probably was more concerned at the time with which disguise Mr. Benn would pick on his next trip to the costume shop near to his home on Festive Lane.

Then one day I remember my dad coming home from work and announcing that the Cinema in Bolton was showing both Star Wars and something called The Empire Strikes Back as a double bill (whatever that is) and that we were going to watch it. Ok, that sounds fun I thought and went straight back to wondering whether Mr. Benn would ever pick that Wizard costume that he was seen wearing on the opening titles.

I had almost forgotten about the trip until it actually happened, I don’t recall the journey to town, I couldn’t tell you whether it was by car or train, I couldn’t tell you what the weather was like, I can’t even recall what time of day it was, but I can tell you the disappointment I felt as we approached the Cannon Cinema and not the Odeon. The Odeon looked like it would protect you from a Nuclear Blast, it looked like the sort of place that will comfortably shield you from an apocalypse whilst you were in there. There were steps leading up to its front door for crying out loud, only important buildings had those. No, we were at the tiny Cannon cinema, that looked like a row of shops on a busy main road. So naff did it look from outside that next door to its left was a wig shop, its there on the photo above, with its blue parasol covering its window. Hmm, yes it was fair to say I was slightly underwhelmed. However this was all about to change, the lack of curb appeal was going to be instantly forgotten.

Next to the wig shop was a rectangular perspex picture frame jutting out from the wall. It had little fairy lights around its perimeter, it looked all sparkly and twinkly, my 4-year-old eyes were drawn to it like a homing beacon from a mothership sending me a signal. As I stole a glance at it, I noticed a picture, of an imposing, monstrous man in black armour with a red sword literally reaching out of the picture frame to me. Flanked on either side of him, was a collection of otherworldly characters, including what looked like the giant Bear that Cozi had been going on about. There seemed to be a lot of action going on here, people with laser guns, a man who looked like a gold robot, spaceships and in the middle of it all, large white writing of the words STAR WARS on the left and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK on the right. I remember staring at this poster and my imagination ran wild, I can remember vividly taking a step back and turning my young head, skyward all the way to the top of this no longer, tiny looking building.

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Double bill poster similar to the one I remember from outside the Cannon Cinema in 1982.


Next to the poster was another silver frame with fairy lights around its edging. This one had the teasing words “Coming Soon” in gold lettering just above it. In this poster, less is given away as intriguingly there was a picture of a young boy’s arm reaching across a starry backdrop to touch fingers with a spindly, brown and bony finger, over two brilliant bright letters which simply read E.T.

So in we went. Into the foyer with its plush red carpets, that seemed strangely sticky, I remember having to queue whilst an usher checked tickets with my dad and then in front of them, there appeared to be a person selling sweets and OMG, Minstrels!!!!. Hey, this place is alright, they sold Minstrels. There was an odd smell in the air, one I’d never experienced before and in the corner, I could see a glass box with a bright light shining down into it. Within that box was a form of wizardry that I had never dared imagine. Hundreds of little yellow creatures were bouncing up and down at an incredible rate. It looked at first as if they were trying to escape their glass prison but on closer inspection, they appeared to be jumping on a giant trampoline.

It was at this point that the Cannon Cinema in Bolton revealed one of its wondrous, magical secrets. As stated earlier the non-descript, plain, almost boring front of the cinema, gave little to no indication of the magic that was on offer. The double bill was to be shown on Screen 2, the jewel in the Cannon Cinema’s darkened, velvet crown. To get to Screen 2 though was a journey in itself as the Cinema revealed it’s Tardis-like interior, with corridor after corridor, staircase after staircase, my four-year-old legs felt they had walked to this fabled Galaxy far far away. We had reached the bottom of the stairs that would turn out to be the final ascent.

The following 10 seconds were going to have a monumental effect on the rest of my life, I remember walking up the steps that opened out to what seemed like a landing with half a wall. On approach to this half wall I could peer over it, and there it was, bathed in warm red, a huge stage and a colossal red curtain, with furrowed pleats, being lit by uplighters that despite having the power of a 10 watt bulb managed to cast the right amount of light and shade to instantly set the heart racing. What was behind that curtain? Before this stage, but beyond this half wall there was row upon row of maroon seats all facing the red curtain, all bathed in this omnipresent red glow. As we reached the top of the stairs, my dad led us to the right and I saw that there was the same amount of seats again in the top half of this cavernous room. We headed up some more steps to the right of the main ones we had just come up and about 3 rows up found our seats.

