World’s Worst

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I joined Twitter 11 months ago, and thought it was time I actually did something there, so I asked everybody for their worst cinema experiences, figuring I could compile that into a simple blog post quickly, and it might be amusing. Then I put the same request on Facebook, so I could test which is better.

Facebook wins!

Via Twitter, regular Shadowplayer and cartoonist Douglas Noble writes,“Dundonian EXORCIST audience, no heating, film snaps, advice yelled to screen, stair-fall exodus. I think I’ve mentioned it before.” I picture the audience’s breath misting in the projector beam.

Whereas, touchingly, Elver Loho, one of the very first Shadowplayers EVER, Twittered back, “Worst cinema experience? Don’t think I’ve ever had a truly bad one.” If that’s true I’m moving to Estonia.

Now, the FaceBook landslide.

Mandy Lee, inventor of the Human Swastika, chimed in with the following lament: “THE CRUCIBLE in a multiplex. About halfway through, the film went on fire and started bubbling and melting on the screen – it was creepy and at first no-one really knew if it was a special effect or not, then we got evacuated. Sort of fitting though, bearing in mind the subject matter.” I’m picturing Philippe Noiret ablaze in the projection booth. I’ve seen that happen with THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY at Edinburgh University Film Society. Slightly alarming.

Musician Daniel Prendeville: “A Saturday night sitting behind Paddy Twomey in the Astor Cinema, trying to watch THE LAST WALTZ, while the sleeping Paddy, all 6’5″ of him, shifted in his seat, obscuring my view for the entire film.

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Baris Azman: “One was with THE STRAIGHT STORY, which I saw in an arthouse theatre, where there were tons of old ladies in the theatre. Two behind me and my friends literally commented on almost every thing that happened during the film. “Oh my what happened?”, “Oh my, the lawnmower broke down. Oh my, he’s getting off. Oh my, there’s a truck …  coming.” And on and on and on, ’till I finally turned around and asked them to be quiet, we can all SEE what is happening. They then proceeded to call me “rude”.

The other one was where PULP FICTION was screened in a theatre in 2005, finally I was able to watch it on the big screen, finally after all those years. I’m enjoying the hell out of myself ’till there is a reel change somewhere around the scene where they have to clean up the mess they made with Marvin and what happens… the next reel us not only upside down, but in reverse. The projectionist had spliced one of the reels backwards.

We got our money back, but it screened only once.”

Michal Oleszczyk: “A very recent screening of QUANTUM OF SOLACE, with a group of teenage girls giggling at each Craig’s line (I’m still wondering what dirty double entendres did they get that missed me).” Sounds like an enhanced experience to me.

Filmmaker Timo Langer sympathises: “I have a simular one to Michal…Watched RUN LOLA RUN in Germany next to a guy which commented almost every exciting scene if not cut with the word “Phat”…the cool word at the time as I remember.”

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Celebrity guest Lara Belmont, star of Tim Roth’s THE WAR ZONE, volunteers: “THE THIN RED LINE, you know you’re in trouble when the nature shots are the only reason to stay, and even they end up driving you out of the cinema.”As a devout Malickite, I can’t agree, but I can understand. There are a lot of leaves in that film, and some of them have more screen time than George Clooney. 

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Regular Shadowplayer Chris Schneider: “Well, there was always the midnight screening of David Cronenberg’s SHIVERS where the crowd was beery and numskulled and, when a face came onscreen who vaguely resembled Henry Kissinger, a male voice called out “Looks like a Jew!” … causing me to think “That’s my cue to leave.”” The Kissingeralike would be Joe Silver, also seen in RHINOCEROS, I think.

Brilliantly, filmmaker May Miles Thomas had an unpleasant run-in with the same film: “Years ago I went with my boyfriend to see SHIVERS at the Lyceum, Govan. Unfortunately boyfriend arrived stoned. Ten minutes in, he excused himself and never returned. I was about to leave when the usherette (50s, bespectacled) came up to me in a panic. I ran to the foyer and found boyfriend with his head embedded in a plasterboard wall. ‘Too scary for him’, opined the usherette. He claimed to have fainted on the way to the toilets.” Why this movie? Is there something strange about SHIVERS? Surely not.

