Saturday, September 25, 2010

Put All The Blame On VCRs

I was thinking the other day about how my parents didn't take me to very many movies when I was a kid.  I don't know why.  I know they went to movies without us sometimes, so it couldn't have been that we were too poor.  I also know that they wouldn't let me see the Back To The Future sequels in the theaters because, ohmygosh, they were rated PG and might be too intense for us!  (Nevermind that the original BTTF was one of my favorite films, which I watched repeatedly on tape.)  So, I mean, maybe they were just way overprotective ... only prone to letting us see the G-est of the G-rated.

Here are the movies I remember seeing in the theater as a kid:

101 Dalmatians
Batteries Not Included
Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
Home Alone
An American Tail (possibly?)
Cool Runnings

That's between the ages of 0-13.  And you might think I saw more, but that I just don't remember them...  yeah, well, I doubt it.  I have a pretty good memory when it comes to movies.

Meanwhile, we did have a VCR when I was growing up.  My dad purchased the first one in 1985.  I remember the night we first got it, how he tried to explain to me that I couldn't watch Dumbo NOW, but I would be able to watch it the next day.  Madness, I thought.  Man, you're crazy!  But sure enough, there Dumbo was the next day... and the next... and the next....

Thanks to the magic of TV and that VCR, I spent my childhood watching (and rewatching) Dumbo, Mickey and the Beanstalk, Lambert the Sheepish Lion, Heidi's Song, Garfield In Paradise, A Garfield Halloween, A Garfield Christmas, Garfield In The Rough, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Race For Your Life Charlie Brown, What A Nightmare Charlie Brown (and about a dozen more CB specials) Mary Poppins, Peter Pan (with Mary Martin), The Care Bears Movie, The Secret Garden, Robin Hood, Flight Of The Navigator, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, multiple Looney Tunes cartoon specials, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, the Claymation Christmas Special, Alice In Wonderland, The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, Pollyanna, and many more.

However, just because things were edited for television didn't mean my parents always approved of what they had taped for us....

Once, the movie The Adventures of Mark Twain aired, and my family watched it together.  My brother and I really enjoyed it, but my parents were not pleased.  There's a storyline involving Adam and Eve that is, well, not exactly Biblical.  And my parents were all about things being correct, satire be darned.  They decided the movie was just too scandalous.  And so, after explaining their reasonings to my brother and I, they did the unthinkable:

The taped over the movie.

So of course, because of this, The Adventures Of Mark Twain took on a whole new life in my brain as That movie we loved but that my parents stole from us.  For years I yearned to see it again.  As soon as I could, I bought myself a copy on VHS.  I've watched it several times since.  The funny thing is, the Adam & Eve parts are probably the lamest of the whole movie.  But the rest is really creepy and cool.  Silly parental censorship!

Another time, my dad decided to tape Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for us.  This may have been the second time it had aired on network television, because my dad was ready with the VCR remote during the scene where Walter Donovan turns to dust and bones (read: he chose poooorly).  My dad actually paused the tape during the recording so that Walter's progression of deterioration was almost entirely omitted.  Why he thought this scene, out of all the scenes in the movie, was the one thing that needed to be censored, I will never know.  As it stands now, I don't find that scene -- the full version -- scary at all, and never have.  I think it's actually kind of cool!   My brother and I both chuckle at this memory of my dad's over-protectiveness.

My parents weren't the only ones trying to look out for us.  A lot of those taped-off-TV-movies I watched repeatedly as a kid had already been censored quite a bit by the networks.  Back To The Future, for example, had most of its "bad" language replaced with somewhat less-objectionable wording... but otherwise, the film remained the same.  Not so with the network TV version of The Goonies back in the 80's.  That was the version I always watched as a kid.  As an adult, I got the DVD and was stunned to see a bunch of scenes I'd never laid eyes on before.  The kids shaking the pipes and disrupting the plumbing in the country club?  Mouth talking to Rosalita about drugs?  Andi kissing Mikey and commenting on his braces?  Where did all these scenes come from?  To this day, I find them foreign, as if the version on the DVD is some bizarre director's cut or something.

And now it's 2010 and VCRs are practically obsolete.  Tivos and Blu-Ray players reign.  But I don't understand how people can get rid of their VCRs.  Don't they, too, have tapes full of old memories?  Or is that just my family?  I guess most people can just update their movie collection when a new format comes along, but I'll never be able to.  I mean, yeah, I have Pollyanna on DVD now, and I have to admit it looks a whole lot better than the tape -- but sometimes, just sometimes, it's nice to pull out the old taped-off-channel-12 recording of it and watch it alongside those goofy 80s commercials that accompanied it back in the day.

Because that's the way I used to watch it.

And sometimes... that's just the way I want it.


Emily Blair said...

I love this. It so perfectly comments on your (and my) childhood. I remember seeing Home Alone with your family in the theater, and I remember your dad making sure that we realized it was not okay to hit people in the face with hot irons, etc. when we left the theater. :)

Re: the foreign scenes in the Goonies. That's how Ferris Bueller is for me. I watched it SO MANY times on VHS taped off of TV, I know all the lines by heart with their censored language...I couldn't believe some of the stuff on the "real" movie when I finally saw it years later.

molly said...

Ha! I don't remember him telling us that, but I do remember in subsequent viewings, my parents always cringing at that part.

I had to go back up & add The Lion, The Witch, and the Warddrobe to my list at the beginning of the post, because I think that one got rewatched more than anything.

I love Ferris Bueller! But I didn't see it until I was 19. Because of my limited viewing choices as a kid, I had to take it upon myself to go back and find/watch all those 80s/90s movies I never got to see -- as an adult.

Emily Blair said...

I should say that I think your dad actually explained to us in scientific terms how it was not possible to do the things that Kevin does without causing much more bodily harm. He was right, of course, but that didn't stop us from enjoying it. And I still love that movie.

Yes! The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe got watched a ton in our house too. And a few Cosby episodes. We had so many VHS tapes, Geoff made a catalog of everything taped on them. Sadly, I think almost all are gone for good now. I've saved a few that I just couldn't part with...

molly said...

Aw, that's sad. I've held onto everything, just because. About 5 years ago I decided to rewatch our first videotape (the one with Dumbo on it) and wrote about it here:

I remember watching the Cosby Show series finale about a hundred times! I probably even had it memorized at one point. o_O