Tuesday, April 28, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Movies That Made Me (Part 2)


Continuing my list of the twenty movies that had the biggest impact on me. Chronologically, we come to the movie that has probably had the biggest impact on me out of all of the movies on the list. As I mentioned before, going to the cinema was rare as a kid to begin with. My dad didn't like driving into the city to go to the nearest cinema, but after seeing The Man With The Golden Gun I do have a memory of going to see The Spy Who Loved Me, and The Rescuers. But it was the next big movie that completely changed my life.

Star Wars.

And it was just "Star Wars" when I went. 

My earliest memory of Star Wars is thanks to my dad. It didn't happen often in his line of work, he worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, but there were a couple of instances where he went away for training or something. I was too young to really know what he did, but in 1977 he went off for a week for work somewhere, and when he returned he brought back gifts for my mum and me. He gave me two action figures from a film that the toy store clerk said would be big, called Star Wars. We'd not heard of it, but I was thrilled to receive these figures - Chewbacca and R2-D2. The original UK production run from Palitoy, with the illustrations of that first wave of figures on the back.

My parents had a great sense of value of things, and while I was encouraged to take the toys out of the blister packaging to play with (after all, that's what toys are for), my mum suggested cutting the top of the blister carefully with a knife so that the figure could slide out, and I could put it back when I'd finished. Brilliant.

Then there was the feature in 2000AD in one of their summer specials with some stills from the movie, but it wasn't until my local newsagents stocked the Star Wars Special Edition Marvel comic, in its oversized format, that I really knew what was going on. I have fond memories of laying on the floor in the living room absolutely devouring the comic, mentally shutting out the outside world until I'd finished it (though it was only the first half of the movie, and left it all on a horrible cliffhanger!)

Up north, the nearest cinema that was showing Star Wars when it was released was the Dorchester in Hull. It had been closed for years, but reopened just to show Star Wars. And that was all it screened. Three times a day, every day, for over a year.

It had one screen. A huge screen, with a balcony seating area. But you had to book weeks and weeks in advance. I remember my dad asked his brother in law to get us some tickets as we rarely went into Hull. The earliest we could get was about three months away, but the day came and as a family my mum, dad and I went to the cinema one afternoon and witnessed the movie that would change my life. Part of me is convinced I skipped a day of school especially for it, but I can't be sure.

My mum was in a wheelchair, so we sat right near the back on the ground floor. The balcony almost obscured the top of the screen, but not quite. However, when the first crawl had finished, and the Tantive IV entered the frame, followed by the Star Destroyer, my mother nearly shot out of her chair, convinced they'd come from the balcony above us.

From that moment on, I was obsessed. I went to see it again with my sister and brother-in-law a few months later, and collected the figures, and read the novelisation and the comic over and over again.

(L to R) Me, my Dad, and Tom in 1978
I have particularly fond memories of our town carnival in 1978. My obsession with Star Wars continued, and my dad was just as enthusiastic. He loved dressing up every carnival and joining in the parade, and we quickly decided we'd dress up as characters from Star Wars. My dad loved Darth Vader, and we searched everywhere to get a Vader helmet, but it was both incredibly hard to find and also well out of our price range. We couldn't afford the £50 for a helmet back in the late 70s. So we ad-libbed.

The photo shows me in my Luke Skywalker outfit (more on that later), dad as Darth Vader, and my best friend at the time, Tom, dressed as Han Solo.

Dad's outfit was basically black clothes, a cape which he already had, and my lightsaber (though we couldn't afford a licensed one, my parents kindly bought me what was sold as a "Force Beam"). The helmet was a work of genius though. A black balaclava with a black bucket with the front cut out stitched onto the top. We'd found some black plastic grilling, and cut a rectangle of it (which we added buttons to) to make the chest controls, and cut a triangle of the grill and stitched it to the front of the balaclava. Then my dad put on his glasses, and clipped on some sunglasses, and bingo!

I think we even did the shiny shoulder piece with a bin bag.

Mum made my outfit, and we borrowed the white wellies from a friend of the family who worked at a fish processing factory.

Luke. Always the coolest.
I don't think we won the fancy dress competition, but it didn't matter. We had fun, my dad was the coolest with his Darth Vader outfit, and I got to be Luke Skywalker. While everyone I knew thought Han Solo was the coolest character in Star Wars, I just wanted to be Luke.

Luke was the best as far as I was concerned. He was from the middle of nowhere, learned he had super-powers, and went off to save the galaxy.

My obsession with Star Wars never really faded. When Return of the Jedi came out we had to go even further to go and see it (for some reason our usual cinemas didn't bother with it). And Luke had a cooler black outfit and it inspired me to wear black ever since (except for a brief stint wearing a suit like The Blues Brothers). 

Still love it. 

One of my biggest regrets is selling those Star Wars figures. What a dumbass selling those off... So, so, so very stupid...

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