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Brian Robinson: “AMERICAN PSYCHO – “Hee hee hee”, said the apparently disabled (but not physically so) man to my immediate right as Christian Bale slapped around two prostitutes during a bout of rough sex. And then his hand slipped into his trousers and I frantically searched for a way to get away without actually passing him. “Hee hee hee”.” Brrr.

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Two from Mary Gordon: “Watching KUNDUN at the Lumiere with the house lights up and remonstrating with the museum staff that Mr Scorsese mde it to be seen in the dark; watching an EIFF documentary, Armenian, no dialogue and someone behind me with a runing commentary with what was happening on screen (came close to being banged up in Cornton Vale that day).”

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Shadowplay informant Danny Carr: “Watching THE WIZARD OF OZ while a friend snogged my ex-girlfriend a row behind me. The film was tainted for years to come!” Ouch.

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Harriet Hunter: “Going to see WOLF CREEK and speding most of it trying to hide under the seat and wispering ‘I can’t watch this,I can’t watch this’,yet still watching It with one eye closed…not a great experience for the friend I was with.” Still, I’d say that was appropriate behaviour at a horror movie. Extreme, but appropriate.

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My producer, Nigel Smith: “My first cinema experience was part of a schoolfriend’s birthday party. What sort of parents would take a bunch of excitable six year olds to see Tommy Steele in HALF A SIXPENCE? That’s tantamount to abuse.” It is pretty bad, I remember that film. It’s quite hard to take on TV. On the big screen it would be like getting your brain opened with a Mantle retractor.

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But Mary suggests something worse: “Easy – WATERSHIP DOWN: I spent years after that checking for Nazi rabbits under my bed…”

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Filmmaker Johannes Roberts: “A teenage audience laughing everytime John Carpenter cut to a close up of a sweaty close up of the fat Baldwin culminating in a prolonged groan for his close up kiss with Sheryl Lee, in VAMPIRES.” I don’t know, that sounds like an enhancement.

Also debatable, Chris B’s use of refreshments: “Ahoy, I went to see ELOGE DE L’AMOUR at the cinema back in 2001/2002, a film that had falsely been advertised as a romantic comedy in the Julia Roberts vein (only, avec subtitles). The first odd occurrence in this rather yuppy district was a young man called his mother before the film began (which is ok) to tell her that he was watching a Godard film; clearly he felt some kind of superiority in this triumphant choice of screening and had to call his mum to join in on the celebration.

The film began and the audience, allowing it some leeway despite not being prepared for the film they expected, became a little restless; the guy sat behind me even said to his complaining girlfriend that “this is interesting, let’s give it some more time”, but she was having none of that and, maybe being a French film’n’all, must’ve felt that in order to “fill the void” that the film was leaving, became horny and began the process of fellatio. I must say, I was fairly familiar with ELOGE having owned and rewatched the DVD countless times prior to the 35mm announcement; so, and despite Godard’s eclectic and whimsical play with soundtrack, I knew that the wet slapping sound emerging from behind me was not part of the Dolby Digital output. This continued for some time until oral did not suffice and a move to full-on penetration would be the order of the day, albeit discretely(?). Well, as much as I enjoy people enjoying themselves, they were encroaching upon MY cinema experience and something had to be done. I waited until the first credit appeared (the film plays out until the very end); exited the room to buy a couple of large Cokes (with ice, please); returned; and threw my purchases all over the couple who were in no position to begin pursuit of the perpetrator! Was this a bad movie experience? I’m not sure thinking about it.”

As for me, I recall being physically threatened by an oddly aggressive stoner sitting behind me at a screening of BY THE BLUEST OF SEAS, which didn’t seem so funny, and there was a very weird screening of THE IDIOTS at Cannes where Fiona and I found ourselves crawling along some kind of balustrade to get to our seats (the festival had kept us waiting outside until the film started), not quite a science fiction film AIR VENT, but close, and then when we reached our seats we could dimly hear the simultaneous English translation whispering from the armrests, but couldn’t find any way to ACCESS it, so ended up watching the film in Danish with French subs, which actually improved it. If you can understand what they’re saying, that sure isn’t a very good movie.

I think the John Cleese movie CLOCKWISE was the worst, though. It just seemed like the death of everything precious in cinema.

