Ah, the eighties. Simpler times. Before political correctness ‘went mad’ and we could just tape films off the telly with no regard for their regulatory deemed suitability. Before our parents were told that letting us play video games would make us grow up and kill people. (Indeed, any ounce of patience or tolerance I may possess today is entirely down to a childhood spent attempting to complete the 17 levels of Alex Kidd in Miracle World WITHOUT A SAVE OPTION!)
Rather than be corrupted by evil cinematic images I wasn’t considered old enough to see, for the most part I was blissfully unaware of their existence and enjoyed the films regardless. Not unlike the first time I saw The Usual Suspects, where I lost the thread of what was going on quite early into the film (my teenage head crammed too full of Boyzone trivia to be much use to anyone), but continued watching nonetheless because I liked Pete Postlethwaite’s accent. The big twist at the end was still a wonder to behold, even though I was just seeing it on a very base level. ‘He’s not who he said he was!’ was revelation enough, with the implications of said discovery reserved for, and enjoyed on, subsequent viewings.
I asked Twitter, and they reminded me about a whole host of films I enjoyed as a kid, while the finer details soared unknowingly over my head.
The (some might say integral) presence of Nazis throughout The Sound of Music escaped me. I knew there was much tutting over some flags, and that the family had to run away from the ‘police’ at the end. But that was as far as I got. I was also sad that Rolfe blew his whistle (because, for whatever reason, that meant he’d dumped Liesl) and kind of intrigued that they planned to walk to a whole other country at the end. But I was confident Maria would make everything fun with all her singing.
I remember watching the hooker fairy tale Pretty Woman at a slumber party back in primary school, where we must’ve had such a scant understanding of the storyline it became nothing more than a series of shots of a lady going shopping, interspersed with a massive bubble bath and the occasional horse. It was a few years later before I realised the colourful strip of plastic Julia Roberts pulled from her boot were condoms, and a couple more before I understood the particular appeal of that piano solo.
Presumably long before the availability of ESPN on UK tv, my dad decided to show us the Snipes/Harrelson mashup White Men Can’t Jump one weekend, because my little brother was really into basketball. This proved something of an error on his part, as he proceeded to fast forward through three quarters of the film at the first sniff of a sex scene, while instructing us not to tell our mum we’d watched it.
In 1950’s high school romp Grease, I knew Rizzo wasn’t pregnant when she jumped off the ferris wheel screaming ‘I’m not pregnant!’. But I was oblivious to the entire unprotected sex conversation that preceded it. (Not to mention the references to nose jobs, hookers, gang bangs and chicks creaming throughout.) Looking back, Kenickie says he’s had his ’25-cent insurance policy’ since the seventh grade. Since he is roughly 45 by the time they graduate, is it any wonder the condom perished?
Despite Dickie’s kindly face and patient explanation on the Jurassic Park tour, I didn’t get the science behind it one little bit. Moreover, I was perpetually confused by the fact that, despite the writers obviously possessing the know how to breed dinosaurs, they chose to make a film about it instead of, you know, building an actual theme park. Which I would’ve forced my parents to sell their house in order to take us to. (Naïve maybe, but I was smart enough to realise the mean lawyer guy was joking about having a coupon day.)
The list is pretty extensive. The talking sperm at the beginning of Looks Who’s Talking, the endless vibrator references in Parenthood, the unorthodox approach to ceramics making in Ghost. I didn’t realise that ginger orphan Annie’s parents were dead, but I also couldn’t comprehend why she refused an offer to go live with someone who could buy out an entire cinema on a whim. I had no clue what Suffragette Mrs Banks was up to in Mary Poppins, and concluded that she was just a bit weird. And although I used to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail weekly, battered copy of the screenplay in hand, it never failed to piss me off when the police car turned up at the end. Presumably because I wanted it to be real. I still do.
Which films did you adore as a kid, if not entirely understand?