A View From the Stalls, February 2016

Michael Rowan, a member of Chiltern Film Society's committee, provides personal musings about his cinema experiences.

Forbidden fruit always tastes the sweetest and that first bite sweetest of all, so they say. Which possibly, is why I can remember my first X film so clearly? Not necessarily because of the film, Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Straw Dogs,’ since you ask, but because of the amount of preparation it took to gain admission.

At the tender age of 16 and being six foot two I had height on my side but sadly the raging hormones inflicted teenage acne which I disguised under ½ an inch of flesh coloured clearasil paste. I was never quite sure whose flesh it matched, but it certainly wasn’t mine. I wore one of my father’s ties thinking that it would make me look more grown up and I allowed my five o'clock shadow to grow, though to be fair I had to cease shaving three weeks before in order to achieve the desired effect.

Suffice to say, that good as the film was, it did not match that of my fervid imagination as to what an X film would deliver to a young man of 16.

I wonder if my nephew will recall his rite of passage with the same nostalgia. Not just nephew, but godson as well, so to me fell the task of guiding his moral rectitude, which may well have been a case of his parents putting a fox in charge of the hen house.

He had reached the even more tender age of 10 when I picked him up from his home near the Lake District, all the hype was around the release of the new Spiderman blockbuster. If only he had been 12 not 10 this most impressive of films would have been open to him we opined.

What was a conscientious godfather to do?  On the journey back to Buckinghamshire I rehearsed his new age and his new date of birth. Every five miles or so I would fire a question at him demanding an immediate response to either his age or when he was born so that by the time we parked the car he was word and indeed  age perfect.

My wife was less impressed, what was this teaching him, she demanded to know, and were all my cultural references to be taken from the Bash Street Kids in the Beano?

My nephew was most impressed with the giant 3 D figure of Spiderman crawling up the wall of The Empire, Leicester Square, and despite my wife’s tutting ringing in my ears I bought our three tickets.

The tall man at the screen door asked to see our tickets and then looking directly at my nephew demanded to know his age. ‘Twelve’ he said confidently. ? ’When were you born?’ the usher continued, not to be so easily hoodwinked. Without pause or vocal tremor my nephew answered correctly and we were allowed to take our seats.

It was hard in the darkness to tell who was grinning the widest, but we both heard my wife exclaim just a single word, ‘Boys.’

I had forgotten both of these incidents until my recent visit (with my other nephew, as these days they are as likely to take me as the other way around) to the cinema to see the seventh Star Wars film.

Now the only age related question that I get asked is if I qualify for an older person’s concession ticket. (I do not.)