This, of course, is your cue to offer up YOUR experiences.
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41 Responses to “World’s Worst”

  1. This isn’t that exciting, but it did ruin something I’d been very much looking forward to: when I saw Stop Making Sense on its rerelease in 200?, the sound was turned way down, with no bass, and the projector was a bit off, so parts of the image were lopped off. Half a dozen different people went to the management to try to get it fixed, to no avail; eventually we just got a refund.

  2. I attended a screening at the National Film Theatre with some friends in 1986 to see David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’. Expecting much after seeing his preceding work I settled down in my seat only to have my senses assaulted with what I can only describe as utter drivel. In fact it was so bad in places it made me laugh out loud, VERY loud, much to the annoyance of a group of pseudo-intellectuals in front of me who would turn around every time I laughed to hiss through their teeth at me that “this is a serious film!” “Yeah, right, of course it is, if you come from another planet!” I replied smiling through clenched teeth. I think I fell asleep through some of it after that. In fact it was probably the best sleep I ever had in a cinema until ‘The Phantom Menace’, although still nowhere near the comatose state experienced while watching ‘Quantum of Solace.’ Meanwhile back in 1986 at the NFT; when the lights came up at the end of the film the hissing moaners in front of me all had the startling look of Jack Nance in ‘Eraserhead’, as did many other people in the ‘arty farty’ audience. They did indeed look like they had come from another planet, or more likely another dimension. I think my laughter amid such company could be akin to shouting for Rangers at the Celtic end of the football ground – but not nearly as life threatening, although the guy in the Donovan cap that sat on the end of the row with a potato sack over his head did look a bit worrying.

  3. First visit to the States. I’m 8 years old and it’s 1970. What can you do in 1970 Caiifornia that you can’t do in Merseyside? Why, go to the drive-in, of course. And what’s on at the drive-in tonight? SCROOGE, the most horrifying cinema experience I have ever lived through. By the time the Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come was pointing his bony finger towards Scrooge’s future grave I was crying my eyes out and cowering in the back seat. Big fun.

    Another interesting thing about going to the drive-in in California: during the summer, of course, the films didn’t start until 9:00 PM…and then were frequently interrupted by dense, dense fog. In which case you got a ‘rain check’ and happy memories of the first half hour of Support Your Local Sheriff, or some such.

    Worst normal cinema experience? Being 11 years old and making my mother take me to see Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet. No story, and a bunch of animated sex scenes that I really wasn’t ready for yet. I still hate that movie today.

  4. It’s an uncomfortable movie at the best of times!

    Your Scrooge experience reminds me that apparently my first ever cinema experience was Dr Dolittle, on rerelease I guess. I started crying IMMEDIATELY — no one had told me the cinema would go DARK.

    Levi, another contender for me would be seeing a film I wrote, Burke and Hare the Musical, projected with massively distorting sound at Edinburgh Film Festival. The helpless projectionist would just crank the volume up another notch every five minutes in a vain attempt to make the soundtrack drown out the distortion, which just got worse.

  5. Haneke’s Hidden – a fullish crowd at Glasgow’s Cineworld. All is quiet as we enjoy the long immobile shot of a Parisian street followed by several not-much-busier shots of Auteuil and Binoche meandering round their flat. Fifteen minutes in – footsteps from the back of the auditorium as three Neds EXPLODE, run down the front and do ‘that’ dance – thumbs up, hips aswivel, faces like wronged ferrets, shouting ‘YA FUCKIN FRENCHIE FUCKIN BASTARDS!’ in front of the screen.

    It’s the fifteen minute long gradation of their ire: ‘Let’s give this a go’ … ‘something happen for Christ’s sake’ … ‘This is French’ … ‘It’s in French’ … ‘Why is everyone just sitting there?’ … ‘These people are not our own’ … ‘Somehow I and my creed are being laughed’ … explosion.

  6. If you ever go to see a western at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, there’s a fair chance you’ll find yourself in the company a 40-ish childlike man in an anorak who really, really likes cowboys, and makes excited exclamations at seemingly random moments. However, as you say, he might count as an enhancement. Last night, during The Assassination of Jesse James…, he yelped, “They’re still alive!” after Brad Pitt appeared to cut the heads off a couple of snakes. And he was right.

    If you can’t stand that kind of thing, sit near the front, as he prefers the second-back row.

