Ah yes, fresh for Halloween season the Office Horrors return. First it was Close Encounters. I should have learned my lesson, left it at that, never mentioned any other ‘old’ films (i.e. anything over ten years old) at work again. Seems not everyone is a lover of movies, or someone who watches them more than once, Maybe I’m the odd one and they are normal, but I’m beginning to think I’m working with a group of Pod People, as per Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, or maybe Replicants as per Blade Runner– I mean, they look fine, they seem ordinary. But they slip themselves up in conversation. For instance, the other day I mentioned in passing that my Blu-ray of Hammer’s The Mummy had arrived in the post and I was intending to watch it one of the evenings. “Hammer?” came the (in hindsight) inevitable reply, to which I incredulously asked, “Yeah, you know, Hammer Horror, Hammer Films- Frankenstein, Dracula, Quatermass and the Pit… you know, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing…”. Blank stares back at me. Here we go again.
On the one hand, I know I shouldn’t be all that surprised. My own experiences of the Hammer Films date back to the late 1970s when ATV used to run Friday Fright Night movie seasons and used to run a Hammer movie pretty much every week. Movie Seasons like that just aren’t done anymore, haven’t been for years. Likewise any showings of Hammer films on terrestrial or even cable/satellite networks seem to be few and far between (other than grainy compressed versions on the Horror Channel) as most movies shown these days on tv seem to be all fairly recent, with any older than 1980 or, (heaven save us), any actually b&w movies relegated to ungodly hours of the morning when viewing figures likely number in the dozens. So when would younger generations get the opportunity to see the Hammer classics?
And yet, on the other hand, it’s easier to watch a movie now than ever before, and surely everyone has heard of/seen Christopher Lee’s iconic Dracula, or Peter Cushing, so wonderfully watchable in just about anything he was ever in? People have access to rental libraries, Youtube, dedicated movie channels, PPV, countless films available to buy DVD or Blu-ray. It could be argued its easier to see a film now than it ever was when I was young- before even VHS, when my movie watching was subject to the scheduling vagaries of just three channels that all closed down near midnight. Yet I managed to see many of the best Hammer films, or older classics like King Kong or the Universal monster classics or the 1950s b-movies. While I thrilled to then-new films like Star Wars I could see the lineage in them dating back to the older films, I could see where Lucas found inspiration for R2 D2 in the droids from Silent Running, or Star Trek found inspiration from Forbidden Planet. That kind of stuff should be easier now than ever before. So why do my office colleagues seem so ill-informed?
Then again, why bother even with the original Total Recall when you can watch an all-new, 3D, cgi-bangs and whistles version instead? Why bother with even Tim Burtons’s Batman when Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is newer/better? On the other hand, if filmgoers are so ignorant of older, pre-1980 or even pre-1990 movies then is this partly why we see so many remakes/reboots/re-imaginings in the cinema today? Audiences think so much is ‘new’ when actually its old stuff in fresh clothing?
A later office conversation turned to The Terminator movies. T2 seemed familiar to everyone, although one of the lads admitted he had never seen the first Terminator. Discussing James Cameron, everyone voiced positive opinions over Avatar, but I was alarmed when I voiced my own opinion that Cameron’s best film is actually The Abyss (or at least its Directors Cut version) and I received those familiar blank stares. Seems the Pod People had slipped up and revealed their true nature again… or maybe I should just be quiet and not so serious about movies. Perhaps, as I suspected last time regards CE3K, films aren’t really such a dominant, all-persuasive section of pop culture afterall, and Hollywood ain’t such a big deal.