The seats had to be pulled down to sit on, this was indeed very exciting. I did what all 4-year-old boys would do at this point and launched my bottom to the back of the seat forcing it to bow at its hinges forcing my knees up into the air, as I giddily swung back and forward, much to the chagrin no doubt of my parents and the other patrons in the row behind me. I remember seeing a short scorch mark in the armrest of the chair, probably from a cigarette from a previous showing, I glanced around and saw the dark walls capturing whatever glow they could from the red curtain, reaching into the heavens and then the ceiling filled with dozens of twinkly stars, which of course turned out to be fairy lights and not a privileged insight into the Universe that was about to start in about 10 minutes. The only other light in the room came from the soft glow green lettering of the EXIT signs at the front of the auditorium. I had been in this room for less than 2 minutes and I already wondered why anyone would want to EXIT.

Now bearing in mind this was double bill I was probably destined to sit here for the next 4/5 hours which for a 4-year-old is quite an ask, so I imagine that toilet breaks did occur, I’m sure there must have been some respite between the two films but I don’t remember that detail.

After a while, once everyone was settled into their seats, the lights started to dim, the room was already dark but now it was plunging us into a pitch black environment save for the red curtain and the green EXIT signs, it was the type of dark that when you look to the right to see your parents you can only make out the fact that they are there, but you can’t see them.

Then there was a sound I will never, ever forget. There was a whir and a distant squeak and right before my young impressionable eyes the giant red curtain started to part and the biggest TV screen I had ever laid eyes on was revealed. It was a brilliant white light that illuminated the room, I turned round to take in the whole room and saw that this brilliant light was coming in a straight line from a tiny square hole at the back of the room. Millions of tiny dust particles danced merrily in its beam as this powerful, Alien-type ray fired at the screen. Then the screen almost crackled into life with a large black circular cue mark firing into the top left-hand corner of the screen. I don’t recall exactly what happened next, but no doubt we were treated to 10 minutes of adverts for Butterkist Popcorn and a man riding a surfboard in order to sell us Old Spice aftershave.

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Old Spice…….for Old Men
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Butterkist, Butterkist Rah Rah Rah!!!!

There was possibly trailers but I don’t recall any, being 1982, there may have been one for that young boy who seemed to have a friend with a very bony, brown arm set against a backdrop of stars and forests. That be as it may, I do recall my mum nudging me to let me know that it was about to start. That briefest of moments of total silence as the adverts/trailers ends and the collective throng impatiently wonder, is this finally the film.

Now I don’t know if this is just me, and I sure as hell don’t wish to brag, but I have always had this uncanny ability to remember my thoughts and feelings on certain films from the first time I saw them, even if I have seen, as is the case with Star Wars, the same film hundreds of times since. I can remember even 35 years later my thoughts and imaginations of the first time I saw it. I remember clear as a bell the pale blue lettering that appeared on the black screen ” A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…..” and then……….. BANG!!!!!! As if every brass instrument in the known universe struck up in unison, I shot about 15 foot into the air as the Yellow Stenciled Star Wars logo flashed before my eyes for the very first time. For the second time in a little over 20 minutes, life changed forever.

Then followed the crawl that seemed to come from the basement and pass off into some unknown galactical heaven never to be returned. (I used to wonder as a child whether some random space probe, out for a probe, would wander past those words and nonchalantly nod and say good morning to them as they passed). I do remember my mum breaking every cinema code violation, but for good reason, by leaning over and reading the words of the crawl to me, I was only 4 so give me a break and besides what the hell was a custodian? I recall thinking that Princess Leia’s ship was called the Custodian for many a year.

Once the crawl had a bid a fond farewell to the audience, the camera scans down to reveal Tatooine in all its golden glory as John Williams swells to an imposing conclusion of his magnum opus theme tune. Then BOOM, the Tantive IV bursts across our screens, arriving without warning from behind our heads. Where are they heading? Are they being chased? Oh, you bet your ass they are being chased?

Of all the life-changing moments that I have described happening to me in this somewhat brief 20-25 minute window into my infant life, the next one is possibly the one moment in my life, if you take away all the truly important and memorable such as family, my wedding the birth of my children, that still fills me with a comforting warm glow that will stay with me forever. As the Tantive IV sets off on its doomed journey across our screen, it struck me, something was firing laser beams. If you remember earlier I talked about a square hole at the back of the room that was shooting this brilliant white beam across the auditorium, well from inside that square hole now emerged the most glorious of all sights. An Imperial Star Destroyer spread across the screen, like a giant mountain rising out of a darkened ocean. It was bigger than enormous, it was bigger than humongous, it was the size of heaven and it glided across the screen with such ominous grace that the whole cinema was caught in its tractor beam-like aura. When was it ever going to stop? Was it ever going to stop? I sure hoped not.