    All of my worst cinema experiences have been in the Fountainpark Cineworld/UGC, and they’ve all involved blurry focusing or terrible sound (and when I complained that the sound cut out almost entirely during every loud bit in Hellboy, the manager told me, “That’s Del Toro’s sound design”). The worst bit of projection there, though, was during the last reel of Lasse Hallstrom’s The Hoax, when the image slipped off the screen, which meant that, during all the close-ups of people speaking, you couldn’t see their mouths.

  7. my Yvonner Rainer experience at the Tate Modern… conveniently forgotten about that hell… sort of audience with and her on stage with clips. I thought it would be two hours but no it was 4 HOURS LONG . Each time a clip was introduced I would get kind of excited to think something interesting would e shown and each time I my hopes were dashed. Then at one point we were watching a very bad copy of something and Ms Rainer protested and made them stop showing it ‘in respect to my cinematographer’ and GOD THE RELIEF for me the audience. Anyway trapped in the middle of a row I eventually fell asleep out of stupifaction / boredom. Eventually making my way late to meet a freind – hysterical as if I’d just been released from a cinematic prison.

    I went to the event by the way because I’d spent so many years reading about the woman’s work in essays… wish I’d spent the money on cakes or something…

  8. David how do I find you on twitter?

  9. ElstonGunn Says:

    Here’s a story related by my parents: Sometime in the mid-70s they went to a midnight screening of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD. After the first reel or so an excrutiatingly terrible smell started to fill the theater. Apparently, a lone drunkard in the last row had fallen unconscious and shit his pants. They got a refund and to this day haven’t seen the movie in its entirety.

    Myself? Don’t know if it counts, but a couple of years back I had to endure a completely silent screening of Chaplin’s GOLD RUSH. On top of being kinda awkward per se (because total silence tends to absurdly enhance every last breath, fart and muscle twitch in the auditorium), I was sitting next to a girl I was desperately (and, alas, unrequitedly) in love with. That sweet laugh o’ hers sure was torment. Made me wanna eat my shoes.

  10. I recall being at the cinema watching Christopher Nolan’s Memento, which I found extremely boring. For some reason, about half way through the film there was a technical difficulty with the projector, and the audience were offered refunds. I was quite pleased for the excuse to leave.

  11. david wingrove Says:

    My most bizarre movie-going experience was watching INDOCHINE in a near-derelict cinema in the East End of London. Sitting behind me were two elderly ladies, who kept up a running commentary on Catherine Deneuve’s wardrobe throughout the film.

    SAMPLE DIALOGUE

    (before opening credits)

    “Is this a French picture, Ethel?”

    “I think so.”

    “Oh good, I do like a French picture. People always look nice in French pictures. Not like the English ones.”

    (CD makes her entrance)

    “Ooh, look, Flo. Don’t she look lovely?”

    “That colour suits her a treat.”

    “Not for me, though. Bit too bright”

    (CD changes her gown.)

    “Ooh, that one’s nice! I could just fancy myself in that!”

    “Costs a few bob, though. What would Fred say?”

    Please bear in mind that INDOCHINE runs 2 1/2 hours, and these ladies did not shut up once. Also, it was a good 10 years before the DVD commentary…and vastly more entertaining than most!

    Many thanks, Flo and Ethel, wherever you are.

  12. Heh. Nice bunch of horror stories we’re collecting.

    Graham, it sounds more like you were part of somebody else’s worst experience, perhaps an entire audience’s! I can’t stand it when people laugh in the worng places, personally — although Lynch’s work often plays on an uncertainty about how one should react.

    One thing we can all learn here is that if our behaviour is annoying anyone, we should stifle it. The only human right that applies in the cinema is the right to remain silent.

    Diarmid: those mouths that were framed out in The Hoax: that’s just Hallstrom’s picture design. ;)

    M, no idea how anybody finds anybody on Twitter, but if you do a search for D Cairns I should appear.

    I saw Salo, in a cut version, back when it was banned, at the Uni Film Soc. The projector broke down halfway, and even though I had been very keen to see this rare, scandalous film, I was kind of relieved.

  13. Colin — welcome to Comments at last! You were part of one of my more memorable film experiences, at a certain Michael Winner movie. I’m writing about that soon.

    Elston, I suspect that sleeping tramp may have been a critic for a national broadsheet, passing his considered judgement.

