August 27, 2008

Daring Cinema Trips That Had the X Factor ; Remember When


DO YOU remember the thrill of going to see your first "X" certificate film, especially if you were actually under the age of 16?

It was different back in the 1960s wasn't it? If it was a horror and you were only 14 there was no way on earth you could ever get to see the film... unless you could persuade the kiosk lady that you were two years older than you actually were.

By the time I was nearly 14 I thought I just might be able to pass for 16, as long as the kiosk lady was short-sighted. The first X film selected by me and a mate called George was entitled The Haunting, a harmless romp with ghosts and ghouls... or so we thought.

I remember sitting in the darkened cinema as the eerie credits on the film started to roll.

Fifteen minutes into the movie I began to realise that this film was beginning to get really very scary.

The film escalated from that point into what can only be described as truly terrifying. By the time the two of us emerged from the cinema, George and I were shaking and seriously traumatised, resulting in nights of terrified insomnia.

As we walked home, we both agreed that The Haunting was the scariest experience of our lives and we had been genuinely frightened out of our wits. So we decided to see The Curse of Frankenstein the following week.

Over the next few months George and I went to see countless X films, mainly Hammer Horror movies involving were-wolves, vampires and assorted members of the living dead. All X films in the 1960s seemed to be harmless fun, except for The Haunting and one notable other.

A few years earlier, my mum and dad went to see Alfred Hitchcock's latest film.

Having enjoyed Cary Grant in North By North West the year before, Psycho was bound to be ok, wasn't it?

It took weeks before my mum returned to normal and my dad went unusually quiet. I am certain that had we possessed a shower (this was the 1960s, so we didn't) it would have remained unused.

When I went to see the movie much later I was confident I was made of sterner stuff than my mum - shows you how wrong you can be.

The Haunting and Psycho both stand head and shoulders above every other certificate X film in the 1960s for sheer scariness and made all the others about as frightening as... well, a Hammer Horror.

I suppose like all things that are forbidden, once they become available they lose their appeal and as soon as I turned 16 these X films held little fascination for me ever again. Anyway, once I was 16 I could get into pubs, another barrier broken two years early!

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