Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Repeat offenders

Ah, the repeat offenders. No, I don’t mean people like Uwe Boll, the Wayans Brothers, or those twin titans of terror Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, though they certainly qualify in a different sense. I’m talking about those movies in which we find endless pleasure and will watch repeatedly—the movies we’re most likely to pop into our DVD players or sit down and watch should be bump into them on TV. These repeat offenders are a purely positive thing—except perhaps as concerns the consumption of time.

Most of us have them. There’s even one of those endless polls you find on Facebook centered on the “five movies you’re most likely to watch over and over.” (I don’t know why Facebook is fixated on the number five, but they group everything in fives. It’s probably Satanic in some way.) And it’s considered completely normal to have such a list. It may even be considered abnormal not to have one—the kind of thing that could lead to a violent loss of social status and even ostracism.

That wasn’t always the case.

There was a time when it was thought to be a little odd to watch a movie a second time—let alone numerous times. Those of us of a certain age who remember the world of “continuous showings”—when the show started again as soon as it ended and no one expected the theater to be cleaned between shows—probably also remembers the once common practice of walking in on a movie in progress, watching it to the end, and then watching the part you missed. When you got to the point where you’d originally entered someone in your group would utter that fine old phrase, “This is where we came in,” and you’d leave at once. It seems a bizarre practice now, but 50 years ago it wasn’t rare. “This is where we came in” even entered the lexicon—a suitable phrase for dismissing going over the same ground again.

The idea is solidly grounded in the idea that all that matters in a movie is the story. Once you know that—and know how it turned out—what possible reason could there be for watching it again? I’ve no idea how or when this started. It was in full sway in my early childhood and seems to have been killed off by the baby boomer generation. It is not, I suspect, coincidental that this was the first generation raised on television which served to normalize seeing movies and TVshows more than once. I can remember my parents realizing a show was a “repeat” and switching the channel. I can also remember realizing that a “repeat” might be an episode I had especially liked and was delighted by the chance to see it again.

I know this different attitude didn’t actually start with boomers. Cineastes—who always took movies rather seriously—certainly watched films more than once and had done for as long as there’d been cineastes. But they weren’t quite normal anyway and didn’t care who knew it. They weren’t, however, entirely alone. In his autobiographical TV film, A British Picture (1989), Ken Russell (played in the film by his son, Rupert) talks about watching movies on a home movie projector over and over, “My home movie projector was little more than a hand-crank magic lantern, but to me it was truly magic, for you could conjure up your friends whenever you felt like it.” That was in the 1930s when he was just a boy—cineaste in the making perhaps, but hardly a cineaste in the true sense.

Actually, that phrase—“you could conjure up your friends whenever you felt like it”—is, I think, very telling and is related to the shift in attitude about watching the same movie several times. As family dynamics shifted in the 1960s, television became more and more an electronic babysitter, and it provided surrogate friends you could more or less conjure up whenever you felt like it.

Those of us who took this more seriously often went a step further and took up collecting little 200 foot (about 12 minutes) condensed silent versions of feature films (usually horror or comedy) in 8mm, mostly put out by a company called Castle Films. Intertitles or subtitles filled in the dialogue. They moved at the wrong speed, but what did it matter?  (These have become collectible on a nostalgia basis, which proves how strange nostalgia is, since we’d have killed at the time to have complete movies with sound. Now we do, but we go in search of the inferior product as a treat, rather than as the consolation prize it once was.)

Without getting too philosophical or psychological, I do believe that part of this did indeed stem from a desire to stave off loneliness—or at least being alone. But it was also more than that, because it was a means of socializing. TV Guide was our 15 cent social secretary—“Oh, look, Bride of Frankenstein is on next Friday night. Want to get together and stay up late and watch it?” And it didn’t have to be a classic either. It was just as much fun to gang up to sit through unalloyed junk like that old Bela Lugosi B (or maybe C) picture standard Voodoo Man (1944). In some ways this was even better—you could good-naturedly rip on the imbecility of the movie while watching it. (Yeah, we had to be our own smart asses back then. We didn’t have MST3K to save us the intellectual effort to make sport of the amassed silliness.)

Now, our parents were at least slightly perplexed by all this. My mother—who would dash out to the theater every time Gone With the Wind (1939) was re-issued—was a prime exponent of the “why would you watch something when you know how it’s going to end?” school. I even remember one occasion when she watched 95 minutes of a movie she swore she’d never seen before, realized at the 96th minute that she had and left the last few minutes to fend for themselves. As a result, she tended to find something else to do when I watched Bing and Bob travel down the Road to Rio (1947) for the umpteenth time.

My father had a different approach. He pretended not to watch these repeat offenders. What this meant is that he would go do something else, but constantly wandered back into the room to ask things like, “Have Bing and the Andrews Sisters sung ‘You Don’t Have to Know the Language’ yet?” He’d then stand there and watch till they did. A little later, he’d come back to see the Wiere Brothers and watch Dotty Lamour sing “Experience,” while complaining that she really wasn’t a very good singer. I’m guessing that by the end he’d have watched about 80 percent of the movie. I’ve no clue if he realized this, but I’m guessing not.

Sometimes these repeat offenders took strange forms. My main movie watching friend in high school and I had a kind of contest going on to see who could sit through Abbott and Costello in Keep ‘em Flying (1941) the most times. I don’t think either of us actually liked the movie very much, but it seemed to be on every other week. He gave up when I reached 27 viewings. Thank God. I suspect a 28th look might have proved fatal. It’s something of a wonder that I can think at all after 27. The mind that can withstand Martha Raye singing “Pig Foot Pete” 27 times has obviously suffered some kind of damage. 

There was one memorable occasion in 1972 when there were three showings of the newly restored King Kong (1933) at the University of South Florida in Tampa. It was something of an event to see this movie with footage of Kong undressing Fay Wray, stroking her body and then sniffing his fingers put back in—to say nothing of the old boy chomping down on villagers or grinding them underfoot. I perhaps carried it too far, though, by sitting through all three showings. Whether or not contraband substances were involved in this I’m not saying.

