A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about growing up during a pivotal time for home entertainment. My childhood memories kick in around 1985 – the year of the updated Atari XE series and the first Nintendo Entertainment System. By then, RCA had discontinued its short-lived CED players, and VHS had won the marketing war against Betamax. My family experimented with all of these systems except for Betamax. Our first Atari game was “Jungle Hunt,” followed by “Frogger,” “Space Invaders,” and “Asteroids.” I still remember the day my father brought the Atari system home. I think he played it more than my younger brother and I did.
Our CED collection was never very impressive. We had maybe ten movies total, so we watched the same ones over and over and over – especially “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Return of the Jedi.” Within a year, we had graduated to VHS, and started recording things on TV at every opportunity. In no time at all, we had our own home video library. My brother and I continued to watch our favorites with fanatical zeal. I remember writing my own “novelization” of “Ghostbusters.” We collected trading cards for “Gremlins” and “The Goonies” (though Garbage Pail Kids were our real passion). I grudgingly admit that I know the words to all the songs in “Labyrinth,” and that I remember the main theme from Disney’s “Flight of the Navigator” (early electronica by Alan Silvestri). For some time, my favorite film was “Back to the Future.”
This weekend, I got to see “The Goonies” and “Back to the Future” on the big screen, at the New Beverly Theater in L.A. (Hey… better late than never.) It got me thinking about how much more likely I am to go see an old movie in the theater than a new one. Maybe it’s because I came of age in the era of VCRs?
My parents didn’t go to the movies much when my brother and I were little. By the time we were in school, they didn’t have to… On weekend nights, we would gather our sleeping bags, plug in the pop corn machine, and camp out on the living room floor in front of the TV. I imagine this might sound sad to those who grew up just a few years before me, and cultivated a greater appreciation for the theatrical experience. It was years before I knew the difference, but I loved those movies just the same.
Until this weekend, I hadn’t seen “Back to the Future” for years. My memory of it was pretty accurate, with a few exceptions… I don’t think I ever realized that Marty was sexually attracted to his mother. I understood that there was some tension there, but in my young mind it was one-sided. I was also surprised to see that the theatrical print did not conclude with the words “to be continued…” That, apparently, was an addition to the video release – one that prompted several years of restless waiting on my part.
I must admit: I still get a slightly giddy watching this film, just like I got slightly giddy a few months ago when I saw the Hill Valley square at Universal Studios. I considered taking a more elaborate tour of filming locations, but settled for a virtual tour instead.
“The Goonies” was sillier and more frenetic than I remembered it being. There were a few scenes that I didn’t recognize (the bit with the underground pipes and the scene where the Goonies take a bathroom break), and I realized that these scenes had been edited out of the TV version that I had watched repeatedly. I also found myself waiting for a scene that never came – where the gang discovers an octopus in the waters beside the pirate ship. It turns out that this was an extra scene shot for the TV version, to fill out the running time after the bawdier moments were excised.
Additional television footage was shot for a number of films in the late 70s / early 80s. I fell in love with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” based on the TV edit. Granted, it didn’t include the most revealing images of Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Lee, but it did a better job of fleshing out their characters. The TV edit features a scene where Linda (Phoebe Cates) offers frank advice about protected sex to her younger friends, and one where Stacy (Jennifer Jason Lee) emotionally prepares for an abortion. For some reason, the additional footage hasn’t been included on either DVD release of the film… so I say it’s time for an extended 25th anniversary edition.
In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for a big-screen presentation of the theatrical cut. It’s playing next weekend at the New Beverly, on a double bill with “The Last American Virgin." I suppose I'm atoning for the fact that I am a child of the home video revolution.
Now, if only I could go back and play the “Goonies II” Nintendo game…