  14. A couple of instances that come to mind, the first involving Cronenberg’s A History of Violence at the bargain cinema. The only place left in town still showing the film, I drove out on a Saturday morning to catch it before it was too late, and something was wrong with the sound. An intrusive noise kept getting louder and louder, I can only describe it as the sound flying saucers made in films back in the Fifties. Which would’ve been fine in that context, but not in this one. I complained, the sound died down, and then returned. In the second instance, in 1999 I was attending a packed house at the local art-house theatre to see the restored print of Welles’ Touch of Evil, and just when motel desk clerk Dennis Weaver appears onscreen outside Janet Leigh’s room the sound drops out. Silence. This goes on for what seems an eternity, you can see Weaver jabbering away, his whole frame animated with spastic anxiety, but I’m coming out of my skin because I CAN’T HEAR WHAT HE’S SAYING. The film stops, and we have an intermission while things are put back on track, but that whole sequence is lost, and while people in the audience are yelling “rewind”, myself included, this snooty little usherette less than half my age chastises the audience, telling us we’re not at home with our VCRs. Correct me if I’m mistaken, but I think the word “rewind” was in existence long before the advent of VCRs. I could’ve throttled that little bitch.

  15. Yes, and you can of course rewind film, since it comes on spools. It is quite a bit more time-consuming that rewinding a tape, since the film has to come out of the projector and be wound by hand, which means the cinema risks overrunning the timeslot, but all of that could be explained, with an offer of a refund, instead of scolding the audience.

    Worked in a cinema once. Lasted three days.

  16. That second anecdote for “Shivers” is utterly classic.

    My worst ever experience (and film) ever experienced in a cinema (some Manchester Multiplex thing) was the remake of “Halloween” (yes, I know…I know). During the last reel the cinema was invaded by a bunch of sixteen year old girly pot heads who sat right behind us and talked all the way through the movie ignoring our cries of pelase leave and shut up.

    Anyway, police were called in and we got our money back. To be honest, it made the whole movie a little better as Rob Zombie’s “film” was frankly one of the worst I have ever seen.

  17. Hee hee hee!

    I’ve had the usual glitches… Prince of Egypt way out of focus (“it’s the print”, they told me), The Aviator in the wrong ratio (“there’s nothing we can do”, they told me), fire alarm pulled during a Star Wars movie (we are angrily told there will be no readmission nor free passes), a winter screening of Mars Attacks in a theater with busted heating (only time I’ve had free passes handed out in-theater DURING the movie, soooo apologetic) and the Harold Lloyd reissues featuring newly recorded scores played completely silent (I am condescendingly told “sir, they’re silent films – there’s not supposed to be sound”), guy behind me SIGHING very loudly after every scene change.

    The only serious problems with audience members have been in NYC. Opening day of The Royal Tenenbaums the woman next to me isn’t just answering her phone, she’s dialing calls (“Did you make the reservations? Uh huh. Nine o’clock? No I’m at the movie. No I’m AT THE MOVIE!”) and opening week of The New World (the mythical 150-min cut) there’s a whole family of sugar-filled children behind me expecting an 80-minute sequel to Disney’s Pocahontas.

    Honestly though, all of these are tolerable… it’s sitting with a well-behaved audience through a perfect screening of a movie that you immediately realize is utter crap (recently: August Rush) that is truly horrifying.

  18. The only Zombie I’ve seen is his trailer from Grindhouse, which was OK: maybe that’s his ideal running time.

  19. NYC does seem to offer some memorable audiences — I’ve seen probably only ten films there, but had the psychotic stoner, plus a very loud snoring old lady (started as soon as the lights went down).

    In Marrakech, mobile phone calls during the film are standard — there are so many of them, though, it’s kind of easier to ignore.

  20. not bad story but a funny one. Afternoon matinee of The Constant Gardner at the Cameo. The main charaters (who were so dull I cannot remember their names neither the actors names) start getting it on really early in the film. Shocked interjection from along the row by morningside types ‘ALREADY’!

  21. Has anyone ever been in a cinema when it’s been hijacked? I went to see Theo Angelopoulos give a talk at the NFT back in 2003, and, at the time, there were demonstrators hovering outside the cinema in support of seven people on a hunger strike in a Greek prison (allegedly framed by the police). They made their way onto the stage and requested a five minute video be shown prior to the LANDSCAPE IN THE MIST screening. This video apparently contained evidence of the seven prisoner’s innocence; but, of course, having not been checked for clearance (no BBFC rating=illegal!), the staff politely declined (Geoff Andrew was shitting himself, poor fellow) and the protesters left quietly with the assurance that the tape would be handed to Angelopoulos when he arrived on stage (as it was). An interesting evening.

