Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Earliest (Second Hand) Movie Memory: Jaws (1975)

I'm ready to love a big summer blockbuster again. But will there be one worth loving? I worry.

It pains me to say that I don't remember my first moviegoing experience. Some people do and I'm jealous of each and every one of them. I assume it was something Disney but I've never been able to recall and my parents aren't helpful there (they're not movie people). My earliest cinematic memory is actually second hand. I was scared to death of Jaws (1975) as a little kid a full decade or so before I actually saw it. Ahhhh, irrational childhood phobias...

[These illustrations were first published on the site in 2003]


First Panel: Jaws' poster haunted me. Neighborhood kids fixated, snickering, on the nude swimmer. I stared in horror: How could any animal have so many teeth ?!?

Second Panel: I tried to inure myself by playing the famous theme on our piano. Nothing worked. The backyard pool became fraught with terror.

Third Panel: People blame Spielberg for creating the blockbuster filmmaking mentality. I blame him for ruining summer in the pool.
What's your earliest movie memory?
Were you scared of any movies as a kid that you didn't see until years later? I'd especially love to hear from any readers who have first memories from earlier than the mid 70s so that I don't feel so old! ;) I don't suppose TFE readers born in the 1990s have any movie fears. Don't they wean kids on slasher flicks now?

44 comments:

Robert William Berg said...

I was born in '81, and I wasn't allowed to watch any of the classic 80s horror movies as they came out, but I remember the Freddy Krueger posters always scaring the hell out of me.

NATHANIEL R said...

so did that make you want to see them or avoid them? i understand both responses are common with fears. (i'm the avoiding kind ;)

Seeking Amy said...

'91 child here. I remember the Halloween after the first Scream came out and before Scream 2 EVERYONE was wearing Ghost Face costumes. It wouldn't have traumatized me so if some jerk in the mall hadn't chased me while wearing the costume, making me trip and burst into tears from fright. I didn't see the first film until summer of '07, wasn't scared at all, it was a nice closure from all those years ago.

John T said...

Mine was Disney (cliche)-it was a reissue of Lady and the Tramp, and I (at three) purportedly got onto my seat when Lady was fighting with the rats and yelled, "I'll save you Lady!" which was met by applause from the audience.

Clarence said...

I was a big wuss until I was like 10 years old. I was born 1992 and when I saw Ring in 2000, (the original Japanese version of "The Ring") I was so afraid that that girl would come out of my TV that I didn't watch TV for two-three weeks. Also, every time the phone would ring, I'd freak out and run out of the room. True story.

Runs Like A Gay said...

I remember being petrified out of my mind at the matinee of The Black Hole, aged 5 or 6.

The Maximillian robot and (bizarrely) the flaming meteor rolling along the service tunnel haunted my dreams for years.

When I eventually did watch it again - in my early 20's I was amazed at how crappy the effects are and how it goes out of it's way to feel not scary most of the time.

Iggy said...

Mine was Jaws too. There was this theatre in my neighbourhood that used to have a double program with "old" movies and there was no control over the age of people getting in. I was a really really young kid (7?), so I had nightmares for a long time... Also, as I didn't speak English by then (probably I didn't even know there was any language other than mine, ha) for many years I thought Jaws meant "tiburón" (shark) (/blushes), because that was the title in Spanish.

Christine said...

@John T: awwwwww!
Yeah, mine was Jaws as well, the world will never understand what we 70s children went through with the trauma of that poster.

pomme said...

"ET" or "La boum" (a french teen movie with the very young Sophie Marceau)?

and my first scary "movie" was Michael Jackson 's "Thriller"

Volvagia said...

The first movie that scared me? As in really chilled me to the bone and beyond? Eraserhead. It starts slow, but once the surreal shockfest starts, it doesn't really let up for a moment and for one twenty minute stretch, I literally could not stop shuddering even for a milisecond.

NATHANIEL R said...

John T -- that's a great story.

Christine -- i'm so glad someone understands!

Volvagia said...

The slasher type of horror, which unfortunately includes well acted, well plotted and well loved movies like Psycho, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream among others, doesn't scare on a deeper level not because those films aren't trying, but because they're much too pre-programmed by now as a style to actually be vastly effective for a new generation. (Specifically: Villain's character is more important than hero's, any attempt at humour is derived not from sheer mayhem or interesting dialogue (see Evil Dead 2 for that) but from over cooked meta commentary (numerous, including New Nightmare, Scream and, possibly the worst offender, Bride of Chucky) and the killer's main focus is on either children or teenagers for some reason, however stupid, with the Chucky films taking the cake as far as motivation goes (I have to kill a kid to revive in him and it doesn't even matter that an adult would be a more logical choice.))

Nicholas said...