Of course, by this time, I was well on my way to cineaste status—something that was easier to do by the early 70s thanks to TV, university showings and the general nostalgia boom. Years earlier, you’d have needed to be in some place like New York to even consider becoming a real cineaste. This in turn fostered collecting bootleg 16mm prints, and since these were expensive—it ran about $150 for a single movie and sometimes more—my friends and I ran the hell out of them. I wouldn’t even attempt to estimate the number of times we watched the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera (1935) because it was the only movie I had.

These are excesses, yes, but they don’t seem especially strange to me in theory. The idea of watching a movie only once always seemed strange to me. After all, you didn’t buy a record album and listen to it only once, did you? If you went to a museum, you wouldn’t dismiss the idea of looking at a particular painting because you’d seen it before, would you? Some of us have even been known to read books more than once. So why should movies be any different? In my mind, they shouldn’t be and never have been, but it’s taken a while for the world to see it that way—at least, Facebook accepts the idea of five acceptable titles per person.

The truth is that any movie you can get all the good out of in one viewing (and there are a lot of them) isn’t all that hot to begin with. I was on a panel with another film historian a while back, who made a big show of saying that he’d reached a point where he never re-watched movies because there were so many movies he still needed to see. In theory, I see where he’s coming from. In practice, I find the approach utterly impossible. Would I be better advised to finally getting around to watching that copy of Rene Clair’s Under the Roofs of Paris (1930) that’s been sitting on a shelf for three years than to pop in Richard Lester’s Help! for the 50th or so time? Very likely. But it’s only going to happen when I’m ready.

Watching movies more than once used to be something that you had to justify. The reality has now become that you don’t have to, and I think that’s a good thing. It really never did need justification. I prefer to think of it in the terms expressed by Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) when he finishes listening to a live broadcast of the Beethoven Fifth Symphony, calls a request station and asks they play the same thing. Watson (Nigel Bruce) objects, “You just heard it.” Holmes not unreasonably snaps, “I like it.” Is further explanation really necessary?

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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73 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Repeat offenders

  1. Steph

    I guess I was a dyed-in-the-wool cineaste early in my childhood. Once audio cassette players came out in early 70s, I would put the microphone next to a television speaker when there was something on that I liked. I just had to know that I could run that movie whenever I wanted to, or at least the soundtrack.

    I also remember looking in the Autumn for the names of movies that were going to be shown on the networks (usually ABC)in their new season. It didn’t matter to me that they were going to be edited and interrupted by commercials.

    Then came the revival house. We had a great one in Denver called The Ogden. They would run double features and it was always exciting to get their new schedule as there were usually about 10 movies a month that I had to see.

    It was great because I got to see all those movies on a big screen and their double-features were fantastic: Women in Love/Music Lovers; Sleuth/Murder By Death; Death in Venice/The Damned, etc. However, I will never forget sitting through one of the longest “double features” in history: Camelot and My Fair Lady. That was a tough 6.5 hours.

    It was also where I attended Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend and even the RHPS was years away from being on video, a friend of mine somehow managed to find the entire soundtrack of the film (with all dialogue) on 2 records.

    AND THEN VIDEO TAPES arrived which, unfortunately,put the revival houses out business. However, it was wonderful that I could actually OWN any movie that was available and could watch it any time.

    Well, it was certainly a slippery slope to buying the movie, then the same movie in stereo, then the surround stereo edition, then the SPECIAL edition which was “fully restored,” and finally the blu ray edition.

    I figured out that I’ve bought movies like The Exorcist, Carrie, etc. about 7 different times each.

    In any case, it’s nice to be able to “conjure up my friends whenever I feel like it.”

    BTW, when does the 3D version come out? Ha Ha

  2. luluthebeast

    “Holmes not unreasonably snaps, “I like it.” Is further explanation really necessary?”

    Makes perfect sense to me, Mary will walk in and ask me if I had seen a movie before and I’ll say: “only five or six times” and she’ll just walk out shaking her head.

  3. steph

    I guess I was a dyed-in-the-wool cineaste at a very early age (pre-teen). When recordable audio cassette players came out in the 60s/70s, I would buy a bunch of blank tapes and record entire movies by placing the “microphone” next to the TV speakers. I could then listen/play my movies whenever I wanted to and I did.

    Autumn was an exciting time when the networks would advertise the movies coming to TV during their new season. I couldn’t wait even though they were often edited and broken up by commercials.

    Then came the revival houses. The Ogden in Denver was a huge movie theatre that had fantastic double features: Women in Love/Last Tango in Paris; Sleuth/Murder by Death; Tommy/The Wall; and a truly murderous double feature of My Fair Lady/Camelot. It was certainly nice to see the musicals in widescreen but it proved to be a very tough 6.5 hours.

    THEN CAME THE VIDEO TAPE! I bought my first VCR for $550 in 1983 and immediately began building a movie library. It did, however, prove to be a rather slippery slope as I ended up buying the movie on video, then the same movie on “digital tracks,” then the movie in stereo, followed by a version in surround stereo, then the remastered and restored version, then the special editions with extras, etc.

    I’m now replacing my collection with blu rays so my movie collecting habits have not changed in the last 40 years. I suspect I bought movies like The Exorcist, Carrie, Tommy, Halloween etc. at least 6 times each.

    BTW, when does the 3D version come out? Ha Ha.

    Ken, great article.

  4. Jim Donato

    I was also a television taper. The betamax came out in ’75 but I probably started taping TV audio the next year. Would I have done it without the idea of recording TV on videotape, priced as it was out of my family’s reach? I guess not. But it was a wonderful day when I discovered the meaning of “Aux In!” I taped a lot of comedy – SCTV primarily, but also Saturday Night Live. It never occurred to me to tape movies.

