i can’t remember the first movie i’ve ever seen in the cinema. probably one of the earliest flicks i saw was the disaster movie earthquake, which starred charlton heston and ava gardner, amongst others. come to think of it, some of the first few movies i saw had some role to play in traumatising my then young mind. i was brought to see jaws and the towering inferno at such a tender age. it came as no surprises that i then had a fear for the sea, of being stuck in a lift and of heights (i still hate heights). i thank god that my folks didn’t bring me to watch airport ’77.

The now demolished Cathay cinema in KL.as a kid, we didn’t have multiplexes*. i remembered the days of watching star wars at the cathay cinema, herbie goes to monte carlo at the pavilion and the numerous flicks that my late mom used to bring me to after school at the sentosa in section 17. i wouldn’t know who indiana jones was if it wasn’t for my mom! i remembered ayah used to book tickets by phone to avoid queueing (no internet in 1975, man). we never used to go watch malay movies when i was younger. old black and white malay movies of the p. ramlee and pontianak variety was on the telly (not as often as it was in the past ten years though). the choices were entirely left to my folks to decide on what to watch, apart from the disney cartoons. they’d go for films with the big hollywood stars of their time. i watched in awe charlton heston separating the red sea and steve mcqueen doing a wheelie on a motorbike escaping the germans. everything was nice clean family fun.

i began to enjoy science fiction movies immediately after star wars in 1977, and i had my eyes peeled for anything that had outer space in it. battlestar galactica was great (although i knew then that star wars was definitely much more superior. of course.). we saw it at sentosa and the movie was in sensurround (a 1970’s version of dolby digital/dts/THX) and i felt all they did was put on the speakers at full blast. the sound effects didn’t feel realistic, just loud. i remembered dragging my folks to watch alien in 1979, and what a big mistake it was. i was 9, and how was i to know that one can mix genres in film. my mom loved it. like me, ayah wasn’t too keen on monster/horror films. his only complain was that the movie was ‘too dark’. mom used to complain that we never want to go watch horror films with her. how could i go watch those films? i even get nightmares from them bloomin’ hantu movie posters (some badly painted*). those were the days of crap B-movies (with titles like inseminoid!) worthy of a direct-to-video title.

Devil's Tower, Wyoming. Scary.

when i was deemed old enough to go and watch movies with friends, i used to walk to the ria cinema in taman tun (now a defunct club). it was great having a cinema which was 15 minutes away on foot. i would go with like a bunch of friends to watch films like empire strikes back and condorman (yup!). in fact, i saw a lot of films at the ria. raiders of the lost ark re-runs, the close encounters special edition, clash of the titans, the list could go on. i could even remember my favourite seat number, one of two in the back row, directly facing the aisle in the reserved class section. why? i want to have full view of the screen i’m watching. i was a small kid. i hate it when i have to peer behind some big adult’s head.

we still enjoyed films at the cinema even with the advent of video. the only thing worth checking out was getting uncensored versions of films.John Candy and some girls in mud... and my mind was corrupted since! how can i forget watching in amazement the all-girl mud wrestling scene from stripes, which starred bill murray and john candy – that scene ain’t there when i saw it with my mom in the cinema. another memorable moment was the bonking scene in milius’ conan the barbarian. this time, i was watching it (unfortunately) with my folks (i remembered my neighbour warning that the tape was uncensored when lending us the tape). in secondary school, i spend most of my weekends from third form onwards going to the cinema. we were discouraged as juniors to frequent such establishments. i didn’t know what the fuss was all about then, as i’d been frequenting such ‘shifty’ places with my mom! thanks to a schoolfriend of mine, i began to enjoy hong kong films, the likes of project A and armour of god. jackie chan and samo hung were it, man.

Let's go to work.

nowadays, i still love catching a movie at the cinema. arthouse never did catch on, as far as my cinema experience goes (the number of times i’ve only been to an arthouse film establishment can be counted on one hand). i do enjoy independent films like reservoir dogs (when it first came out) but i just don’t have the patience to understand/endure films like prospero’s book or anything by peter greenaway for that matter. and now we have dvd, which has all the extra bits (the next LOTR dvd is 5 hours long, if i’m not mistaken) but i wouldn’t dream of eschewing the cinema-going experience. i admit that i’ve not been to see many movies lately, but nothing beats watching a lightsabre duel and the whupping of agent smith’s ass on the big screen with THX/dts, while enjoying some nachos and the largest diet coke available (with lots of ice).

also, i love the movies here as there are no subtitles filling half the screen and the films are screened uncut. of course.


[*]found this site at sashi‘s. has great info on some of kl’s cinemas.

[**]movie billboards on the facade of the cinemas were hand painted in those days. we used to laugh at the way the posters we done, like how big han solo’s nose was like on the poster of empire.