I don't remember my first time at the movies, but luckily my Mom is the movie-type and she remembered for me. I was 2 when she decided to take my then 6 year old cousin to see Batman Returns. She didn't care that it was rated PG-13, she would do anything my cousin asked her to and he loved Batman, so off we went. I have not blossomed into a Tim Burton fan, and I must admit that Danny DeVito's Penguin still makes me cringe, but I'm sure I enjoyed it none-the-less. I still have a Cat Woman figurine. Purr.

Burning Reels said...

Earliest film memory I think was something fairly tame such as that Disney film, Oliver and Company - although it obviously left an impression, as I named my cat after him.

I remember being scared but greatly enjoying Ghostbusters as a small child.

I saw that alien abduction film, Fire in the Sky when I was quite young and due to fear, haven't revisited since!

James T said...

The oldest movie experience I remember was Little Mermaid though I'm not sure it's my first one.

I remember being scared to death by a Krueger sequel when I watched it n TV as a kid. And it was right after Mr Bean!!

Nathaniel, has your fear of The Swank eclipsed your fear of The Shark? :p

Volvagia said...

And why not blame Spielberg for it? Jaws was the beginning, then Star Wars, then Superman, then Alien, then Indiana Jones, then Terminator, then Die Hard, then Batman, then Independance Day, which is the point at which the popular film culture pretty much lost all taste. It managed to last through Reagan and Bush 1, but was done in by the time of "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinski." Ay, ay, ay!

Katey said...

I have two specific movie memories from around the same time-- of my dad coming home with a VHS copy of The Wizard of Oz and me thinking it was The Lizard of Oz, and my brother getting a VHS copy of E.T. for his birthday and being completely petrified of it.

He was always the scaredy cat of the two of us-- he was terrified of the Hand of God in the 10 Commandments-- but I remember the roustabouts and the pink elephants in Dumbo being pretty frightening.

Michael Shetina said...

Seeing as my first moviegoing experience was the Sinbad-Schwarzenegger Christmas flick "Jingle All the Way," it was hardly an experience worth remembering.

NATHANIEL R said...

Katey -- omg. The Lizard of Oz. I totally need to see that movie.

Volvagia -- it is pretty crazy to note the decline in quality of the summer blockbuster, while its box office pretty much rages on.

James T -- ha. I fear not The Swank. I only fear the Academy seeing any more of her films! ;)

Burning Reels -- fire in the sky -- if it's the one i'm thinking of that freaked me out too.

Iggy -- i love that. The movies aren't always the best language training. They love to translate titles in odd ways.

The Know Nothing Know it All said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Know Nothing Know it All said...

80s baby here. Me earliest movie memory was "Beetlejuice". I was a very timid child. Everything scared me and "Beetlejuice" was no exception. I still remember being absolutely frozen with fear when Geena Davis started decomposing on the table in front of Winona Ryder. Terrifying.

Stephen said...

I'm another one of Jaws's victims (I blogged about it, too, which you linked to a month or so ago).

Christine, you wrote: "the world will never understand what we 70s children went through with the trauma of that poster." So true. I was working with someone about 15 years younger than me and telling him how much that film scared me. He laughed it off with, "Yeah, I've seen that film. It's not that scary."

"Really? You think that. Wow. How did you first see it?"

"On TV. TBS."

"Well, that explains a lot."

I heard John Sayles tell a story about being in the back of the theater during first-run screenings of The Howling (which he co-wrote). He said there were some shock moments when he could see the popcorn suspended in the air, over the entire audience. I love that image!

Also, if you'll allow me the plug, I just blogged about another film that scared the pants off of me as a kid: The Amityville Horror! (http://peelslowlynsee.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/for-gods-sake-buy-this/)

Stephen said...

BTW, Nathaniel, I love that comic in your post!

Volvagia said...

Yeah, that comic is cool. Did you draw it or just write the words?

Volvagia said...

Clarence: A wuss until you were ten? Just another example of how dead on Monster's Inc. was about fear.

atthelighthouse said...

John T: That is such a cute story!

A movie I was terrified of as a child, before I ever even saw it: Three Men and a Baby. Yes, really. My best friend told me the urban legend about the ghost boy, back when that story first started circulating (in 1990, I believe, which means I was seven years old), and it freaked me out so much that I was left insomniac for several nights. Also, for a while afterwards I was afraid of looking directly at windows because I was sure that I would see Alleged Ghost Boy standing there. Sad, but true.

And it definitely made me want to avoid seeing the movie. I actually didn't see Three Men and a Baby until I was in my early 20s. By then I knew that the ghost boy was merely a cardboard cut-out of Ted Danson. But my childhood fear had effected me so deeply that I *still* got scared, watching that scene.

NATHANIEL R said...

Stephen -- thanks. and oh right, you did.

Volvagia -- i drew it. It's me drawing me. Very navel gazing! ;)

zeecube said...