    That all ended in ’82 when a Betamax could be had for as little as $400 and my dad made his move. But even then with blank tapes a hefty $10-12 a pop, videotaping was still a rare thing for posterity. Not until ’85 or so did the price of tape drop enough to get really serious about amassing a video library. Laserdiscs were appealing to me by that time but I didn’t bite until ’88. I was soon buying 2-3 LDs a week to get a decent collection going.

    As I get older, I find watching films takes up too much of my valuable creative time for me to want to indulge in more than 1 a week. And buying films to re-watch them has also taken a bit hit in my life. I used to host “groovy movie” nights in Orlando with my friends. Since moving to Asheville I have made no friends, so the social aspect of that pursuit has also fallen by the wayside. The whole idea of “collecting” films is gone from my plate now. “Collecting” anything really, except for CDs/records, (Music IS your best entertainment value ®) is just not part of the game for me any more. And as someone who used to have “collector’s syndrome” it’s interesting to find myself moving away from that.

  5. Ken Hanke

    When recordable audio cassette players came out in the 60s/70s, I would buy a bunch of blank tapes and record entire movies by placing the “microphone” next to the TV speakers. I could then listen/play my movies whenever I wanted to and I did.

    You are not alone, though my medium of choice was open reel tape, and I quickly learned how to patch directly into the TV so as to avoid the problems of a microphone. (Chip Kaufmann, who occasionally drops in here, is also a reformed soundtrack recorder.) This did not always endear me to my parents. I remember finally getting an audio recording of Night of Terror with Bela Lugosi after what seemed like an eternity. I played the damned thing non-stop the next day — something like 12 times. I was happy. Others less so.

    Autumn was an exciting time when the networks would advertise the movies coming to TV during their new season. I couldn’t wait even though they were often edited and broken up by commercials.

    Those edited prints sometimes were cause for delightful surprises down the road. I remember seeing The Wrong Box on TV and then years later at a USF film festival, and was overjoyed to find there was a good deal of footage I had never known existed (mostly concerning abortion).

    I’m now replacing my collection with blu rays so my movie collecting habits have not changed in the last 40 years. I suspect I bought movies like The Exorcist, Carrie, Tommy, Halloween etc. at least 6 times each.

    I’m holding out on Blu-ray just yet, because I’m damned if I’m not buying a region-free player and the one I want is a little pricey right now. Of course, it’s worth noting that Justin Souther has predicted, “You’ll hold out just as long as it takes them to bring Tommy out.” Considering I’ve bought it on 16mm (bootleg), VHS, recorded it off cable (the commercial VHS was awful), CED disc, laserdisc (twice) and DVD three times (original release, Superbit release, and the UK special edition), I suspect he’s right.

    BTW, when does the 3D version come out?

    Don’t joke. It probably will happen.

    Ken, great article.

    Thanks.

  6. steph

    Sorry about the double post. I really wasn’t joking about the 3D version. I really think that’s the next step. Although I can’t really envision an ad that goes “NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DIGITAL SURROUND STEREO AND 3D – Wild Strawberries!” Ha Ha.

    I agree that the prerecorded Tommys were not very good and I just realized I also forgot the whole Laser Disc period where I’d buy them primarily for their widescreen.

    In spite of all the movie releases for home video, it’s annoying how many are still not or have never been available. The UK release of LISZTOMANIA, however, is very encouraging.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Makes perfect sense to me, Mary will walk in and ask me if I had seen a movie before and I’ll say: “only five or six times” and she’ll just walk out shaking her head.

    Ask her — and you can blame it on me — if she had a terrific meal would she be inclined to sometimes repeat the experience, or would she only have it the one time?

  8. Ken Hanke

    But it was a wonderful day when I discovered the meaning of “Aux In!”

    Ah, yes. What a treat it was to record things and not pick up extraneous noises. Because of microphone recording, I cannot hear Bela Lugosi say, “Dear child, be brave. No matter how hopeless it seems, be brave. It is your only chance,” in The Black Cat without hearing a cuckoo clock announcing 2 a.m. from my first taping of the film.

    I used to host “groovy movie” nights in Orlando with my friends. Since moving to Asheville I have made no friends, so the social aspect of that pursuit has also fallen by the wayside.

    Is that a sad commentary on Asheville or merely the conditions that prevail in your life? I can certainly understand the latter because conditions do change. When I was in my 20s and 30s it was common to celebrate birthdays of those in my circle — as well as special other birthdays like Ken Russell, Bela Lugosi and James Whale — with elaborate dinner parties that were followed by screening a film or two chosen by the birthday person or one made by the absent celebrities in the other case. As much as I’d love to reinstitute that tradition, the time and energy are simply not there. Even fairly recently, a friend would come out every Sunday or Monday for a meal and a movie, but it no longer seems to be practical. I always seem to be writing something.

    The whole idea of “collecting” films is gone from my plate now. “Collecting” anything really, except for CDs/records, (Music IS your best entertainment value ®) is just not part of the game for me any more. And as someone who used to have “collector’s syndrome” it’s interesting to find myself moving away from that.

    Somehow I don’t envision this ever happening to me, but you never know. It was only in the past year that I started begging off writing assignments about old horror pictures, feeling I’d already said everything I had to say on the subject. That may change in time, but it’s where I am now.

  9. Ken Hanke

    I really think that’s the next step. Although I can’t really envision an ad that goes “NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN DIGITAL SURROUND STEREO AND 3D – Wild Strawberries!”

    You have probably just given someone an idea.

    I agree that the prerecorded Tommys were not very good and I just realized I also forgot the whole Laser Disc period where I’d buy them primarily for their widescreen.

    The second — letterboxed — Tommy on laser was a vast improvement, though no one has ever been able to explain how a couple shots of Jack Nicholson were printed with the image reversed.

    In spite of all the movie releases for home video, it’s annoying how many are still not or have never been available. The UK release of LISZTOMANIA, however, is very encouraging.

    A US release would be nice, however. It may also be encouraging that MGM had The Music Lovers on a list of titles to vote for the ones you’d most like to see get a DVD release. Time will tell.