  22. ken abramson Says:

    My memorable theater-specific special effect took place during a showing of Death in Venice in Littleton, New Hampshire. While Aschenbach was broiling to slow death on the beach as his unobtainable dreamboat scampered through the waves, the camera alternated shots of sun, dreamboat and the dying Dirk complete with dripping shoe-polish/dye running through his scalp. Suddenly the screen irrupted into melting film stock and white screen. Then after a moment of silence, a voice from a loudspeaker informed the dazed audience that the film was over at that point anyway, so we could all go home. Most endings of all films have been mildly disappointing since that one.

  23. Wow. Well, at least that’s a pretty benevolent hijacking. And I tend to believe the prisoners were fitted up by the Greek fuzz, even without knowing anything about the case.

    As for the flaming Death in Venice, that sounds pretty impressive. For some reason, whenever I’ve seen Last Tango in Paris at the cinema, the curtains always start closing really early. I figure the ending is just Maria S repeating that line ad infinitum, and maybe Bertolucci wanted the curtains to close on that, but she’s hardly gotten the words out the first time and here comes the bloody curtain…

  24. Maybe they were combining DEATH IN VENICE with TWO LANE BLACKTOP!

    Ahh, just found this: http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/interviews/angelopoulos.html

  25. This is so entertaining.

    My worst was at the Odeon in Streatham (can’t even remember the film) where a group of young men in the darkness of the front row kept gesticulating and shouting out throughout the entire film. At the end I lifted my arm and mimed a pistol shot toward them then turned, exasperated, to the people along from me in the aisle and rolled my eyes looking for solidarity. Then the lights went up. They were Downs. The people next to me were their carers. I felt awful.

    The other terrible moments are all the standard ones of good films in cinemas populated by idiots who feel compelled to let everyone know their thoughts AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE. “This is shite” was the chorus around us in the Odeon Renfield St for Blair Witch Project as we tried to enjoy it. The next worse was my childhood emotions overwhelmed by the ending to Close Encounters interrupted by a Glasgow sneer and dismissive laugh at the alien hand-signing to Francois Truffaut. “But don’t you understand how beautiful it is?” I wanted to scream. Then there was the choc-ice that landed in my lap as the women in the seat in front gesticulated wildly to her friend. She looked at me and laughed. I was only 9. There’s a humiliation theme here isn’t there?

  26. Wow. I have a theory that many of our BEST cinema experiences, as well as our worst, involve our fellow audience members. I hope I’m right, otherwise we might as well all stay home!

  27. Simon Fraser Says:

    I was at a showing of SALO at the Edinburgh University Film Society. 2/3rd of the way through the film broke down and my best friend of the time took that opportunity to desert me and leave me to watch the rest of it by myself.

    ….wait…that WAS YOU CAIRNS!

  28. Watching BLUE VELVET at the Prince Charles Cinema when I was 16 and being unwittingly chatted up by the 50-something fellow sitting next to me before the lights dimmed. Once they had, his leg kept sliding to touch mine, no matter how far round I’d shift. Mercifully, there was a reel change cock-up which I took as my cue to find another seat (it was VERY full) but not before he’d tried to get my email address. Ah, good times.

  29. I think my mum encountered plenty of cinema creeps in her youth, seems like it was more common in the 50s/60s.

  30. There used to be a theatre on Detroit’s east side called The Woods, I saw many a film there in my youth, Ladies and Gentleman The Rolling Stones and 1984 with Richard Burton are two that come readily to mind. In the early Nineties I was managing a comic book store a few blocks down from the venue and one of my regulars was an usher there. It was through him that I learned of The Hair Sucker. Seems some male would sit behind a young woman with relatively long hair and surreptitiously put the ends of her hair in his mouth. The young woman would leave the theatre with saliva-dampened strands after film’s end, and the perpetrator was never caught. All this merited a mention in the Grosse Pointe newspaper, big news in an otherwise low-key suburb.

  31. Watching a Russian film–the title escapes me–and having a man near me READ OUT LOUD all of the subtitles to his companion, who, I dunno, either couldn’t read English or was blind.

