I don’t know about you, but as a kid, I saw a lot of movies that would’ve totally freaked out my parents had they known about them. I saw nudity (when my much older brother took me to an R-rated movie), violence (including gore, decapitations, etc.), and picked up quite an extensive vocabulary of profanity. I didn’t know about any of this going into these movies. (Well, I probably knew a little about it.) My parents certainly didn’t. But at some point, the ship had sailed and there was no turning back. But that didn’t mean there weren’t setbacks in the form of my mom trying to keep me from certain movies I really wanted to see.
As mentioned in previous posts, my small town of Forest, Mississippi (population 5,000) did have a movie theater, the Town Theater, which showed mostly second-run mainstream films as well as lesser known movies. Normally the Town would show an R-rated film Sunday through Thursday, and a G or PG (GP back then) movie Thursday through Saturday.
Of course, my mom (a huge classic movie fan) knew that I could only go to the movies on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons, which was fine with me. She felt confident that those movies - clearly rated G or GP - were relatively safe. I don’t think she quite knew how the American cinema had changed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, not until she and my dad went to see The Godfather (1972) with another couple. (They almost never went to the movies together, but it was 1972, and everyone went to see The Godfather. It played at one of the movie theaters in Jackson for over a year.)
I knew I’d never see The Godfather unless I sneaked out and saw it, and sneaking out for a three-hour movie was going to be next to impossible. I was mildly curious about it, but there were other movies I was more interested in seeing, like Brain of Blood, Dr. Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Mechanic, Skyjacked, the Planet of the Apes movies, and more. I got to see most of these when they came to town, but in a few cases, my mom vetoed my choices and banned me from the theater for a couple of titles in particular.
I patterned my library movie flyers on ones the Town Theater gave out when I was a kid. You’d pick up one of these and know the next few movies that were scheduled to play.
I’d invariably leave these lying around and one day my mom picked one up and saw an upcoming movie titled, God Forgives… I Don’t! (1967), a spaghetti western with Terence Hill. She probably felt the title alone was enough to get us both tossed out of the Baptist church, so that movie was off-limits. Since most of my buddies’ parents had the same thoughts as my mom, they didn’t see the movie either, so none of us really knew what we were missing. Then came the big veto…
As soon as I saw the big Coming Attractions poster for Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), I was mesmerized. Wow, just look at those skeleton hands, coming up out of the water (that looks like blood), grabbing the side of the boat! Jessica doesn’t look too strong, but she’s set to stab that skeleton back to a watery grave. There was something about the colors of that poster, the moonlight, the clouds... Looking at it as an adult, it's a very simple, very effective poster with that early ‘70s feel that just turned my dials all the way up to 11. Plus it was rated GP (translate = safe for this nine-year-old). I literally could not wait to see Jessica go medieval on this skeleton.
My friends and I were already jazzed for this movie, but a couple of weeks before it was scheduled to play, the theater started handing out these flyers. We read the directions on the black-and-white flyer, just like it said, and saw the ghostly Jessica everywhere. We thought we’d discovered another level of consciousness. This was the coolest thing ever. My level of excitement had enough energy to launch the next Apollo mission.
Until my mom found the flyer.
She didn’t like it. Not one bit. I’m sure she thought the ghostly Jessica flyer was satanic, which meant the movie was probably satanic as well. I remember arguing with her for a long time, but she held her ground. I was not going to see Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.
And I didn’t. I can’t remember the tantrums I threw over the absolute injustice of being denied the rich and fabulous opportunity of seeing Jessica doing battle with a skeleton (and who knew what else), but I'm sure I created quite a ruckus. Although this was a huge blow, to say nothing of a cinematic catastrophe, I somehow got over it.
Many years later I saw the film on a cheap DVD and enjoyed it quite a bit. Somewhere along the line, I lost that DVD, so I’m glad that Shout Factory is releasing it on Blu-ray later this month, complete with some nice extras as well as an audio commentary from director John Hancock and producer Bill Badalato. (Sorry, Mom… I’m gonna buy it!)
So what films did your parents keep you from seeing? Did you eventually get to see those films? Was it worth the wait or just a big disappointment? I’ve love to hear your stories. Thanks for reading mine.