  10. luluthebeast

    “Ask her—and you can blame it on me—if she had a terrific meal would she be inclined to sometimes repeat the experience, or would she only have it the one time?”

    Good suggestion, but it wouldn’t work. She’s just not much of a movie person. You should hear her rant about sequels. She’s turned anti-technology in her old age. And I’ll deny I ever said “old age”!

  11. Rufus

    I wouldn’t even attempt to estimate the number of times we watched the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera (1935) because it was the only movie I had.

    I’d put the over/under at about 50.

    In terms of rewatching movies, for me, quality doesn’t seem to be an issue. For example, a while back I was doing some insomnaic channel-surfing. I came across PLANET OF THE APES on AMC and…well…I hadn’t seen it in a really long time.

  12. Ken Hanke

    And I’ll deny I ever said “old age”!

    She’ll never hear it from me.

  13. Ken Hanke

    I’d put the over/under at about 50

    That may well be on the conservative side. I do remember great rejoicing when I got another film — I’m pretty sure it was Mystery of the Wax Museum — if only because it offered a change. But then how many times in a row did we run the Betty Boop cartoon Snow White on that 16mm projector at the Episcopal church parish hall (pre-owning a projector era)? Of course, there’s a difference between an 8 minute cartoon and a 96 minute feature.

    In terms of rewatching movies, for me, quality doesn’t seem to be an issue.

    If you think quality enters into me watching Voodoo Man, we probably need to talk.

    For example, a while back I was doing some insomnaic channel-surfing. I came across PLANET OF THE APES on AMC and…well…I hadn’t seen it in a really long time.

    Voodoo Man is looking more like high-brow fare to me now…

  14. Rufus

    But then how many times in a row did we run the Betty Boop cartoon Snow White

    Cab Calloway singing “St. James Infirmary” still runs through my head at times.

  15. Rufus

    I used to host “groovy movie” nights in Orlando with my friends.

    If it weren’t for Simon & Garfunkel, I would find it hard to believe, much less admit, that I ever uttered the word “groovy”.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Cab Calloway singing “St. James Infirmary” still runs through my head at times.

    Hey, I still run the cartoon at times — and there’s a swell set of Cab Calloway CDs (“The Early Years”) that has the commercial recording that isn’t worn to powder like those 78s we snagged off Bart Bevis.

    If it weren’t for Simon & Garfunkel, I would find it hard to believe, much less admit, that I ever uttered the word “groovy”.

    Well, Simon buried the word by titling the song “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” Aside: Does this song come before or after the Small Faces’ “Itchykoo Park?” For the record, I can recall no occasion when I ever heard you say “groovy,” but I’m not above making one up.

  17. Dread P. Roberts

    I’ve seen many movies multiple times, but I really couldn’t count the number of times that I’ve seen “The Princess Bride”. Also, I remember this one day in college, me and a friend were going back and forth quoting dialog from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. We suddenly realized that between the two of us we had both seen the movie so many times that we had the majority of the lines memorized. I was slightly amused at the notion of having ‘wasted’ so much time on such an intentionally stupid film. But it’s just so much damn comedic fun that I kind of want to watch it right now.

    There are many different reasons (or excuses) that one can give for watching a movie multiple times. When I took intro to film in school, I would watch a movie over and over, so that I could study it, and catch all of the subtle details inherent within the layers. The way I see it, if one needs to stare at a painting for an extended period of time in order to begin to perceive all of the metaphor and/or detail, then how could anyone expect to capture all the substance in a movie that is comprised of thousands upon thousands of frames. Also, the movies that I personally find myself going back to, are the ones that can still bring forth some sort of emotion out of me. Whether it be laughter, joy, fear, sorrow, etc…

  18. Rufus

    According to Wikipedia (which means it MUST be true) “59th Street Bridge Song” on the “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme” album came out about a year earlier in 1966 than “Itchykoo Park” which was released in Aug. 1967. I’m certain that both were groovy. (This strand seems to be straying from the subject of your column).

  19. Ken Hanke

    The way I see it, if one needs to stare at a painting for an extended period of time in order to begin to perceive all of the metaphor and/or detail, then how could anyone expect to capture all the substance in a movie that is comprised of thousands upon thousands of frames.

    Undoubtedly true, but a lot of this comes down to the idea of film as some kind of lesser art form that can’t be taken seriously.

  20. steph

    Maybe it’s just me but I’m used to watching movies many, many times. Not all movies of course but I have a long list of favourites which always “pick me up” if need be. Some of them easily over 100 times (particularly Ken Russell, Kubrick and Woody Allen).

    with some movies, they really do improve with repeated viewings as well as noticing stuff never noticed before.

    I agree with Mr. Russell’s statement regarding visiting your friends whenever you want to.

  21. Ken Hanke

    Some of them easily over 100 times (particularly Ken Russell, Kubrick and Woody Allen).

    Not that I suspect he’ll need any prompting, but I suspect that statement is going to prompt a numerical remark from Mr. Souther when he gets to these comments.

  22. luluthebeast

    I have a number of kaiju films (Gojira, Mothra, Rodan, etc.) on LD, the original Japanese versions without sub-titles and someone asked me if it didn’t bother me not to understand what was said to which I replied: “I’ve seen the American or sub-titled versions so many times I pretty much remember what everyone is saying.”

  23. Justin Souther

    One of my favorite things is getting Ken to tell people how many times he’s seen Tommy.

    I don’t feel like outing him right now though. It’s up to him I suppose.

  24. steph

    He couldn’t have seen Tommy more times than I’ve seen The Boyfriend. I suspect we’re equally close in numbers.

  25. Ken Hanke

    One of my favorite things is getting Ken to tell people how many times he’s seen Tommy.

    And right as promised, there he is! The sad and bitter truth is that by now, I’ve lost count. I saw it 16 times in its original release. (A certain party here saw it with me the second time and remarked, “That’s the sort of movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again — like tomorrow.”) I used to have a running argument with Ken Russell on the topic. He claimed that I couldn’t possibly have seen it more times than he had if he factored in editing the soundtrack. He finally conceded when I crossed the 300 mark. I stopped even trying to keep track after that.

