It wasn’t the first time I saw a movie twice in a theater. That distinction goes to The Parent Trap. With two Hayley Mills vying for my pre-pubescent attention, it’s easy to understand. But Planet of the Apes marked the first time I caught a film three times the week it opened.
At age 12, the slow pullback to reveal the Statue of Liberty buried chest-deep in the sand that caps the picture was the most profoundly disturbing image yet to cross my cinematic gaze. Puzzled by its brilliance, I was compelled to return the following day and catch the Sunday matinee. It wasn’t enough. I needed a weekday fix. Foolishly thinking my father would enjoy a futuristic fantasy featuring numerous Hollywood character actors buried beneath layers of simian greasepaint, I extended an invitation.
“You’ve already seen that goddamn monkey picture twice,” barked Larry from behind the pages of The Chicago American. “What the hell’s so special that you need another look? And so soon?”
“Why not take me and find out?” I shot back.
Too cheap to purchase a window unit air conditioner, Dad generally looked to movies solely as a means of escaping the summer heat. It was a sweltering Thursday night, the kind that makes walls sweat. “Babe,” dad yelled in the general vicinity of the kitchen. “I’m taking the kid to the movies.”
“No!” I cried jumping to my feet. “It’s too early!” Long before the multiplexing of America brought the rise of staggered showtimes, WWII had instilled in my parent’s and their generation a willingness to enter a movie at any point in its running time. During the war, films ran around the clock to accommodate soldiers on leave and those working the swing shift. People got in the habit of stumbling into a movie no matter what the start time. So we’d stay and watch the following show up to the point we had come in. Mary Poppins, Pinocchio, The Longest Day, Pepe, Four for Texas — I can’t tell you how many times my parents forced me to participate in this tasteless, artistically degrading act. It’s a wonder I’m not dyslexic.
What tricked me at age 6 or 7 no longer applied. At age 12, a sense of propriety had taken hold of my young cineholic brain. Riffling through the American movie section, I discovered the first evening performance at The Nortown Theatre commenced at 7:15. Dad returned to his paper, I my paperback Man From U.N.C.L.E. novelization, and we waited for an hour to pass in order to catch the next show from the beginning.
There is a point in the film where Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) threatens Chuck Heston with emasculation. Circumcision is one of the first polysyllabic words all young Jewish boys learn, but emasculation was new to me. Ask dad, he knows!
After the scene played out, I leaned over to Larry and whispered, “What’s ‘imma-sculation’ mean?”
“I don’t know,” came a tight-lipped reply.
“Come on, dad,” I begged. “What does ‘imma-sculation’ mean?”
“It’s emasculation,” he mumbled, “and I don’t know what it means.”
Trying to slip a fast one past me, eh? Time to press the old man’s button: “You know how to pronounce it, but you don’t know what it means?!”
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes | Official Trailer
Before I could finish, my next plea was broken off with a booming, “It means they cut your balls off! Now shut up and watch the movie!”
My hard work had paid off. Dad’s admonition began reverberating across the cavernous 2000 seat faded-picture palace. The 70 or 80 patrons in attendance burst into laughter and applause. Pop was so pissed his back teeth were floating.
I sure wish Larry was with me when Dawn of the Planet of the Apes screened last week. The only thing he would have loved more than the movie was the Arclight’s air conditioning system.