by Maria Lagalante Schulz
While eating my popcorn the other night, it occurred to me that the Summer Blockbuster season is just about to start. I love all kinds of movies, but I especially love summer movies because they:
1) Are usually loud and just scary enough to keep me engaged
2) Require little or no thought on my part
3) Allow me to eat vast amounts of popcorn and candy like I’m still 12
I haven’t seen a really great summer blockbuster in awhile. Last year, I did get to see Angels and Demons, which was fun because it was kind of loud, made very little sense, and I had a fistful of popcorn in one hand and Goobers in the other. The plot wasn’t great, but I’m not looking for an Art film when I’m watching summer movies.
So here, in no particular order, are the six summer movies that I rank among my favorites of all time:
I can trace my love of the summer movie back to 1975, when Jaws opened in theaters around the country.
My parents decided I was too young to go, so I sat in the back of our lime green station wagon and waved goodbye to my older brothers, who got to stand on line, in the blazing summer sun, sometimes for an hour or two. But they were the lucky ones!
If they actually got inside (you never knew if there would still be tickets left when you got to the window, especially since that line wrapped around Northern Boulevard by the Quartet Theater), they would see the coolest movie I’d ever heard about.
I didn’t really blame my parents for making me skip this one. I was only three years out of thinking Blacula was a scary horror movie and I’d woken my parents more times then they cared to remember. They knew it wasn’t such a leap of faith to think that I might start refusing to swim not just in the ocean, but also in any pools or even the bathtub. My active imagination came back to bite me.
Plus, there was an unfortunate, Jaws-related incident that sealed my fate. My brother Louie left his copy of the novel on the dining room table one night, and I scooped it up. I sat there, trying to get through the first chapter of the novel, delighted that I would know the storyline without even seeing the movie.
What I didn’t count on was the fact that Peter Benchley could paint a picture that would end up disturbing me on many different levels, not the least of which was my extremely sensitive gag factor. As I read about the poor young girl who goes for a late-night skinny-dipping adventure, my heart began to pound a little too hard.
“The Shark’s going to eat you!” I kept saying to the poor girl, who even I could see was about to be rendered into chum.
When the shark bit through her leg and she reached down to find just bone before she realized she was a goner, I was a goner too. I reached for my leg and everything went black. The next thing I knew, my father was standing over me.
“WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?” He screamed.
I tried to shake the cobwebs from my eyes. “I think I fainted.”
My father saw the novel laying next to me where I’d fallen underneath the dining room table. “WHY THE HELL DO YOU DO THESE THINGS?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. But then the images came back into my head and I bolted up. “I HAVE TO THROW UP.”
My father dragged me to the bathroom, where I lost my lunch just thinking about that poor girl’s late-night misadventure and the shark’s midnight buffet.
I lay on the cold tiles while I heard my father rant outside the door. “Sarita, why do you let her read those things?”
I closed my eyes. I was too upset to take the blame myself. Poor Mom would have to take it on the chin this time.
By the time I was about 12, my parents decided that I was old enough to go to the movies with friends. I was lucky, because I had lots of great friends who were always up for a popcorn-fueled adventure.
There were lots of things I used to love doing with my dear friend Maureen. We’d watch The Guiding Light together, praying for Roger Thorpe to come back. Luckily, the writers obliged us, even though Roger was thrown off a cliff, seemingly dismembered and possibly eaten by sharks and declared dead, dead, dead on three separate occasions. But by far, my favorite thing to do with Maureen was go to the movies. We’d hop on the bus and head out to a day of adventure and possible theater hopping.
With a tub of popcorn in one hand and a pack of Goobers or M&Ms in the other, Maureen and I saw movie after movie together. No one was more delighted than me when the movie gods re-released Jaws in the summer of 1978.
With Maureen by my side, we stood on a ridiculously long line at the Quartet Theater until we finally got inside the air-conditioned paradise we’d been waiting for. We scrambled up the stairs to the balcony, clutching our salty, sweet treasures, and got the best center row seats we could find. I explained that vomiting/fainting were both options, but Maureen gamely sat next to me anyway. As the music sped up, I hid my face in her shoulders until she gave me the “all clear.” I felt my heart race every time the DA DUM DA DUM DA DUM rang out.