  26. steph

    I see. I guess the height of my viewing was when the “uncut” Boyfriend was ran for a week at the Ogden theatre and I saw it 9 times in that week. I think i’m comfortably in the 300+ times for The Boyfriend as well. It actually became part of my DNA.

  27. Ken Hanke

    I think i’m comfortably in the 300+ times for The Boyfriend as well.

    Well, I’ve certainly seen The Boyfriend far more than the average viewer, but I don’t think I’m quite in the 300+ range on it.

  28. Ken Hanke

    I have a number of kaiju films (Gojira, Mothra, Rodan, etc.) on LD, the original Japanese versions without sub-titles and someone asked me if it didn’t bother me not to understand what was said to which I replied: “I’ve seen the American or sub-titled versions so many times I pretty much remember what everyone is saying.”

    With the possible exception of Gojira, it’s not like these movies are known for the literary depth of their screenplays. Granted, you might miss some of the atom bomb and radiation fear that lurks in the better ones, but extras running away from guys in rubber suits need little in the way of translation.

  29. luluthebeast

    Even though I consider Quadrophenia to be the best rock album of all time, the movie Tommy is far superior to the movie Quadrophenia (what a joy it would have been if Russell had directed it!) and even though I haven’t seen it as much as Ken, I never tire of watching it.

  30. lisi russell

    Great column! Good to be among friends who are serious repeat-viewers like Steph, Dread, beast lulu, Garth, you, myself and T’Other Ken. T’Other Ken wants to see Frost/Nixon again which will make the third time, which is really a waste of time for me when you consider we could be watching Tommy for the 20th time or Listzomania for the 3rd time or Savage Messiah for the 30th time or Women in Love for the 25th time or Music Lovers for the 20th time or Song of Summer for the 10th time. . .or even some of the not-always-brilliant movies I can’t resist repeating: Venom, American Werewolf in London, A Safe Place with Orson Welles, Five Easy Pieces, Juliet of the Spirits, Galaxy Quest, 39 Steps. . .And to honour your segue, just who was Sloopy that was meant to be hanging on (groovily)? You’re not writing about old horror movies anymore? Perish the thought! If you’ve said it all, you could always repeat yourself, like a film we can’t help watching. We won’t mind!

  31. luluthebeast

    “With the possible exception of Gojira, it’s not like these movies are known for the literary depth of their screenplays. Granted, you might miss some of the atom bomb and radiation fear that lurks in the better ones, but extras running away from guys in rubber suits need little in the way of translation.”

    Someone obviously doesn’t see the pathos and raw emotions in many of these films. But then we disagree completely about Kaidan as well.

  32. Chip Kaufmann

    “You are not alone, though my medium of choice was open reel tape, and I quickly learned how to patch directly into the TV so as to avoid the problems of a microphone. (Chip Kaufmann, who occasionally drops in here, is also a reformed soundtrack recorder)”

    Yes it’s me under a different moniker…I never was able to patch in as our bare-bones Admiral TV didn’t allow for such things. At the time I recorded 3 STOOGES shorts, BOWERY BOYS flicks, THE OUTER LIMITS, and everything on TV 13’s SHOCK THEATRE…

    These days movies I can watch over and over again include Leone’s DUCK YOU SUCKER, Ophuls’ LA RONDE, Nolan’s THE PRESTIGE, Gilliam’s THE BROTHERS GRIMM, Elia Kazan’s THE ARRANGEMENT, Werner Herzog’s WOZZECK, Richard Burton’s DOCTOR FAUSTUS, and Derek Jarman’s EDWARD II (the last 3 being play adaptations). Any Ken Russell, Michael Winner, Julie Taymor film as well as anything from the silent era.

    Too numerous to mention are horror films from the 30s and 40s along with the Euro-Gothic drive-in fare from the 60s and 70s and the AIP/Tigon/Amicus offerings from 1967-1974.

  33. Rufus

    (A certain party here saw it with me the second time and remarked, “That’s the sort of movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again—like tomorrow.”)

    However, I’ve missed the last several hundred viewings.

  34. Tonberry

    I grew up in a “VHS” household. My grandparents had cotaloged all of their favorite movies on over 150 VHS tapes when I moved in. And since they weren’t a believer in the ‘SP’ quality (why use one whole tape for a movie when you could have three, even four movies?) I had 450 plus movies to choose from; not counting the ‘proper’ VHS movies they’d buy from the store. So, I guess my point is that I grew up in a family that’d watch movies over and over again.

    Great article, since I am of a younger generation, it’s interesting to know that it wasn’t common for audiences to rewatch the same movie ‘back in the day.’ Interesting even more so, because my grandparents grew up during that time.

    I was on a panel with another film historian a while back, who made a big show of saying that he’d reached a point where he never re-watched movies because there were so many movies he still needed to see. In theory, I see where he’s coming from. In practice, I find the approach utterly impossible.

    I believe this was during the ‘Coen Brothers’ panel, in where I asked the question about “which movie of the Coens was the most rewatchable?” (I was also pretty excited just to be there at the time, what I really meant to ask was “Which Coen film that you didn’t think was all the great, but upon rewatching it, you loved?”) The film historian then blamed ‘Netflix’ for ruining the ability to watch the same movie over again.

    And I have to side with what you wrote here. There are a ton of popular movie classics, not to mention the little known stuff, I have yet to see. (For example, “Clockwork Orange,” “The Exorcist,” “Silence of the Lambs,”…..“Tommy.” A few of the mountain of titles that people jaw-droppingly look at me and say beat by beat “What, you haven’t seen that yet?”) It’s not that I don’t want to see these movies, it’s just I go on a binge with movies that I love. And if it’s a director I really admire, I’ll binge on their entire work. Most recently it’s been Wes Anderson’s films. I’ve been interchanging “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” with “The Darjeeling Limited” dozens of times. (It was actually this last Tuesday I watched them back to back till I realized the sun was coming up and I better go to bed.) And now that my copy of “The Royal Tenenbaums” arrived in the mail today (beautiful DVD case by the way,) I know that won’t be leaving my DVD player anytime soon.

