Saturday, 6 December 2008

Childhood Traumas 1-3 or: How I Became the Man I'm Not

Dum-dum! When I was just a little boy...

...I saw some stuff that scored deep grooves in my subconscious. But you can relax - I'm not talking about sex stuff. I would never talk about sex stuff. I'm talking about small, scary snatches (not that kind of scary snatch - I would never talk about scary snatch stuff) of sound and light sundered from their wider cinematic contexts. The type of moment (found most commonly in the mind of the Human Parent) which, in the middle of certain movies, whizzes from the memory vault to the talk box, inducing the viewer to blurt out "Wait a minute - I've...I've seen this before! And it was horrible!"

What's so interesting about that? Maybe nothing, except that I experienced it twice in one day! Almost thrice! Sort of! It was an alarming example of synchronicity which, I am reliably informed, is not just an album by The Police. I'm not the best conceptualational explainologist so I have engaged Robert Duvall to feed you the basics:

Have you got it yet? Okay, let's go.

As a kid, I would sometimes be allowed to stay over at my friend's house. He had a television set in his bedroom! This meant that we could watch terrifying things late at night! Two I can definitely remember watching were THE DEVIL RIDES OUT and THE SWARM. Nothing too horrible there, unless you're scared of safari jackets and corrugated hairstyles.

But Old Man Terror eventually crowbars his way into every young life and one dark night he got his jimmy into me! A late film featuring an unseen assailant, a tenderising mallet, a bloody kitchen, a dead woman and small, bloody handprints on a white balustrade all added up to the TV being switched off and Trauma Number One.

The groping claw of Trauma Number Two found me at my parents' friends' house. I must have been really young for this one because i can remember real excitement at being allowed to change the channels on the TV. I found a channel where some people were looking at a water-wheel. Great! There were some soldiers there. Greater! Then the water-wheel rotated a bit further and everything went horrible! There was a mangled soldier caught up in the blades and some of them had bitten into his back. Mum! Mum! I don't like this!

trauma number three is written in lower case because I was a bit older and knew what the film was. It still carries unpleasant memories, but for different reasons: I was playing outside and a barbed-wire spike went through my fingernail and come out of the other side. It hurt so I went home. After getting cleaned up, I watched BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI with my dad. 

Flash forward a decade to my 20th birthday. I receive three videos: THE BROOD, THE EAGLE HAS LANDED and BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. Great! I'll watch them all today! 

I put THE BROOD on first and THIS happens:

I eject the tape with pounding heart and shaking fingers. I still haven't watched the rest of it.

Next, I put on THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (a film with the mystical power to make it Sunday afternoon no matter what day it is) and, at around the half-way mark, A SOLDIER GETS MANGLED BY A WATER WHEEL! It's not really such a bad image when taken in context by a human adult and I manfully sit through the rest of the movie. 

What are the chances, though? Two in one day! I eye the next video case with suspicion, half expecting some barbed wire to appear from nowhere and pierce my digit, like a very mild, rural version of what happens at the end of HELLRAISER.

BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI makes everything all right again. Either that or it shames me into adopting a stiff upper lip about the whole freakish episode.

Is this what Robert Duvall was talking about? I must admit, I didn't quite follow him.


D Cairns said...

David Cronenberg gave Martin Scorsese a present of an uncut print of The Brood, but Scorsese, having seen the cut version, was afraid to look at it.

alex said...

Really? That's great. I think the uncut version makes it clear that Samantha Eggar is licking her offspring clean in the birth scene - the cut version makes it look like she is eating the poor broodling.

I only found out what actually happens in the movie today because I'd always been too scared to investigate. Maybe I'll watch it one day. Day though, not night.

D Cairns said...

It's not too scary now, I don't think.

The most frightening image to me was a shot of two little kids in anoraks by a roadside in the Canadian snow. Everyhting looks fairly normal, except we know they are not right.