The first group of people who ended up as shark bait weren’t really to blame; I mean, why stay out of the water? It’s not like a 25-foot long Great White is trolling the 3-foot depths, right?
It’s the second group of people that I don’t quite understand. After that kid on the raft got eaten like a chew toy and that Black Lab went missing, I’d have to say “no thanks,” when the Mayor (who wasn’t going in the water mind you), insisted that I take my small children and husband in to show EVERYONE else that it was perfectly safe.
And what, was that shark on a diet or something? He’d kill one person and then go on his merry way. Thank goodness he wasn’t a future contestant on the underwater version of THE GREATEST LOSER: SHARK FIGHT.
I completely identified with Chief Brody. I was afraid of the water too, but unlike the good Chief, there was no way in hell I would ever get on a ship with someone as crazy as Quint. Isn’t that the whole point of hiring someone to go kill a shark for you? Still, in the end, I kept hoping the shark would spit Quint out like a giant cat with a fur ball instead of chowing down while Quint screamed. That was a bummer!
I managed to get through my Jaws-watching episode without any physical repercussions, so Reenie and I stayed for the second showing. Good times!
I saw this movie with my friends, Marianne and Ann, and my brother, Chris. We took the Q27 down to Main Street, Flushing to see the Rebel Cause scramble while the Empire struck back.
It was such a steamy-hot July day that you could see the heat rising off the blacktop as we jumped off the bus. The four of us waited on a line that snaked down the block from the RKO Keith’s in anticipation of seeing “that really cool movie with the surprise ending.”
Of course, some teenagers who saw the show before us tried to ruin it by telling Marianne and Ann the ending before we could get in. Luckily I didn’t hear it…until Marianne told me too and I was incensed!
I was still grumbling and upset when we finally got inside, but it all subsided when we nabbed four great, center-row seats in the balcony. There was nothing like seeing a movie at The RKO Keith’s, a theater that had seen better days but was still impressive and grand. The seats were plush and roomy, the dimensions of the place were palatial, and the screen was enormous.
Even though the theater was now a triplex, it was still huge, with an amazing surround sound system that made it seem like the walls were rocking and rolling as the battle raged on.
I thoroughly enjoyed Luke’s metaphysical training with Yoda, a funny-looking little green guy with Frank Oz’s voice. Yoda was a badass in Muppet clothing. Yoda warned Luke “Do or do not. There is no try. There is only do.” He also yelled at Luke in his backwards English, ““Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” Here was a guy whose philosophy I could totally buy into. The fact that he sounded a lot like my Puerto Rican grandmother (and was probably just as tall) also endeared him to me.
Obi Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, R2-D2, Chewbacca, C-3PO, Lando Calrissian—every character (even the robots) was fraught with complex needs and desires that moved the story forward and compelled you to root for them.
Darth Vadar’s ruthless dispatch of anyone who got in his way reminded me a lot of my Catholic school years and some of the teachers I encountered there. I still even managed to be surprised when he said “Luke, I am your father,” despite the fact that those rotten teenagers told us about it earlier.
When the movie was over, we hopped back on the Q13 and stopped at White Castle for some cheeseburgers and milk shakes. The perfect ending to a perfect day!
ET: The Extraterrestrial
I hadn’t gone to the movies with my parents in awhile when ET came to theaters in 1982, but my twin, Chris, and I joined them at the Bayside Twin one Sunday afternoon anyway. There was no air conditioning at our house and even my father (who usually seemed unaware of the blistering heat thanks to his uniform of a wife-beater’s t-shirt and cut-off shorts) thought that an afternoon in a cold place seemed like a great idea.
The movie had been out awhile when we went, so it wasn’t packed to the gills. Most people were probably out enjoying the beach, but we were happily munching on Good-n-Plenty, Twizzlers and popcorn with a Coca-Cola chaser while the movie started to draw us in.
Here was another Muppet creature that I would soon love. That shiny finger! That sensitive streak a mile wide! He was a botanist on his planet, for Pete’s sake! All he wanted was TO PHONE HOME! His devotion to keeping everyone from worrying back on the home planet and asking for a ride made my mother proud.
