I saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark" last week, and although some people, I hear, are caviling about the violence, for me the movie healed an old psychic wound I'd barely remembered.
It was my mother's fault.
Now my mother had nothing against movies, let's get that clear right at the outset.
She loved those sophisticated comedies of the Carole Lombard school, and I vividly remember how she walked home from seeing "The Lady Vanishes" all by herself, recounting excitedly to us girls how she expected spies to jump out of the shadows at every block between the Colony on Georgia Avenue and 4th and Decatur where we lived.
So in those days I never could quite figure her attitude about the movies she let my sister and me go to see.
I mean, she'd keep us out of school to go downtown to the opening of "Snow White" or "Fantasia" or "The Wizard of Oz," and my father might even haul us out of school on a whim to go watch a Senators game, but you could never predict the Saturday matinee bit.
Most Saturdays, my sister and I would each take our quarter and head to "the avenue." Georgia it meant at first; then when me moved to the other side of the park, "the av" became Connecticut. And the Avalon.
It was still 25 cents each -- 20 cents apiece for tickets and, pooling our nickels, three for 10 (that is three candy bars for 10 cents) at the Peoples Drug Store on the corner.
It was a never-to-be-varied ritual. It had to be two 25-cent pieces. Combinations of dimes and nickels simply would not do.
It was the same candy each time. (Each of us got one for ourselves, and then we'd divide a third.) Liz always got a mounds. I always got pink and white Good & Plentys. We always divided a package of Necco wafers, and we always fought because there was never an even number of yellows and browns.
The feature movies were probably uniformly terrible. They were certainly not memorable -- I can't think of a one.
There was always a cartoon, noisy and slapstick, and I always took uncomfortable umbrage at the general villainy ascribed to the feline species. (We always had a cat.) There was a newsreel. There might have been some sort of idiotic (and boring) comedy short. But they're all gone from memory too.
Ah, but the CHAPTERS! Buck and Wilma! Flash and Dale! Ace CRUMMOND! (Doesn't anybody remember Ace Drummond?) Don Winslow! Jungle Jim! Buck Jones and an endless stream of look-alike cowboys.
I can still see them going over that bridge, or crashing into this asteroid or being boggled up by a man-eating croc one week, and then next week somehow out of that danger and into the next.
The trouble was this:
The week one serial ended -- not a chapter, but the whole serial -- another began.
That week the feature was always worse than usual. After all, all those kids would be coming anyway to see how the serial ended, who needed a good feature? Right? Wrong.
My mother always put her foot down. She wouldn't fall for that old dodge of getting suckered into a rotten movie just to see how Killer Jane got his comeuppance and Red Pennington set the scene for the next 10 or so weeks.
"YOU don't have to see it," we would wail to the stone wall. "We'll NEVER find out what happens."
"You'll live," said the stone wall. (she had a reputation for spoiling us, but on this one thing she never wavered.)
But then last weekend, THERE IT WAS, right there on the giant screen (Dolby sound) of the Cinema theater -- no, not IT, THEM! All those chapters, all those Saturdays, they all had endings. Real endings. Marian in danger. Marian SAVED. Indiana in danger. Indiana SAVED and in danger and saved and in danger and . . . It was wonderful. All those left-in-the-lurch stories, ENDED. AT LAST!
Thanks, Indiana, I needed that.