This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. Since I highlighted this crowd-pleaser of an action movie, and the splendid commentary of the Trailers From Hell guru presenting it, earlier in the week, it only made sense to tackle its memory now.
“Do me a favor, will you? Next time you have one of these things, keep it an all-British operation.”
(one of the rare instances no image of this long gone theater complex survives, photos c/o the Downey Historical Conservancy)
March, 1969: the last semester of junior high was probably the best of my entire school stint there. We ninth-graders were at the top of the food chain. The respite offered being only a brief one, though, with one last summer awaiting before plunging into the cauldron of the senior high right up the street. Because of where this education institution was, near the eastern most border for the blue-collar city of South Gate, its immediate white-collar neighbor of Downey began to play into the mix of my movie watching.
Downey’s older downtown area, with its collection of conventional theaters and small shops, was already losing patronage during the late 60s to the newer Stonewood Mall blocks down on Firestone Blvd. The concept of the outdoor mall with its large contemporary department stores, and more varied entertainment fare (which included the twin-plex Showcase Cinema), drew the young people from both areas (at least before the draft or college deferment got them). Plus, my best friend of this period always wanted to head to the more fashionable and upscale region to watch movies.
Thus, on the opening wide-release weekend, we were planted in one of the twin theaters to watch Where Eagles Dare. Both of us newly minted male teens were captivated by one of the very best ‘men on a mission’ films. So much so, we found ourselves in the exact same movie hall the very next weekend hoping to relive it all once again. It may have been my happiest memory of that time. Later, when high school began, the tidal forces there pulled at us something fierce. We drifted apart as so many teen friendships are fated to do when cooked under pressure.