I was 10 when my parents took me to see my first movie: 2001 A Space Odyssey, in C-I-N-E-R-A-M-A.

First horror movie I saw in a theater was The Exorcist in 1973, I think. My friend became so scared he left 1/3rd into the movie. Missed the best parts.

But the movie that scared the bejesus out of me was House on Haunted Hill (the orginal in B&W). I was about 8 yrs old. Watched it late at night, alone. Big mistake. Vincent Price as a skeleton slowly rising from the acid pool ... creeped me out.

adri said...

My first movie memory is being carried out of a movie, screaming. I don't know what movie it was, but I think there was a fire in it. But it made my mother decide that I was too impressionable to movies so every movie I went to see as a child was pre-approved by a parents magazine she had a subscription to.

So I was terrified by short scenes that never seemed to bother any other kid. In "Huckleberry Finn", there's a scene where Huck and Tom go aboard a rotting houseboat at night and find the body of Huck's father, all purple and green and decomposing. In "Snow White", the scene where the witch gets into her canoe terrified me. That scene is maybe 3 seconds long.

NATHANIEL R said...

adri -- does this mean you can't handle that snow white ride at disneyworld? It is kinda creepy.

Glenn said...

Dick Tracy in the cinema is my first movie memory. Loved the colours. Loved the Madonna. Loved everything and still do.

Next memory after that is Hook and I think I only remember that because I got incredibly sick during it and my family had to leave. It is something I don't think anybody in my family has ever regretted.

Robert William Berg said...

Avoid them completely! I was quite a fearful little child. ;)

SoSueMe said...

How is this for ironic? I was scared of the COWARDLY lion from The Wizard of Oz! I got over it...eventually.

As a child of the 80's, I was scared of Poltergeist just from the tv promos...needless to say, I didn't see it 'til I was much older.

First movie memory...whatever came first of these titles: ET, The Empite Strikes Back, Footloose, Star Trek 3, or Grease 2.

Chris Na Taraja said...

I too can't remember my first, it was surely a Disney. I want to say that it was PETER PAN or JUNGLE BOOK. The local theatre used to play a different Disney movie each week. could have been anything.

I was afraid of THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN, and saw both those films in my teens, and was still terrified.

I watched JAWS again a few years ago, and thought I would get a kick out of it...it scared the crap out of me again!!! Same thing with THE SHINING

Chris Na Taraja said...

You know, I was a kid in the seventies and was horrified by that JAWS poster, but didn't see the movie til years later. I still wonder if it will be my last day alive everytime I step into the ocean

Chris Na Taraja said...

You know, that disney LEGEND OF SLEEPY HALLOW used to get me spooked as a kid. the Headless horse man!

cinemadventurer said...

First theatrical experience for me was Bambi in 1987. I think I was watching movies at home since birth. I used to watch 9 to 5 and Beetlejuice on a non-stop loop when I was 4.

On a simliar note, those drawings you posted in 2003 illustrating your summer movie memories are the first posts I remember reading here at The Film Experience. Did you ever get around to finish posting that project?

Aracir said...

1st movie i remember seeing in theater: Robinhood Prince of Thieves. I thought my uncle was Robin. He looked a lot like Kevin Costner.

OtherRobert said...

I was born in '85. My earliest full movie memory has to be my father forcing me to watch Frankenstein, which traumatized me. This, of course, set me on a lifelong path of obsessing over horror and black and white films.

Julian Stark said...

It was going to see Toy Story (even though I'm told that my first movie outing was to see The Lion King). I was young, so I screamed (kind of a long story behind that one), and we (parents and I) had to leave. I'm ashamed to admit that, but that's the first movie memory I have.

javi75 said...

The first time I went to a movie theater I saw "Octopussy" (the James Bond movie), I was 7 years old. I don't remember much of the aftermath but if something scared me in that movie it was women with huge bosoms. Seriously, that's what I remember thinking about afterwards.

Tom Steele said...

I'm sure the first movie I saw was a Disney movie--Bambi, I think. But I sure remember seeing PSYCHO at a deserted drive-in rural Ohio, and I remember seeing AUNTIE MAME with my family. The latter certainly helped to make me gay.

ScorseseLand said...

When I was very little, we went to see the 1927 film WINGS. I remember the planes racing across the screen, a screen that seemed to be ten miles high though it was a small art house screen and I was in the front row.

Those planes scared me, but I knew even at that very young age that this thing called film, or movies was something more magical and wonderous than anything I had ever seen. I knew I wanted to be apart of that world somehow. How ever people get this thing called movies up on this screen knew I wanted to be there doing that. I must have been 5 or 6 at the time. A note on JAWS, I have to admit as much as I love that movie and did at the time it came out, I couldn't stop laughing when the first shark attack occured. I was the only person laughing, I remember that. I guess it is just really trick to do a shark attack that last more than a second with out it defying the rules of logic.

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