    The three teens who sat behind me in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN TIGER and who had a running commentary up until the point, about two-thirds of the way through, when I turned around and screamed, like a truly demented person, “WILL! YOU! PLEASE! SHUT! UP!!!!” They did, in fact, but too late. I had a pounding headache the rest of the film.

  32. The Hair Sucker probably died from a massive hairball.

    The trouble with cinema hogs is, by the time you’re annoyed enough to really shout at them, you’re enjoyment is spoiled. Unless you’re naturally furious and enjoy it.

    Last year I was guilty of shushing Shean Connery… that was a proud moment.

  33. To Jon – re Blue Velvet

    e-mail? in 1986? Was time travel involved in this worst experience?

  34. I suspect Jon saw the film in rep, and is younger than you imagine…

    I was wondering if Jon’s worst experience was going to be connected with Graham Rye’s, and if my blog was finally going to act as a kind of sinister Friends Reunited, but it seems they were at different cinemas in different years.

  35. Yes, BLUE VELVET got re-released briefly in London around the time of MULHOLLAND DRIVE.

  36. On the basis that, if you can handle Mulholland, Blue Velvet should be a cinch. As long as you don’t get assailed by strange men, that is.

  37. Michael Taggart Says:

    An experience that comes to mind with regards to dreadful experiences at the cinema took place when I was about 12 years old. My mother was pretty cool about taking me to “restricted” features because she liked to go to the movies as well, and pop was usually at work. Thanks to her, I was an early fan of Argento (Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Three Flies, etc). On one of our trips to the movies, I was allowed to invite a friend, and lucky for me, we sat in another section of the theater than my mom and (uggh) my grand mother. The film was “The Valachi Papers”. Yeah, pretty much a bit of exploitation that I was dying to see. I was into the whole depression era gangster stories at the time. My grandmother, who was in her late 60′s at the time, had no idea what she was about to see. To those of you unfamiliar with this lowbrow Charles Bronson pic, there’s nudity, swearing and graphic (for the time) violence throughout the film. Well, granny became, shall we say, rather unsettled by the accounts taking place on the big screen. Whenever a curse word was uttered, she would cry out “Oh my!” and “Oh Lord!”. We could hear this on the other side of the theater! When the nudity began, it just got worse. My friend and I laughed about it. But toward the end of the film, one of Joe Valachi’s pals becomes victim to a crime boss for “dipping his pen in company ink” by getting castrated. That was it! She went nuts! We could hear her crying out and my mother’s voice trying to calm her down. Yeah, it was funny…until the lights came up, and we had to reunite with mom and grandma in the lobby of the theater. Audience members who sat near her gave us all dirty looks like “Why did you bring that old woman to see a film like this?” and “Are those your kids?” I laugh about it now, but man, talk about humiliation…

  38. I’ve never seen that particular Bronson, but it’s striking to me how very nasty his entertainments usually were. In the midst of nostalgia for the great stuff ’70s Hollywood was capable of, it’s salutary to note how gruesome and unpleasant the straight genre films often were, sewing the seeds for Star Wars to appear like a breath of fresh air, and thus destroying everything…

  39. John Smith Says:

    I did see The Valachi Papers when it came out. For a film BASED on a non-fictional story, it seemed less sincere than other gang films of the time. It really was a poor man’s Godfather. Bad haircuts and hairdos from the wrong period (it was done in the seventies by people who were stuck in the early sixties, so everything looked at once fully anachronistic, the ’20s to ’40s looking like the ’60s and out of date).

    Bronson was so big in his day, the highest paid actor in the world during the mid seventies. And he was the most popular film star in the world, big in Asia and Africa and behind the Iron Curtain. Today, nobody even knows him or any of his starring films. How the mighty disappear.

  40. It’s reassuring that one day Once Upon a Time in the West will probably be the only starring role he’s remembered for. Because it was just about the only good film he ever starred in. His popularity seems mysterious now. True, Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris have enjoyed popularity quite recently, but not on that scale. Bronson may have been a better actor… possibly… but his films are not greatly superior, it seems to me. All they have now is a quasi-nostalgic 70s-ish vibe that largely makes me glad that era’s gone.

    The John Ford to Bronson’s Wayne, Michael Winner, is still alive and making insurance commercials in the UK.

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