Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mayfair Memories

Basically, what happened was that an old high school friend on Facebook had a fit of nostalgia, and started posting all these really specific details about life in Stuart, Fla. in the 70's and 80's, and one of the things he mentioned was the old Mayfair Theater, which got me on a nostaligia kick of my own, and I started writing out a list of every movie I could remember seeing there. The Mayfair was, for a long time, the only theater in town, located in a shopping center anchored by a Piggly Wiggly and an Ace Hardware. I believe we got a second theater (the Smithfield Twin Cinema in the Smithfield Shopping Center) around 1980, and the Martin Square Mall opened sometime around 1983 with a three-screen theater (by the time I was in college, there were at least 4 more multiplexes in town, which was kind of ridiculous), and I would guess that the Mayfair shut down around 1985 or '86. I think they split the theater into two screens sometime in the early 80's.

So the Mayfair was where I saw most of the movies I saw growing up. It's not where I saw my first movie--that was the drive-in that used to be located just north of the North River Shores development, where I saw Song of the South and Bedknobs and Broomsticks--but it is where I saw what was probably my first "grown up movie," The Man With the Golden Gun (and later, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, and maybe even Octopussy [I have no memory of seeing For Your Eyes Only, although I'm sure I must have seen it]), and it's where I saw many of the key movies of my childhood: Star Wars, Meatballs, Airplane, Disney films like The Rescuers and 101 Dalmations.

One interesting thing is that I never saw any Spielberg movies there. In fact, the first Spielberg movie I saw in the theater was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, long after the Mayfair had closed. This is really weird--I'm solidly part of the Spielberg generation. Some of it is a little understandable. I was 8 years old when Jaws came out, and my parents wouldn't let me see R-rated movies. I was 14 when E.T. came out, and probably had an attitude about going to see "a kid's movie." But how did I miss Close Encounters? I remember wanting to see it. My guess is the family was on one of those long vacations that summer. And how did I miss Raiders of the Lost Ark? I have no explanation for that.

ANYWAY. I've always been a little envious when I hear people talk about growing up watching crazy B-movies, because my own suburban childhood seemed so vanilla, right down to the movies I saw. But when I started really thinking about the movies I saw at The Mayfair, I realized that I had really spent a lot of my childhood watching some seriously weird shit. To wit:

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. This movie absolutely blew me away when I was a kid. It came out just before Star Wars, and I remember actually liking it better than Star Wars. Watching it now, I realize it's probably the worst of the Harryhausen fantasy movies (although the only reason The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is better is because it has the amazingly hot Caroline Munro, see below), but Harryhausen's work is as awesome in this as anywhere else.


Warlords of Atlantis. You remember the scene from Flash Gordon, where Ming is removing the memories from Zarkov's brain, and it's all being projected onto a screen, and footage of Hitler comes up, and Ming says "Now this man showed promise?" I swear I remember the exact same scene being in this movie. I'm probably just transferring the scene to the wrong movie. I can't remember anything else about this one.


Star Crash. This cheap Italian Star Wars rip-off starred the beautiful Caoline Munro wearing some kind of space bikini and knee-high leather boots. It also had David Hasselhoff and a robot with a southern accent.


The Black Hole. This scifi flick actually came from Disney.


Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot. This one gets a little scary in the end, with a group of documentarians trapped in a cabin under siege by a tribe of bigfeet.


The Land That Time Forgot. A Nazi U-Boat with British prisoners ends up in dinosaurland or something. Michael Moorcock worked on the script. I have a weird memory associated with this film, must have happened the night after I saw it. I was camping with the family, and apparantly NASA or someone was testing...something. There was this big chemical cloud hanging in the night sky for about an hour. I read about it in the paper the next day, but I can't remember what it turned out to be...weather satelite or something. Weird, but that memory is linked in my mind with this movie.


The Final Countdown. An aircraft carrier goes through a timehole or something, and ends up in 1941, right before the Pearl Harbor attack. Some trippy time travel concepts in this one.


Clash of the Titans. Of course.


Flash Gordon. Another obvious classic. I'm pretty sure I remember seeing this in the theater, but it's hard to recall over the hundreds of times I saw it on HBO, and the dozens of times I've watched it since college.


Time Bandits. This is kind of a vague memory, but I'm pretty sure I saw Terry Gilliam's kiddy flick at the Mayfair.


Xanadu. This one stands out because my friend Tercio went with me, and he later recalled "that was the first time I ever saw a movie and thought it was bad."


Snoopy Come Home. I remember sitting in the theater thinking it was really weird to be watching a Peanuts special in the theater. I also remember crying. It's a very emotional movie.


Gus. Tim Conway and Don Knotts teach a donkey to play football. I was really young when I saw this, but I thought it was the funniest movie I'd ever seen. I was laughing so hard and kicking the chair in front of me that my mom had to shush me.


Victory. Stallone and Pele as WWII POW's playing soccer.Tercio's dad (who was Brazillian, and a huge soccer fan, if that's not redundant) took us to this.


There are a few others I'm not sure about. I swear I remember seeing The Road Warrior there, but it seems really unlikely--I was still not allowed to see R-rated movies at that age. I probably saw Superman: The Movie there. Seems like I saw The Secret of Nimh there. The Muppett Movie? The dates match up that that would be where I saw it, but it just feels like it was somewhere else. I have no memory of seeing either of the Witch Mountain movies, but surely I must have seen at least one of them, right? And stuff like Freaky Friday and No Deposit, No Return, I know I saw those, but I'm not sure it was at the theater. And much later, in the theater's last days, I remember seeing Bachelor Party, and possibly another dumb sex comedy called The Joy of Sex (did I walk out of that one?), and taking a date to see Micki & Maude.

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