Tilting at Windmills || Man of La Mancha

If I haven’t mentioned it before, my gateway drug into classic film was the movie musical. My Father, a trained psychologist, used them to entice his daughters away from a glut of cartoons and into the world of “live-action.” I admit, with all honesty, that I was once terrified by this prospect. I’m not sure precisely what traumatized me about non-animated cinema (I suspect I glimpsed something that I shouldn’t have and my young brain just kind of shut down on the matter), but for years any film that occupied more than two-dimensions gave me a deep sense of unease. 

My Father, however, was undaunted by the challenge, determined to share with us the (age-appropriate) films he loved. A clever man (I learned early-on the significance of Dr. Jeffrey’s Ph.D.), Dad noticed how I relished my Disney Sing-Alongs. Music then (no-imminent-pun-intended), was the key to getting little-Meg to watch something other than Aladdin for the ninth time. We started with Singin’ in the Rain, then Hello Dolly!, and then moved on to the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection. By the time I left my single-digit years behind, I had fallen in love with cinema’s song-and-dance-men (and women).

One afternoon, I recall Papa telling my sister and I to go to our rooms and see what was on our beds. Scurrying down the hallway, I discovered the double-VHS version of Camelot, while my sister, who was a devoted fan of Wishbone, in particular the episode entitled “The Impawssible Dream,” found Man of La Mancha (1972) propped up on her pillow. As summarized on the film’s IMDb page: “The story of a mad, but kind and chivalrous, elderly nobleman, who, aided by his squire Sancho Panza, fights windmills to save his Dulcinea.” 

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Here’s Lookin’ at You || Casablanca

“Everybody Comes to Rick’s” … At least that is what I assume was written on the invitation.

My first experience with Casablanca was a fancy-dress housewarming party, thrown by my parents after they had finished constructing our new home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The event took place in our spacious, fully-furnished basement, and neither my sister nor I were invited. It was after our bedtime, but I remember our doorbell ringing, adults strolling in wearing trench coats or elegant gowns. They looked different from the grownups I was used to, many of them having traded their Stetsons for Fedoras. This was because, I later learned, the party was Casablanca-themed (my parent were such nerds). Today, the only momentos of that dreamlike occasion are the movie poster that hangs on Robin’s wall (my Dad, Richard, invited all the guests to sign the back of the frame), and the peacock-blue, bejeweled dress that hung for years thereafter in my mom’s closet.

This was “the start of [my] beautiful friendship” with the quintessential Hollywood flick. As summarized on its IMDb page: “A cynical nightclub owner protects an old flame and her husband from Nazis in Morocco.”

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Comedy, in the Conservatory, with the Candlestick || Clue

In the days before streaming, good ol’ fashioned channel surfing exposed the kid sis and me to a variety of movies (some good, many mediocre, and a few really terrible ones starring Steven Seagal). We first saw the second half of Clue (1985) on Comedy Central one evening while I was babysitting. The lack of parents in the immediate vicinity probably explained how we got away with watching the flick, and although a few jokes whizzed over our tender, young heads, the slapstick and sight gags kept us glued to the couch, even during commercial breaks.

We were also huge murder mystery buffs, having devoured Conan Doyle and Christie throughout middle school, and we regularly teased our brains playing (and sometimes cheating at) the eponymous board game. After our initial truncated viewing, during which we sobbed with laughter, we wanted more. Fortunately, Comedy Central had a repeat showing, enabling us to see the entire film the next day. And it was So. Much. Fun. As summarized on its IMDb page: “Six guests are invited to a strange house and must cooperate with the staff to solve a murder mystery.”

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Nothing to it, But to do it || Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Every summer, I get the urge to write. A craving to create something that is largely for me (although family, friends, and kind strangers are also welcome to peruse – validate me).

Let’s get Dangerous Nerdy.

About a year ago, my sister and I toyed with the idea of doing a podcast on lessons-learned through the viewing of classic films; there is a wealth of knowledge and beauty to be mined from these flicks. We wanted to give parents a glimpse into what they offer, and we also wanted to take on a project that our late father once held near and dear to his heart.

The podcast fell through, but the idea (like Don Quixote charging windmills on the plains of La Mancha), refuses to quit. Ergo, starting today, I will make weekly posts on the classic* films of my yester-years and share what makes them worth your time.

* “classic” does not refer to quality, but will instead mean any movie that was made before 1990.

These posts will not be limited to “kids” movies either. I watched a lot of stuff growing up, some of it very scary and/or serious, which I no longer regret. However, in an effort to prevent well-meaning parentals from psychologically-scarring their little ones, I’ll conclude each post with a Head’s Up report on aspects of the film that can be frightening, problematic, or require off-screen chats. I’ll also be discussing numerous plot points in each post, so spoilers will be tagged in blue.

I embark on this endeavor with a review of Disney’s live-action fantasy: Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). As summarized on its IMDb page: “an apprentice-witch, three kids and a cynical conman search for the missing component to a magic spell useful to the defense of Britain.”

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