Column: Going to the movies makes a person feel good

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22

I remember a time long ago &045; before videotapes and DVDs.

There were no movie channels on TV. There were only three TV channels. If the president was talking on one channel, he was talking on all three.

If we wanted to see a movie, we went to a theater.

A theater was a place that made the senses dance. The smell of popcorn, loud sounds coming from all directions, and images that were large and bright. Pop came in containers large enough to float a young whale. A magical place aided by a large box of candy &045; maybe Juju Bees, Jujy Fruits, Good & Plenty, Mike & Ikes, Junior Mints, or Milk Duds.

Our problems took a break as we became immersed in the lives of the characters on the big screen.

It was an era before people felt the need to make and receive important phone calls while in a theater.

I feel better after a good movie. A heartwarming story gives me hope; a comedy provides laughter, and others let me know that my life is good.

I like movies with a good plot, intriguing dialogue, and character development. I want to feel empathy. Instead of these, I all too often get special effects, but there are still movies that are well worth watching.

Movies can have an impact on a person’s life. I saw &8220;Bambi&8221; when I was a young boy and it eliminated any chance of me ever becoming a deer hunter.

I remember going to a theater as a young man to see a scary movie. I don’t care for such films &045; I’ve never even seen &8220;Psycho&8221; &045; but my viewing partner did. We had to sign a release relieving the theater of any obligation they might have if we were scared to death. There was a sign advising, &8220;Doctors and nurses are standing by.&8221; It was all designed to make us think that the movie was horrifying. In reality, the most frightening thing was the Junior Mint I sat on.

Cowboy movies were big during my barefoot years. Roy Rogers was my hero. He was the moral guide for my generation. Roy taught me that if I wanted to be a good guy, I should wear a white hat. I wanted to be Roy Rogers and ride around on Trigger, saving towns like Minneapolis and St. Paul from the bad guys. I knew I’d have to kiss Dale Evans on occasion, but it was a price I was willing to pay.

I did wonder why there weren’t many flies and mosquitoes in the movies, but that’s another story.

We had drive-in theaters during my time of growing from grass to hay. Passion pits, I called them. I called them that for obvious reasons that I will not attempt to explain here. Many stories were told of miscreants sneaking people into a drive-in movie by hiding

them in the trunk of the car. The passion pit I frequented was known for running &8220;dusk to dawn&8221; horror films. Such cinematic delights as &8220;Mothra,&8221; a film about a giant caterpillar that destroyed things that became a giant moth that destroyed things, and &8220;The Day of the Triffids,&8221; a tender picture about mutant killer plants that went around stinging people for no reason and behaving generally worse than any dandelion, typically resulted in a lot of sleep for movie-goers.

The passion pit had a concession stand where an appetite could escape a parked car and meet its match in popcorn, pop, or candies such as Juju Bees, Jujy Fruits, Good & Plenty, Mike & Ikes, Junior Mints, or Milk Duds. A worker in the stand regaled me with a tale of a couple getting married in the concession stand. A marriage destined for better things.

The passion pit had speakers that were placed in a car window and held in place when the window was rolled up. The speakers cracked and squawked. Mosquitoes found the cracked windows to be open invitations.

The times aren’t all good in the theater. I wish I could take back the words, &8220;Two tickets to &8216;The Blair Witch Project,’ please.&8221; Or the time spent watching Sylvester Stallone, although there was a point in that movie where he appeared to be actually acting.

I like documentaries. I love documentaries about birds &045;flockumentaries. I’m not much for adventure movies. Car chases pale in comparison to actually driving on an interstate highway. I get enough adventure carrying the five-gallon pail of pop and the 100 pounds of popcorn; the popcorn dripping in something approaching the taste of 3-in-1 oil.

I love movies.

Even when I’ve just sat on a Junior Mint.

(Hartland resident Al Batt acts naturally every Wednesday and Sunday in the Albert Lea Tribune.)