King Solomon's Mine, Thumbs Down - Navigator, Thumbs UpTuesday, January 16, 2007
There is a keen enjoyment in deciding on a movie that I can watch on a Saturday with Rebecca who is 9. I want to replicate those rosy periods of my life when my father and mother or my grandmother took me to the movies. It is difficult because going to the movies with them involved the excitement of taking the train to Retiro in Buenos Aires and then connecting from there on the "subte" (subway) that would take us to Lavalle which was the station below the long street that was one movie house after another. In what they called "programa continuado" we would go into a movie, and see the middle of the movie, the beginning and then we would leave where we had arrived to go to another. We saw cowboy, pirate movies and even war movies. If Abuelita did not like these movies she was pretty good at hiding it. After the shows we would then go and sip on tall strawberry or chocolate ice cream sodas. My parents were a bit more discerning and took me to see movies they wanted to see. That is how I saw Beau Geste and most of the other Gary Cooper films. My mother loved Herbert Marshall, Joseph Cotton, Ronald Colman, Stewart Granger (she took me to Scaramouche, twice) and Leslie Howard. We saw as many Gene Tierney movies as came to Argentina, including my favourite ghost story movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir with Rex Harrison. But I was scared to death by Katherine Hepburn's pants and hated her movies. My guess is that the woman confused my early sexuality. One of the best moments was going to see Laura (with not only Gene Tierney but with Dana Andrews) with my father and mother. I could not help but notice that my father's trench coat was very similar to Andrews's. That could be why I have had a special fondness for all of Dana Andrews's movies ever since.
Seeing a film on our own TV, without having to go anywhere, is not quite the same thing. It means that if the movie does not interest Rebecca she can get up and go to the piano or out into the garden. And she has been quick to do that. I have to be very selective.
I have picked some good ones which have backfired on me. Rebecca nags me that she wants to see Tarzan of the Apes again. We enjoyed Gunga Din but Roman Holiday taxed her attention span. I was right that the special effects of the much more recent (1985) Young Sherlock Holmes would suck her into seeing it. I would not be surprised if she insists we see Scaramouche again.
On Saturday night I took out two film DVDs from Videomatica. One I thought was a sure bet. I picked the Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger Technicolor King Solomon's Mines. As soon as the the two hunters in a safari shot two elephants, Granger's sympathetic and sensitive safari leadership was not enough to calm down Rebecca. But on a lark I took out my favourite time-travel film of all time, Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey. This 1988 Vincent Ward New Zealand (in co-production with Australia) has a fairly complicated plot. Rebecca (and Lauren, 4, was never bored), was transfixed by the b+w portions of the film that give the impression someone took a time machine into a 14th century Cumbria copper-mining village to film it. Once it ended Rebecca ran to my computer to Google "the plague". I read her the best description on how the plague started from Edward Rutherford's Sarum.
On a warm August morning, a little after dawn, the small ship had passed the low headland and come slowly through the sheltered harbour waters to tie up beside the quay at Christchurch. The ship contained a cargo of wine, from the English province of Gascony in south west France. The sailors, eight bluff, healthy fellows came briskly down the gangplank and were welcomed by the men of the waterfront. Soon afterwards they began to unload.
They did not know about their passenger and his small companion.
Rebecca was shocked when Rutherford reveals the mysterious passenger to be a black rat and his companion a common flea.