    I know I should go and seek out more and more movies. One minor issue is funds. Sure I could rent a few movies for the price of a new one, but I’d rather buy a new movie and spend time with it; then spread my time over a few movies with a limit to view them in. I still try and see as much as I can, but when it comes to movies I really admire, I soak them up. DVD booklets, special features, commentaries, and all. And since I’d love to make movies one day, if I rewatch a movie that is my favorite, I always get inspired.

    As for the movie I’ve spent time with the most? You’ll probably laugh at me, but it’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” It’s followed me my whole life, and one of the first movies I remember seeing quite a few times from the age of 5 to 7. (What were my parents thinking?) Then for some time, I forgot about it until 9th grade. I went over to a friends house because he got a DVD player when they became more affordable, and first thing we watched was “T2.” It was then I was sparked to life, and knew I’d want to be a film director. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it since (nowhere near over 300, let alone 100), but I know I’ve seen it a lot. I know that movie in and out, but every time I see “T2,” I always end up inspired and moved. (The latter probably belongs in ‘What movies make you cry?’ screening room.)

    I wouldn’t say “T2” is my favorite movie of all time, but it would easily make my top 5 for all those reasons and more.

  35. Ken Hanke

    Even though I consider Quadrophenia to be the best rock album of all time

    If we aren’t in agreement on that, we’re close enough as makes no difference. Indeed, out friend “Garth” is the one who gave me (maybe loaned me…) his Quadrophenia album, which I listened to over and over and over while editing a movie many years ago.

    the movie Tommy is far superior to the movie Quadrophenia (what a joy it would have been if Russell had directed it!)

    And Ken desperately wanted to make it, too. I don’t dislike Franc Roddam’s film, but it’s not so much a film of the album as it seems to be one about the genesis of the album.

  36. Ken Hanke

    T’Other Ken wants to see Frost/Nixon again which will make the third time, which is really a waste of time for me when you consider we could be watching Tommy for the 20th time or Listzomania for the 3rd time or Savage Messiah for the 30th time or Women in Love for the 25th time or Music Lovers for the 20th time or Song of Summer for the 10th time.

    Well, yes, but I suppose you should take heart that it’s not Romy and Michelle again. I am somewhat baffled by the appeal of Frost/Nixon, though, apart from Langella.

    You’re not writing about old horror movies anymore? Perish the thought! If you’ve said it all, you could always repeat yourself, like a film we can’t help watching. We won’t mind!

    Well, we’ll see. I did write that Screening Room about Death Takes a Holiday after making that decision. And if they can be found, there are chapters from an unpublished book on quite a few of the original Universal horrors that have never seen light of day or ink of print.

  37. Ken Hanke

    Someone obviously doesn’t see the pathos and raw emotions in many of these films. But then we disagree completely about Kaidan as well.

    Hell, we’re probably closer in agreement on the rubber-suit movies than on that.

  38. Ken Hanke

    According to Wikipedia (which means it MUST be true) “59th Street Bridge Song” on the “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme” album came out about a year earlier in 1966 than “Itchykoo Park” which was released in Aug. 1967. I’m certain that both were groovy.

    Well, they’re certainly on the druggie side. So if you feel further inclined to research, where does the Small Faces’ “Here Comes the Nice” (really druggie) fit in there?

    (This strand seems to be straying from the subject of your column).

    Digressions are the spice of conversation.

  39. Ken Hanke

    Yes it’s me under a different moniker…

    I’d suspected that.

    Any Ken Russell, Michael Winner, Julie Taymor film as well as anything from the silent era.

    As one of the two or three other people living who will admit to liking Michael Winner, I’m not sure I could quite say “anything by Michael Winner,” but I’ll think about that. And when are they going to put The Jokers out on DVD?

  40. Ken Hanke

    However, I’ve missed the last several hundred viewings.

    It’s not as if that’s my fault. But, I do believe you were there the next day for that second viewing (my third).

  41. Ken Hanke

    And I have to side with what you wrote here. There are a ton of popular movie classics, not to mention the little known stuff, I have yet to see. (For example, “Clockwork Orange,” “The Exorcist,” “Silence of the Lambs,”…..“Tommy.” A few of the mountain of titles that people jaw-droppingly look at me and say beat by beat “What, you haven’t seen that yet?”)

    I’ll be glad to help out on A Clockwork Orange and Tommy. Maybe on The Exorcist, but I just have no inclination to want to watch Silence of the Lambs again.

    And since I’d love to make movies one day, if I rewatch a movie that is my favorite, I always get inspired

    A point worth considering. T’other Ken’s Tommy and Mahler always make me want to go make a movie (usually I calm down in a day or two). On the other hand, Savage Messiah (were you there when we ran that?) always makes me feel like I could never make anything that good. Yet I consider the other two better movies, so I’m baffled as to why that should be.

    As for the movie I’ve spent time with the most? You’ll probably laugh at me, but it’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.”

    No, but I might slap you.

  42. lisi russell

    Ken:

    Well, yes, but I suppose you should take heart that it’s not Romy and Michelle again. I am somewhat baffled by the appeal of Frost/Nixon, though, apart from Langella.

    Me:

    Turns out T’Other Ken wants to see Frost/Nixon yet again because he felt he wasn’t properly paying attention before. We watched Memento 4 times until he was satisfied that he’d ‘got’ it.
    (Memorised it, is more like it.) I woud rather see Mahler
    for the 15th time! We’ve seen the Ken Russell music video Dancing for Justice 25 times. It’s great. And Savage Messiah can’t inspire one to make a movie because it’s not the technical
    agility, it’s that it’s such an emotionally personal statement of T’Other Ken’s deepest secret self (as is the little boy in Tommy).

