Thursday, January 12, 2012

1974: A glittering end

While we're talking about cinema, who remembers their first James Bond experience?

It was 1974. There were a few cinemas in the surrounding towns, but no multplexes or anything of that nature. In Southampton we had the ABC, which used to have a balcony and do proper food and more often than not seemed to be showing The Slipper & The Rose. There was the Classic, where I saw my first ever film The Jungle Book in 1968 (so I'm told), the Atherley, which was near my grandma and had steps up where we saw The Sword In The Stone, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins, among others and the daddy of them all: The Gaumont.

This behemoth seemed huge and doubled as a music venue. Over the years I saw the likes of Duran Duran, The Human League, Madness, Joan Armatrading and Rik Mayall and Ben Elton there. Today it's the Mayflower Theatre and it's where they do panto and ghaslty regional productions of No No Nanette starring Anne Charleston, Patti Boulaye and Peter Polycarpou or Bonnie Langford, Sonia and Gina Yashere doing The Vagina Monologues.

I think the cinema bit died out when a lot them did in the late Seventies, but for the full cinema experience there was nothing like The Gaumont.

We loved James Bond, what we'd seen of it. The pre-opening credit high drama set piece, not to mention those opening credits themselves with nude women diving off gun barrells and silky silhouettes of their breasts. That was a racy as it got. Which made it a bit of a problem taking grandma along.

A lifelong prude who thought the word bloody was the nadir of bad language and had no idea her own brother was gay, despite holidays in Morocco, a house in Brighton that he shared with a long-standing partner and a prediliction for Ethel Merman. When she watched the Naked Civil Servant with my other grandma while they were on babysitting duty at ours one time, she had to have the whole concept of homosexuality expalined to her. She simply had no idea such a thing existed. She was that naive, and easily shockable.

So there was much shuffling and twitching from the opening credits onwards, with lots of distracing comments aired, like 'isn't that the Yangtzee River?'. My dad was eye-rolling for Britain.

But at least we were in. The queue went around the cinema almost twice. There was no pre-booking in those days, you just had to suck it and see. We all remember queueing around the block. When was the last time you had to do it. We saw all sort of friends and neighbours in the line, all trying their luck.

Though I now know it not to be Bond's finest hour, it was enormous fun. I've been to everyone single one since. I'm a fan. I think I like Roger Moore best. I'm surprised however, that Lulu's theme tune wasn't a hit at all. I remember hearing it all the time, but it cleary never took. Anyone know why?


  1. Your grandmother sounds tremendous value. Though I can sympathise with your poor Dad. I remember the excitement that always surrounded a new Bond release, and the mammoth queues that were standard all over the country. Can you imagine people now having the patience and tolerance to stand in line for two hours just to see a film?

    My only actual memory of a bond cinema outing was in Ireland, when I went to see The Spy Who Loved Me with my prudish, devoutly Catholic cousin, who is a couple of years older than me. She crossed herself and tutted every time there was any on-screen snogging or glimpsed flesh, which rather spoilt the film for me.

  2. First trip to the pictures, was in Cornwall to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks - when they still did theatre style programmes for films.

    Although I broke my Bond cherry with Live and Let Die, at the Odeon Southend. Where the interior was like a purple, theatre scale version of the Star Trek's bridge. I'd seen Matt Helm, Flint, UNCLE all of them on TV, but this was the real deal - with boat chases, sharks, hopping across crocodile's snouts exploding villains and suchlike. So of course I loved every minute, and repeat flicked through my LaLD View Master reels..

    After this it was The Spy Who Loved me on a double date during the summer holidays (77) with a friend and two girls from senior school - when I had only just left juniors! We even dressed up for it and popped into see the Lotus Esprit on show in Southend department store. It felt like the coolest evening of my life. And then, that Dymo style digital watch, the ski chase, the parachute (with a burst of spontaneous applause from the audience), the underwater car, sharks (again)and Barbara Bach in the shower!!

    If you're after some retro style cinematics pop in to the Aldeburgh Cinema. They're still selling sweets from under a glass counter. Although don't think they stretch to fruit-shaped Fruit Gums.

  3. View to a Kill was my first cinematic Bond experience, but I don't remember a lot about it. It was at a grim cinema in Sunderland where Saturday matinees were always full of yelling lads, but being allowed to go there with friends when I was 14 or so did feel like a big grown-up deal.

    I reckon Lulu flopped as a Bond singer because she doesn't have the big diva voice she thinks she's got: it's more like an annoying spoilt child blare.

    1. Yes she certainly can blare, can't she. She's far better when she's doing ballads like Leave A Little Love and To Sir With Love, and her cover of Scott Walker's Best Of Both Worlds is a total corker.

      I always find her irritating, that she can't stick to one accent and is a bit full of herself. She's no Cilla.