It only occurred to me recently, when I saw a news article that announced Arnold Schwarzenegger’s immortal line “I’ll be back” in ‘The Terminator’ as the most memorable film line in history that, ironically, it’s lines and moments like these that almost diminish the original film that such a iconic moment came from. And I can’t shake the feeling from my head, as I’m sitting here typing out a 3rd person narrative of myself like a 1950′s noir, that it’s only going to get worse.
There are so many classic movie lines in the history of cinema, but most people (and I only consider these people to be not as obsessed with films as I am, I’m a cinéphile and proud) only know ‘The Godfather’ for Brando’s cotton ball mouthed “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” and not for the horse head or that fateful fishing trip, and then people imagine that’s all they need to know about the film, a single quote. As the years progress, I can only imagine this to become more noticeable, as great film starts to lose notice. Hell, I can see the day when I’m 50 and see teens asking their mates “Why so serious?” without even knowing how Joker got those scars, Because a quote like that in Nolan’s brilliant ‘The Dark Knight’ has so many brilliant moments it’s beacon shines that simple question and all the other scenes are overlooked (although, Heath Ledger reciting of ‘Jerry Maguire’s “You complete me”, while hypocritical on my part, is astounding from the late actor.)
I first experienced a moment like this a couple of years back, when I watched Hitchcock’s unbelievable masterpiece ‘Psycho’ for the first time. I prepared myself, ready for the classic synchronised screaming of violins and victim as the mystery murderer plunges the knife in her again and again. And as I expected, it arrived in beautiful black and white.
But when it came, I felt nothing.
I had no real emotions or thoughts on the scene because it had been spelled out to me already, I was spoon-fed this scene gradually for years so that before I had even experienced it for myself, I already knew what my opinion of it would be, Which is saddening for me, really. But that all changed as I carried on watching the movie.
I was always suspicious of Norman Bates the moment he stepped in shot, he had a very child-like manner about him, superb acting and directing I would say, but I was never so suspicious to suspect him of murder. And it was that singular shot of Norman’s mother that still haunts my dreams today, why that image isn’t as immortalised as the opening I thank God for. But that wasn’t my particular favourite moment for me. I was the investigation in the Bates house as Detective Milton climbs the stairs. An over-head shot surveys the whole of the action as a figure dressed in a woman’s nightgown charges at him, knife in hand. I walked into the screening expecting a casual 1960′s classic to relax to, I left with wet trousers.
Moments like these are left unspoiled, but I’m still left with a fear that people summarise a film by one single repeated line or scene and feel that they don’t need to see said film. The list is endless, so many icons that are so large and so overplayed that they leave the film itself in the shadow. Rocky climbing the steps. Indy running from the boulder.
“You talkin’ to me?”
“We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
“I see dead people.”
“Say hello to my little friend!”
“Shaken not stirred.”
I could go on for as long as I like, but don’t get me wrong, all of these moments should be celebrated, recited at parties and anticipated during movie marathons. I only wish they weren’t done to death. Because they are killing them. And the worst part is that it can’t be stopped. A better wish is that the whole of the film should be idolised, rather than the part.
Which is why I’ve reached another epiphany. Because there are brilliant, genius creations like this in the world, and because they need to be celebrated, rather than merchandised, I’ll dedicate my life to showing people who are unfortunate enough to not have experienced moments like “Here’s Johnny!” themselves. I’m going to point them to even greater moments, like how Nicholson went bat-s**t crazy before the axe mayhem, or practically every glorious shot in ‘Apollo 13′ before “Houston, we have a problem.”
So the next time you see a kooky, animated, run-of-the-mill comic-relief character doing their usual butchering of a classic movie line, think about the origin of that line, the love and care that screen-writer, director and actor put into to craft cinematic glory, and how it became canned fodder for desperate humour in a big-eyed annoying ferret. Then you can turn that film off, and play the genuine movie instead.
Oh, and may the force be wth you.
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