“If he was one of you kids, he’d tell me later that he couldn’t find a phone. But there’s a pay phone on every corner in this neighborhood,” my mother whispered. “ET has to build a phone just to call his planet. But he managed somehow!”
I wanted to remind my mother that even if I did call, I would just get a busy signal. Either she was on the phone with my grandmother, listening to a litany of complaints about my uncle, or one of my brothers was on the phone. Either way, I couldn’t get through if I tried. This was before Call Waiting. I wonder if ET would encounter that problem?
I didn’t share that thought with my mother, but it did occur to me that somehow ET was managing to cause my brothers and me some trouble. Even so, I loved that creepy little brown fella. I also loved Elliot, his kind 10-year-old soul mate, who cracked me up when he was “linked” to ET and started acting weird in school because ET was drinking beer at home. I thought Michael, Elliot’s brother, was believable, because he could be a big pain in the neck while also going out of his way to help Elliot and get ET home. I got a kick out of watching Gertie (young Drew Barrymore) teach ET how to talk and play dress up.
As a mother now, I can understand Elliot’s mom’s reaction to ET when she sees her son looking gray and he tells her “I think we may be dying.” Um, excuse me? If I thought that weird little creature was sucking the life out of my kid, I’d have ripped him to shreds myself.
At the time, though, I thought Elliot’s mom had ice water running through her veins. My boy ET was screaming “ELLIOT!” and she took him away. Thank goodness for those scientists, though, because it wouldn’t be long before Elliot and ET were laying side by side.
I clutched my mother’s hand and heard quiet sobbing all around us when it seemed that ET had died. But then…he was ALIVE! Elliot and Michael busted him OUTTA there! They got to ride FLYING BICYCLES!
It was a great movie. But even more than that, it was a great afternoon spent with both of my parents and my twin brother. Topped off with slices from VI Pizza on Bell Boulevard, the day could not have been better.
Revenge of the Pink Panther
“Is that your Minkey?”
“Cato, you raving Oriental idiot! There is a time and place for everything, Cato! And this is it!”
Blind beggar: I am a musician and the monkey is a businessman. He doesn’t tell me what to play, and I don’t tell him what to do with his money.
[after the incident with the blind beggar]
Dreyfus: The beggar was the lookout man for the gang.
Clouseau: That is impossible. How can a blind man be a lookout?
Dreyfus: How can an idiot be a police officer?
Clouseau: Well, all he has to do is enlist…
Dreyfus: Shut up!
Inspector Jacques Clouseau: [in Dreyfus’ office, after Clouseau’s apartment has been bombed] I tell you, infamous powers are at work! The instant you assign me to a case, the Underworld hears about it and I am set upon! It is amazing that I am still alive!
Dreyfus: [forcing himself not to giggle] “Amazing” is the polite term.
Inspector Jacques Clouseau: Do I detect something in your voice that says I am in disfavor with you?
Dreyfus: YES! I wish you were DEAD!
Inspector Jacques Clouseau: Well, of course, you are entitled to your opinion.
Clouseau: Special delivery—a bomb. [pronounced “beumb”]
Clouseau: Were you expecting one? A beumb?
While I realize that, as far as movies go, this one will never win any accolades for intelligence or scriptwriting, it had me at “Minkey.” I went to see it with my brothers Joey, Paul and Chris. We sat in the balcony at the Fresh Meadows Twin, with a giant bucket of popcorn to share.
We laughed until our sides ached. From the “minkey” to the fight scenes with Cato, to Inspector Dreyfus’s constant laughing (hidden as weeping) while he said Clouseau’s “eulogy,” it never occurred to us that this was the weakest of the Pink Panther movies. We thought it was hilarious and couldn’t wait for the next one. Who knew it would be the last of the Pink Panther movies starring Peter Sellers?
Paul was laughing so hard and kicking the ledge in front of us, until finally, the whole bucket of popcorn tipped over onto the people downstairs. Luckily, the movie was over at this point so we were able to make a hasty exit without missing any of the laughs.
Afterwards, we ran to the Bagel Nosh and got bagels and iced tea while we waited for our Mom to come get us. It was probably one of the last times I went to a movie with just those three brothers. We had fun, which was something of a revelation, since we were always fighting when we were at home.