  43. Kevin F.

    Ken, I finally found a copy of THE JOKERS on DVD!! And relatively decent quality to boot. Now when is HANNIBAL BROOKS coming to DVD? And when are you going to dig up LEO THE LAST for me?

    Most recently, the two films I end up watching most because of their inexhaustible delights are HOT FUZZ and 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE. In addition to being hilarious, they are self-reflexive, well-paced, artistically defensible, and just plain fun.

    We don’t need to go over how many times I’ve seen most Russell films. But these days, I’m starting to sympathize with the critic who hardly has time to watch things more than once. My stacks of DVD-backlog keep me watching things multiple times.

  44. lisi russell

    Now I want to see Hannibal Brooks, Leo the Last and 24-hr-Party People. And Mothra again – or is it Rodan with those scary little bird-women in the nest?

  45. Kevin F.

    I should say, keep me FROM watching things multiple times. Or, sometimes just looking at all the stuff I need to watch makes me retreat to familiar territory.

  46. Jeremy Dylan

    I’m another one for the microphone against the speakers recording gang – although I used to do this more often for episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus than films. Then I’d pop the cassettes into a portable (though still pretty clunky) tape player and listen to them on headphones on the walk home from school. Nowadays, the process can be approximated by ripping the soundtracks from DVDs, converting them to MP3s and dumping them on my iPod. What it lacks in DIY charm it more than makes up for in clarity and lack of extraneous background noise.

  47. Tonberry

    Savage Messiah (were you there when we ran that?)

    Yes, and it is a gorgeous film. Personally speaking, I found it to be a much needed kick to the arse. At the time before I saw it, I found myself being pulled in many different directions, that had nothing to do with my goal in pursing film making. Then “Savage Messiah” comes along, and you take the character Henri and see how dedicated, passionate, and hard working he is in creating his art; I realized that is what I needed to be. “Savage Messiah” gave me focus, introspection, and yes, inspiration to make my own art and tear down those barriers that’s in my way. It’s giving it all you got.

    And if it was on DVD, by god, I would have seen it 20 some times now.

  48. Ken Hanke

    Turns out T’Other Ken wants to see Frost/Nixon yet again because he felt he wasn’t properly paying attention before.

    It’s a Ron Howard picture. How properly do you need to pay attention?

    We’ve seen the Ken Russell music video Dancing for Justice 25 times. It’s great.

    Is there more to it than what we see in A British Picture?

    And Savage Messiah can’t inspire one to make a movie because it’s not the technical
    agility, it’s that it’s such an emotionally personal statement of T’Other Ken’s deepest secret self (as is the little boy in Tommy).

    I’d gathered both, but it isn’t just the technique that draws me to Mahler and Tommy, but rather their own emotional power. Similarly, it’s not like there isn’t any technical prowess to Savage Messiah. There are several things in it that are pretty darn impressive on a purely cinematic level.

  49. Ken Hanke

    Ken, I finally found a copy of THE JOKERS on DVD!! And relatively decent quality to boot.

    And where do we stand on Rime of the Ancient Mariner?

    And when are you going to dig up LEO THE LAST for me?

    Oddly enough, I’ll be cleaning out that space ‘neath the coffee table tomorrow (today), since the coffee table is going away. (It serves no function except as a place for me to pile stuff. When I realize there was a bag on it that I put there when I came back from Monster Bash in June of 2007, I saw that it needed to leave.) I know you went through those, but I’ll check again. I cannot think of where else it could be.

    But these days, I’m starting to sympathize with the critic who hardly has time to watch things more than once

    I don’t exactly not sympathize — after all I see an average of four new films a week — but I just don’t see that I’d be exactly happy if I had to eschew my old friends altogether just because there’s some Budd Boeticher or Andre De Toth movie that I haven’t seen and could watch instead.

  50. lisi russell

    The Dancing for Justice video on its own is probably exactly what you get in British Picture, but it seems like more when you’re watching it only for it’s sake. (False memory syndrome.) It’s like Aria, which they’re screening here in London this week – I like seeing Mr Russell’s section alone, though I’m not complaining about the whole. (Roddam, Roeg and Russell will be at the movies together.) Our Dancing for Justice copy has a documentary attached of T’Other Ken’s court case with Guccioni – hilarious – as well as another Singing Lawyer video. We watch a movie a night whether we want to or not just to keep our remote fingers limber – unless we’re on location elsewhere. But compulsive? Mais non, not at all! We even have 2 or 3 friends who actually put up with such repeat-offender nonsense.

  51. Steph

    Wow,Lisi. What I would give to be in England and be able to sit down to a movie with you guys. I’ve had numerous mini “Ken Russell Film Festivals” in my apartment with like-minded friends (usually on his birthday) which is coming up soon!

  52. luluthebeast

    And going back a little farther, I never miss a chance to see MY MAN GODFREY, 42nd STREET or FOOTLIGHT PARADE (if for no other reason than to see Cagney do Shanghai Lil). And since I also own them all, I don’t always wait for them to show up on cable.

  53. Ken Hanke

    What it lacks in DIY charm it more than makes up for in clarity and lack of extraneous background noise.

    Yeah, there’s nothing quite like having cuckoo clock noises punctuate The Black Cat, though my personal favorite such intrusion will always be one that was the TV station’s fault. It was Lugosi again (a pattern emerges), only it was The Raven this round. The station was obviously cueing up commercials while the film was playing. This resulted in Lugosi dramatically reciting Poe’s poem — “Suddenly there came a tapping as of someone gently rapping…” followed by a voice loudly announcing, “Now! Veg-o-matic!” and then reverting to Lugosi, “…rapping at my chamber door.” Never had the poem had such resonance! And Bela had timed his pause as if he knew one day this would happen.

  54. Ken Hanke

    Now I want to see Hannibal Brooks, Leo the Last and 24-hr-Party People. And Mothra again – or is it Rodan with those scary little bird-women in the nest?

