Friday, July 06, 2007

Camera Obscura - Walking Out On A Movie

Brad Pitt trying to remake "Bullitt"? Worst. Idea. Ever. (link)

George Romero says his new "Diary of the Dead" is a whole new take on the zombie epic he has created. I love Romero soooooo much.


Let me ask you, have you ever paid for a movie and left it long before it was over?

I have admitted many times that I will watch almost any movie --- almost. I've even taken a movie which challenged my endurance or shocked me silly to movie parties, seeing how long it would take for the movie to 'clear the room.'

There was an article, which I found here at MetaFilter, about movies that prompted walkouts.

So, some of my own personal 'walkout' stories.

Once, while a student at MTSU during a summer session, I paid 50 cents for a ticket to see "The Sound of Music". I had never seen it and went to the student center to watch it. It was done out of overwhelming boredom and fear of the dorm roommate I had, who carried a gun and drank tequila by the bottle while smoking some weird mixture of pot and prescription sedatives. So I figured what the hey. The movie had to be better. I left after about 15 minutes. I found it excruciating. I ended up sitting in the dark, on a bench outside the dorm, wondering if I would ever get back into my room or if my roommate might shoot me if I came in before he was passed out. Suffice to say I left not only the movie, but MTSU.

When I was around 18, some friends and I paid money to see "Xanadu" with Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, all rollerblading and disco dancing like mad to the music of Electric Light Orchestra. I get queasy just thinking of the movie and I really think we must have been drunk to even go into to watch this crap. We wanted to leave, but started having too much fun loudly deriding the movie. The theatre sold godawful soybean-ish cheeseburgers and, drunk and hungry, I went to buy one.

For some reason I cannot recall, a scene made me so irritated I actually threw the burger at the screen. It stuck and then slowly slid down Gene Kelly's rollerblading legs. I remain utterly embarrassed by my actions, as I have never been so disrespectful to a movie screen before or since that moment. But in my heart, I still think my impromptu review was accurate.

A few weeks later, a friend and I went to see "Raging Bull". I was mesmerized by it, but for some reason it utterly freaked out my friend. With about a half an hour or less to go, he jumped up and said "We're getting out of here now!!!! NOW!!" and he bolted out the door. I reluctantly followed and he refused to ever talk about what bothered him and I have no idea to this day what dug into my friend. I went back the next night and watched it again, alone.

A few years Later, I took my girlfriend at the time to see "Brazil" when it came out. Again, I was mesmerized and apparently the movie sent her straight to Hell. And again, with less than half and hour to go, she starts loudly weeping and runs out of the theatre. I sat there for a minute NOT wanting to leave this movie for a second, but since she was so freaked, I did leave. But on my way to find her, I realized I liked the movie more than I liked dating her. (I know, I'm evil.) She was sobbing in the lobby and she said the movie reminded her too much of some recurring nightmares she had. I did my best to calm her down for a minute or so, but eventually (again, to my embarrassment) told her to stay put and I went back in to watch the rest of the movie. That was pretty much the end of our relationship.

As a paid movie critic, I never, ever walked out of a movie. A bad review, like a praiseworthy one, can often write itself. But some sure made me squirm like mad. Case in point - "Steel Magnolias". I get hives just thinking about that movie. My nasty reviews of it brought endless hate mail. But I realized hate mail and stalkers were better than that movie. And no, I'm not linking to that movie.

At home, there have been a few really cheesy Grade Z horror or sci-fi knockoffs I have fast forwarded through, but usually if I start it I will finish it. One that failed to keep me to the end recently was called "Seven Swords" by Tsui Hark. I had read some great pre-release press about this epic kung-fu movie, backed by the Weinsteins, and was really looking forward to watching it. So a few weeks ago I got the DVD and reluctantly shut it down after the first hour. It was just so convoluted and boring, despite a big budget and some OK acting. Even the worst of the old Sir Run Run Shaw movies were better.

My favorite walkout story though arrived courtesy of Andy Warhol and his "Flesh For Frankenstein" in 3-D.

This 1973 X-rated (now R-rated) movie showed up in a Morristown theatre in the early 1980s, just after some huge business for the movie theatre from the "Friday The 13th" in 3-D and "Jaws 3-D" movies. I nearly wrecked my car when I saw on the movie marquee: Andy Warhol's Frankenstein in 3-D.

I told some friends we HAD to go watch the movie, if only to see the audience get totally freaked. So we go into the first show on a Friday and the house was packed to the rafters -- including lots of parents and kids. I was almost hysterical with laughter even before the movie started, just imagining what this movie would do to the audience.

Within the first ten minutes, the spooked crowd started leaving, most of them visibly shaken by the Weirdness on the screen. 20 minutes in and the crowd was cut to less than half it's size. The "oh my Gods!" from customers made me wonder if the manager would shut the movie down before it ended. About 40 minutes into the movie, the deranged doctor F. is caught by his assistant, Otto, having sex with a female corpse. The room went deadly silent, and the doc yells at Otto the immortal line: "To know life, Otto, you must f**k death in the gall bladder!"

Boom!! A sonic blast occurred as the crowd fled at high speed, leaving only myself and my two friends behind as we laughed until we cried. We stayed and watched the whole movie, laughing the movie and the terrified crowd. The movie got yanked the next day. Oh, yes, that was much fun.

If you have a movie walkout story to share --- have at it!


  1. I made it all the way through Brazil, but I pretty much had the same reaction as your former girlfriend. It didn't help that I watched it on Y2K Eve.

  2. Joe -
    The Sound of Music? Really? It seems like it's such your cup of tea. Singing nuns, girls named Liesl, Brigitta and Gretl and Nazis! What more do you want from a picture show, really?

    I walked out of "Deadtime Stories." Not because I was scared, but because it sucked most heinously. I also walked out of "Billy Madison" only to later become a HUGE fan of the flick on video. I guess I just wasn't in the mood for random appearances of a giant penguin.

  3. OMG! Kelvis! I just said the same thing to Joe! I mean, singing nuns and Nazi Hitler Youth! I got to watch it once with a guy from Austria, and he pointed out all the inconsistencies in the film (e.g., there is no way Julie Andrews could have been spinning around on that mountain one minute than be skipping down to the abbey a half hour later--the house is not on a lake).

    SofM is one of the few musicals I can stand. Odd.

  4. Well Kelvis and The Ed. -- if Sound of Music had been more like, say, Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S. .....

    Christy - There was NEVER a tepid or lukewarm reaction to Brazil, it was either love or hate. As for that ex -- she went on to be very happily married and has a couple of kids too. So I'm glad the event was not more than she could overcome!