I was born to hand jive, baby. I stood on a line that wrapped around the Fresh Meadows Twin and past the Bagel Nosh with Chris, my future sister-in-law Kathie, Maureen, Marianne and Ann just to see Grease.
We stood there in the broiling sun, wondering if we would ever get inside. We did, finally, and had just enough time to get popcorn, candy and drinks before we ran inside to search for seats.
The balcony was full, so we had to grab the nearest row of seats we could find. Thank goodness we didn’t have to sit in the first row, because who wants to sit there and crane your neck the whole time?
Since our class had put on a rousing rendition of “Grease” called “Greasy” in the 6th grade, we already knew many of the songs. Our teachers thought it would be fun to have us sing “We Go Together” to the departing 8th graders, who laughed so hard as we fumbled through the song that I thought they might suffocate themselves.
But on the bright side, we knew all the words, so we sang, danced and cheered our way through the movie without thinking too hard. I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. It never occurred to me that Olivia Newton John was WAY too old to play any high school senior, unless she was playing one that had been left back about a dozen times.
In years to come, I would find Sandy’s decision to tart up very annoying. All Danny did was get a letter sweater to show her that he could be “her man.” Sandy basically lowered her standards and changed to make her grease monkey happy. Why should Sandy change? Was Danny Zuko the best she could ever do?
Thankfully, I was not in thinking mode while watching Grease in 1978. I was in FUN mode. Summer mode. Dance, sing, and enjoy mode, which is the only way to watch this movie. Sit back and enjoy some great star turns by Sid Ceaser, Eve Arden, Alice Ghostly (one of my favorites as Esmeralda on Bewitched), Stockard Channing and a ton of others who make this movie a joy to watch.
If the cheese factor isn’t making you gag, enjoy the music and the dancing. I am still impressed by John Travolta’s ability to light up the dance floor, and I liked Danny Zuko a lot more than the Brooklyn bozo he portrayed in Saturday Night Fever.
Hilarious lines and a plot that turned the airline disaster movie on its head made this movie laugh-out-loud funny. I saw it at the Fresh Meadows Twin with Tony, Kathie, Chris, John and Maureen. We were screaming with laughter over such lines as:
Jive Lady: Oh stewardess, I speak Jive.
Elaine Dickinson: There’s no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?
Ted Striker: It’s Lieutenant Hurwitz. Severe shell-shock. Thinks he’s Ethel Merman.
Lieutenant Hurwitz [played of course, by Ethel Merman, singing] You’ll be swell, you’ll be great. Gonna have the whole world on a plate. Startin’ here, startin’ now. Honey, everything’s comin’ up roses….
Ted Striker: War is hell.
The jokes were corny but the laughs just kept coming. Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Julie Hagerty, Robert Hayes, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and yes, Ethel Merman delivered laughs consistently throughout this goofy little gem.
It was one of the first movies I went to see at night, since Tony and Kathie drove us there. The theater was packed and it was exciting to be out amongst the living past sundown.
After the movie was over, we went to Baskin & Robbins on 188th Street and enjoyed ice cream cones filled with pralines & cream or jamoca almond fudge. I was growing up—life wasn’t just vanilla or chocolate anymore.
So what are your favorite Summer movies? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.
You Know You Crave Them: Homemade Sliders
I don’t know about you, but if I ran out to get burgers, pizza, and two fistfuls of candy and popcorn every time I went to the movies today, I would now weigh about 500 pounds. So, I have learned to compromise a little. These homemade mini-burgers may be small but they’re big on taste. Summer time means grilling, so get ready to whip up a batch of these mini-burgers meant for sharing. Enjoy.
8 Martin’s dinner rolls (the small rolls)
1 lb. lean chopped beef
2 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Country Dijon Mustard
1 small yellow onion, diced
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put your chopped beef in a bowl, and add the other ingredients. Make 8 mini-burgers (about half the size of a normal burger). Put them on the grill and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
Add tomatoes, lettuce, and garnishes to taste. Slip them on your dinner rolls and eat up. They are delicious.
For 7 fantastic Movie Night Popcorn treats you can whip up at home, go to: