Sunday, August 22, 2010

Horrors And Heroes

I was an impressionable kid and still am. When I watch a film I often forget they're just pretending. The visuals get lodged into my psyche and under my eye-lids.

My first movie was One Million B.C. in which Victor Mature, ever grimacing, did battle with dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers and assorted beasts badly in need of orthodonture work.

To this day I don't do well with reptiles. Probably the last film I'd ever want to watch is the one about snakes on a plane. After sitting through that I expect I'd have to get to Europe by row boat.

When Dracula met with Frankenstein and the Wolfman I was convinced they were conferring as to which would make of me their next meal. I was sure at least one of them lived in my closet and I avoided full moons for a season or two.

Even now I can't handle torture. I don't mind planes dropping bombs or bank robbers shooting their way out to a waiting horse or black sedan. It's those close-ups I haven't the stomach for.

Special effects don't make it any easier. In the old days when Jimmy Cagney walked that last crooked mile to the chair the scene shifted to the local bar where the lights went dim for a few seconds. Now we have to witness the body absorb the volts and are practically made to stiffen and shrivel in our theater chairs.

Of course, I really wouldn't know since my eyes close at the anticipated moment. Too bad ears can't be similarly un-plugged.

Peggy calls me Zelig, Woody Allen's chameleon-like character who assumed the identity of everyone he encountered. Once disbelief is suspended I have trouble finding my way back. It’s one of the traps of empathy…walking in another’s shoes so much you forget your own size. But it works both ways.

Cereal boxes were probably my first newspaper. Staring at the Breakfast of Champions I became Johnny Weissmuller one month and Bob Feller the next. I sent to Battle Creek, Michigan for decoder watches and wore buttons on my beanie cap.

I remember the first issue of Superman comic book. There was no question in my mind that I was dropped to Earth from another planet I looked for a telephone booth to change into my cape. Fortunately I tried jumping off small cartons before attempting to leap over buildings in a single bound. As a street urchin I ran pretty fast but not quite the equal of a speeding bullet.

At some point along the way I settled for the mild-mannered guy that I am; neither the jerk who gets sand kicked in his face nor Captain Marvel uttering Shazam, that magic acronym which endowed him with other worldly powers.

Now, if I can just avoid those graphically detailed acts of bestiality, however faked, or better yet face them as one faces all the barbarity of this world...... without having my senses blunted and inured.


  1. My first movie was an Elvis Presley western that my aunt took me to. Elvis died in the movie and I thought it was real. Great blog entry.

  2. Elvis wasn't born when I first went to the movies. My earliest recollection of movies was Tom Mix. I often rode Tony down Clay Avenue slapping the side of my thigh. When my Cousin Manfred came to live with us after WW2. He had been in a German camp and then hidden in the hayloft of a farm. I took him to a western, his first movie. He was very agitated because he thought all the Indians and cowboys were really killed and were piled up dead behind the screen. I could not convince him that they were not really dead so I made him stay till the film ran again to show them they were alive. When we left he was very confused . . . sort of how you were with "A League of Their Own."