I told myself I was going to give old movie ads a rest for a while, but before we wave goodbye to July and move on to that boring month that’s between July and the start of fall, let’s take one look back at how the movies in the July 5, 1991, Journal Gazette converged during my adolescent life.
First of all there was “The Rocketeer,” a movie that I had been obsessed with ever since I saw the coming attractions poster, an enigmatic image of that helmeted figure taking off into the sky powered by a jetpack and explained only with the words “Coming Soon”. Who was this mysterious hero? Was he a robot? An alien? A bug-man? I had to find out.
Thankfully my mom agreed to truck me and by buddy Russ “into town” from Cooks Mills to catch an afternoon screening. When my mom asked me on the way what the movie was going to be about, I, in typical adolescent snark, said, “You’re not going to be there, are you?” at which point she sighed and said “I guess not” with more than a bit of snark herself, and thus "The Rocketeer" was the first movie I ever got to see by myself, even if I had to be a big ol’ jerk for it to happen.
The movie didn’t quite live up to the crazy expectations that one poster had built up in my head over the preceding year. I had convinced myself the movie was going to be a bit more like the crazy-insane Japanese super hero movie “Infra-Man”. Instead it was a ‘40s-style pulp adventure about dashing, floppy-haired pilot Cliff Seacord who comes into possession of a prototype jetpack the Nazis want to use to create a legion of flying stormtroopers. So, Cliff makes a helmet (modeled after a hood ornament), straps on his jetpack and takes off for adventure. The movie had had it all: Timothy Dalton as an Errol Flynn-type movie star who’s actually a Nazi sympathizer, a battle on an exploding zeppelin, Howard Hughes, Beeman’s Gum, and yes, Jennifer Connelly and her gams, both of which I’m sure I’ve written about here before, and both of which Russ and I talked about in hushed reverential tones during that unsupervised walk from our seats to my mom’s Chevy Blazer parked outside.
Meanwhile, as we were having all that fun, my mom was forced by my adolescent desire for independence to attend a screening of “Dying Young,” ad also featured above. At the time I remember thinking that it had worked out for everyone. Russ and I got to watch stuff blow up real good and watch Jennifer Connelly make that face she always made, while Mom got to watch a good old-fashioned tear-jerker that she could enjoy, starring Julia Roberts, who, just coming off the success of “Pretty Woman”, was about as a hot ticket as you could get at the time.
Well, it must now be revealed after all these years that, even then, with the end-credits of "The Rocketeer" rolling across the screen, that I felt kind of bad that I exiled her to some poorly attended screening room of a movie she probably didn’t want to see in the first place. I mean, she did agree to drive us; it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world if she had come along, really. Oh well…I was 13. What 13-year-old boy isn’t unreasonably selfish and self-centered? And I’d like to think I’ve made up for it. I’ve seen plenty of movies with my mom since then, as long as those movies have the words “Star” and “Trek” or “Wars” in the title. Oh, and there was that time we saw “Lady and the Water” and she said “This movie’s stupid” loud enough for other people to hear, but that’s a Throwback for another time.
Which leads us to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”. If you weren’t “that age” in 1991 and you don’t remember, let me clear it up for you. If you hadn’t seen “T2” that summer, you were nothing. Don’t bother going to school, or showing your face on the playground, at the comic book store or arcade. It was the big movie you had to see, and well…I didn’t see it. No one’s fault. I don’t remember asking to go, and I think my mom was a little iffy about taking me due to that big R rating, although c’mon… this was an R for violence, not any of that “grown up” stuff. After all, who cares if your 13-year-old watches a two-hour movie of two dudes getting riddled with bullets? They’re robots, after all. That doesn’t really count as violence.
I did end up seeing “T2” fairly quickly after the summer though; they rushed it out on VHS tape pretty quickly, and yeah, did get my mind rocked, only just a few months after everyone else whose parents would let them attend something like that without supervision. For a 13-year-old it was as perfect a movie as a movie could get at the time and even now, all these years later, if I’m flipping around the stations and I catch even second of it, I can’t help but instantly be transported back to that time when watching T2, drinking a Pepsi, and eating some Taco Bell made you king among men.
Many summers have come and gone since then and we’ve moved on to different heroes of the summer. The Terminator franchise is one big joke now, and the poor Rocketeer has been relegated to the great dustbin of misfit-toy ‘80s heroes alongside “The Last Starfighter” and “Buckaroo Banzai”. Still, some credit goes to “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” for the immortal line “Dishes are DONE, man!” which me and my friends continue to quote to this day. And as for “Dying Young,” you’d have to ask my mom. According to Wikipedia, the lead character actually does not die at the end of the movie.