Now I don’t plan to go through the entire film scene by scene but as mentioned a moment earlier I will point out the distinct thoughts and feelings that I know I had when I watched Star Wars for the very first time. I remember being really nervous when Obi-Wan first scared off the Sand People as he seemed to be a Jawa and I wasn’t mad keen on them after what they had done to R2 and 3PO. I distinctly remember thinking that Dr. Evazan was going to be a nice guy the way he almost apologetically starts with “he doesn’t like you….”. I remember the whole cinema laughing when Han told Luke “that’s great kid, now don’t get cocky” and furthermore when he asked the Falcon “come on baby, hold together”. I remember feeling that Chewbacca (the big bear) was going to rip C3PO to shreds when R2 goes into a probably unassailable lead in a game of Dejarik. I remember being scared of the trash compactor monster when it popped its beady eye out from beneath the garbage for the briefest of cameos. I remember feeling sad when SPOILER ALERT Obi-Wan sacrificed himself against Vader, and strangely even sadder when SPOILER ALERT Biggs gets taken out by Vader whilst he was hanging back, just far enough, to cover Luke during their attack run on the Death Star.

What I remember the most however was a feeling of absolute euphoria as Han squealed YAHOO! as the Falcon blasts one of the two Tie-Fighters off Luke’s tale forcing the second Tie Fighter to knock Vader out of position leaving Luke all clear to blow that thing and go home. I remember distinctly Vader spinning out into Space and realising there and then that he wasn’t dead and would probably come back, that in itself was as enticing a prospect as a young usher stood at the front of the auditorium with her mobile ice cream stall suspended from her shoulders in preparation for the interval that was moments away.

Then Star Wars finished and I can only assume there was a period of say half an hour maybe between films. I do remember the ice cream seller and I do remember the similar, yet different yellow scrawl that started off the film. Here’s the thing, I was 4 and had already sat for 2 hours, was I going to make it through another 2+ hours. I still have memories of watching Empire on that occasion but they are not as vivid as Star Wars. Maybe I did fall asleep, which is unlikely, I was never a particularly good sleeper at the best of times and this was definitely the best of times. I put it down to familiarity. We were the last family on the street to own a video recorder and Star Wars was on the TV every year at Christmas, but not Empire, we had to wait until Christmas 1988 to see that one. We got a video player that year and I remember being incredibly frustrated that Empire was on ITV at the same time as BBC 1 were showing Back to the Future, you could only record one, and I was outvoted 4 to 1. Anyway, I digress.

So there was a 6-year gap between viewings of Empire Strikes Back which as a youngster obsessed with Star Wars was a lifetime. I recall the film being set on an ice planet but couldn’t tell you too much about that. I remember vividly the asteroid field I do remember being shocked that Yoda turned out to be well Yoda, I definitely remember the sequence in the cave where Luke battled Vader and Luke’s face appeared in the damaged Vader mask, probably down to the excellent design of that scene, there were times in the following years where I wondered whether I had dreamed that scene. I remember finding out that Darth Vader was bald, I remember Cloud City and meeting Lando, I remember Han being frozen in carbonite and the Luke versus Vader conflict, but in my head that all happened out on the platform where Vader cut off Luke’s hand and revealed the big twist that I shan’t spoil for anyone here who hasn’t seen the film yet.

When watching it again in 1988 I had no recollection of the space slug, the bounty hunters, the Ugnaughts or even that Obi-Wan was in the film.

The overriding memories of that day, however, were that I was sat in a truly magical place, a building so unassuming on the outside, but a purveyor of fascinating gifts on the inside. My love of Cinema was born that day and it has never left, I still get a tingle of excitement when I walk through the door into the room and see that giant screen in front of me. It is a privilege to live in a time when I am witness to such groundbreaking art that is designed primarily to entertain and make people happy. That trip to the cinema made me realise that whenever things are looking a little bit gloomy that the imaginations of the likes of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to name just two are an invitation to relax and be thrilled in the various wonders that they put on the screen for our pleasure.

Dom

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Postscript, – as is the way of things, both the Cinemas mentioned above have long since gone, the Odeon building, which has ceased to be a cinema in 1983 and turned into a Bingo Hall until 2004 was demolished in February 2007. The Cannon Cinema survived until 1998 with a special screening of Casablanca marking its last ever show. The building laid empty for years before being demolished in 2006 to be replaced by a block of flats called Picture House.