This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Since I am continuing my Versus AFI: 10 Top 10 arc, this time looking at the Sci-Fi genre, it was only fitting I’d chronicle another of them in this series. However, for this category it seems I’ve already done my fair share in TMTs: Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, E.T., Alien, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day and others. No matter. I’ll do this anyway.
“The question is not so much where we are as when we are.”
The California Theatre:
Images c/o Cinema Treasures site
April 1968: Ah, eighth grade. The middle year for those attending the junior high level in the L.A. Unified School District way back then. A now forgotten secondary school format in the wake of the move to “middle school” by those in the southland. I took my seventh, eighth, and ninth school grades in that older, traditional grouping. Always straddling between the newbie seventh graders, who knew far too little, and those in ninth grade who thought they knew it all. High school would fix that, permanently.
Still, one in seventh knew a Hell of lot more than a kid in the sixth grade, believe me. To me, the middle school bracketing of grades 6-7-8 seemed only to offer more of a chasm to cross than the old configuration when it came time to jump up to the trial-by-fire of senior high. Eighth wasn’t the top:
“The force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet.”
We didn’t know it all, and were conscious of that fact. Perhaps, it was why I thought (and still do) the realm of science-fiction offered avenues to us newly-minted teens that other traditional stories (or learning) didn’t. You knew watching such a movie, or reading a book, provided something we all lacked, along with a way of absorbing it that didn’t seem threatening or intimidating (yes, I’m referring to high school, again).
Maybe that’s why taking in the Planet of the Apes on the big screen captured so many my age when it was released during that Spring semester. We related to the astronaut Taylor, he thrust upon a world that appeared familiar while oh so peculiarly alien. We, the pimply, stuck out like him, awkward. Yet, he was the hero of the sci-fi tale. No wonder we thought he was us.
Not surprisingly, my usual stomping grounds of the time, Huntington Park and its main drag of Pacific Avenue and set of movie theaters was where this primer was staged. The second largest and prestigious being the California Theatre, served this plate of imagination and conjecture to us, the eager youth of the time.
Lucius: “I still say you’re making a mistake.”
Taylor: “That’s it. Keep ’em flying.”
Taylor: “The flags of discontent. Remember, never trust anybody over 30.”