    It’s Mothra I think you’re after. And I can see this is gonna turn up the heat on me finding Leo the Last.

  55. Ken Hanke

    And if it was on DVD, by god, I would have seen it 20 some times now.

    Well, you know, arrangements could be made.

  56. Ken Hanke

    It’s like Aria, which they’re screening here in London this week – I like seeing Mr Russell’s section alone, though I’m not complaining about the whole.

    I always complain about the Godard segment (“Non!” “Oui!” “Non!” “Oui!”) whenever the opportunity arises. Do you suppose it’s a gag?

    Our Dancing for Justice copy has a documentary attached of T’Other Ken’s court case with Guccioni

    A friend of mine Blackpool showed me that (in Blackpool) about 19 years ago. He also showed me Song of the Lakes — a little film Ken made on the Lake District, which I’d like to see again. Actually, Ken recycled the ending — that fast motion footage of driving his Alpha Romeo around Borrowdale — for Ken Russell’s ABC of British Music, replacing Daltrey singing “Listening to You” with Elgar’s “Introduction and Allegro for Strings.” Has anyone ever come up with a copy of Song of the Lakes?

  57. Steph

    And if it was on DVD, by god, I would have seen it 20 some times now.

    A decent DVD of Savage Messiah is frequently on eBay. I got mine from there and it’s a very good picture. Good luck.

  58. Rufus

    out friend “Garth” is the one who gave me (maybe loaned me…) his Quadrophenia album

    I had forgotten about that, but I’m sure I could have gotten it back anytime. However, my son, who likes to listen to LP’s, is still mad at me for “lending away” all my Jethro Tull vinyl.

  59. Ken Hanke

    However, my son, who likes to listen to LP’s, is still mad at me for “lending away” all my Jethro Tull vinyl

    Hey, all I got was Aqualung and Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die from you…I think. Maybe Thick as a Brick. I likely still have ’em, too, if it’ll square you with him.

  60. Rufus

    I likely still have ‘em, too, if it’ll square you with him.

    Not sure it’s worth the postage. And anyway, I’m already getting the THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS dvd from you.

  61. Ken Hanke

    Not sure it’s worth the postage. And anyway, I’m already getting the THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS dvd from you.

    Just assure me that the lad isn’t suffering with the original CD release of Aqualung, which is not only not very good, but cuts off the last line of “Wind Up.”

  62. Ken Hanke

    Owing to the fact that my mother and daughter are in town for a few days, I took the opportunity to show them The Darjeeling Limited tonight. That made the 8th time I’d seen the film, I think, so it’s definitely in the repeat offender category now, but it also qualifies in the “movies that make me cry” category. For the record, my daughter — being my daughter — loved it. My mother, on the other hand, appeared to dislike it rather strongly. That’s okay, though. I like to expose her to things like this every so often just to keep her on her toes.

  63. Tonberry

    hat made the 8th time I’d seen the film

    About the same here, excluding drunken nights.

    movies that make me cry

    (Sorry if this is a little off topic, but since it’s mentioned here.) It’s never made me cry actual tears, but always moves me just to the brink of tears. When Peter says “I didn’t save mine,” it kills me every time. “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” on the other hand, sets off a minefield of tears beginning at the time Klaus tells Ned how much it means to him to be on the flag.

    And this maybe even more off topic, but since this Screening Room is dealing with Repeat Offenders, which happens to be at a time where I’ve been watching pretty much nothing but Wes Anderson’s work ; which one of his films is your favorite?

  64. Rufus

    [Just assure me that the lad isn’t suffering with the original CD release of Aqualung, which is not only not very good, but cuts off the last line of “Wind Up.”]

    I inherited his old 20 gig ipod with his music library on it when he got a new one, and his version of “Wind Up” is complete. I’m sure you’ll sleep better tonight knowing this.

    Ironically, my daughter and I watched THE DARJEELING LIMITED last night (for the second time). It didn’t make me cry, but I had some quiet moments. Some parts really make me laugh though.

  65. John Smolkin

    “I’m talking about those movies in which we find endless pleasure and will watch repeatedly—the movies we’re most likely to pop into our DVD players or sit down and watch should be bump into them on TV.”- Hanke

    Ken, my criterion for buying a dvd movie is “will I watch it again and again”? I have a fairly extensive library. It is comforting that I can watch a movie when the mood strikes. Many of my favorites are music dvds. Lately I acquired Hootenanny, HeeHaw, The Smother’s Brother Season 3, the Johnny Cash Show 1969-71. I also have an extensive library of old westerns. Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy primarily. Recently, the Annie Oakley TV Show.

    Love those movies. Thanks for your reviews.

  66. Ken Hanke

    And this maybe even more off topic, but since this Screening Room is dealing with Repeat Offenders, which happens to be at a time where I’ve been watching pretty much nothing but Wes Anderson’s work ; which one of his films is your favorite?

    It waffles between Life Aquatic and Darjeeling.

  67. Ken Hanke

    I inherited his old 20 gig ipod with his music library on it when he got a new one, and his version of “Wind Up” is complete. I’m sure you’ll sleep better tonight knowing this.

    I at least feel less guilty.

    Ironically, my daughter and I watched THE DARJEELING LIMITED last night (for the second time). It didn’t make me cry, but I had some quiet moments. Some parts really make me laugh though.

    I think the emotional response may be cumulative. Tell me when you’ve seen it 6 times or so.

  68. Ken Hanke

    Ken, my criterion for buying a dvd movie is “will I watch it again and again”?

    A reasonable approach, though I’ve sometimes been surprised by what it turns out I’ll watch again and again.

    Thanks for your reviews

    Thanks for reading them.

  69. Rufus

    [I at least feel less guilty]

    I would hope for not at all guilty.

    I had a very minor, small “e” epiphany, and changed my name on this forum.

  70. Ken Hanke

    I had a very minor, small “e” epiphany, and changed my name on this forum.

    I noticed — the change, not the epiphany. I like it.

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