Back in the very early 1980's, as my movie-loving jones was reaching it's apex, my friends and I used a simple and time-honored method to see R-rated fare like "Dawn the Dead", "The Warriors, "Heavy Metal" and others of that ilk that we were too young to buy tickets for: we bought tickets for PG films, then snuck into the R-rated ones when the ushers weren't around.
It worked very well, and we generally were able to see most of the movies we wanted to, at least ones at certain theaters. Northtown Cinema in Milwaukee was a dream come true..all the theaters were down hallways from the box office, the place was understaffed with lazy ushers, etc. Simple as pie. Mill Road Theaters was tricky...all the theaters entrances were right in the lobby, and the ushers were vengeful nerds who obviously were the outcasts of their high school and thus used this job as a chance to return the persecution favor (even stooping so low as to confiscate a can of soda I had in my back pocket once). And the great Oriental Theater in Milwaukee, back when they were a double-bill rep house, didn't care who they let in. For some reason, they were fine with two 14 year-old kids walking up to the box office and buying tickets for a John Waters festival or a double-feature of "Mad Max" and "A Clockwork Orange.". Good times.
So like I said, this system worked pretty well. We were movie fiends, and generally tried to see 4/5 films a month. I should also note that we weren't just trying to see R-rated films for the sake of seeing nudity or whatever (although nudity was not frowned upon). We wanted to see genre films...sci-fi, horror and cult movies, many of which in that era were rated R (think "Alien", "Halloween, "Phantasm", etc).
But sometimes the plan went horribly awry. What follows is an account of one such time.
In the spring of 1981, my friend and I were dying to see "Scanners", the newest David Cronenberg movie. We had previously seen Cronenberg's awesome "The Brood" and "Rabid" at The Oriental and had subsequently developed an interest in him. Plus, the trailer for "Scanners" showed a guys head exploding. I mean, if the trailer showed a guy's head exploding, the movie itself must be awesome, right? We checked the showtimes in the paper, and to our delight saw that it was playing at Northtown, practically our headquarters for sneaking into movies.
We caught a city bus to the theater. Bought our tickets for the PG movie we intended to skip out on. So far so good. Then we scouted to the hallways to see where "Scanners" was playing. To our horror, there was an usher posted in front of the door. Time for some method acting. We walked towards the door, talking like nothing was out of the ordinary, just going to see "Scanners." Suddenly the usher said the two words we dreaded: "Tickets, please."
Having no choice, we showed him our tickets. He looked at them and said "This theater is showing "Scanners." These tickets are for "____________." That's in the theater over there." OK, no big deal...this has happened before. You just go to your movie, wait for it to start, then slip out and into the other theater. You miss a few minutes of the flick, but sometimes a price must be paid. But this was no ordinary usher we were dealing with. This was some new breed of super usher. Everytime we looked out or pretended to go to the bathroom, there he was, eyeing us balefully. The jig was up. He had our number. At least for that day.
So we had to sit and endure the entire PG movie. And what was the movie, who's title I purposefully left blank above in order to build the drama? Well friends, that movie was this:
That's right: "Going Ape!" A movie starring Tony Danza as a man charged with caring for 3 orphaned orangutans so that he can inherit $5 million dollars. Hilarity ensues. Especially when the mob gets involved and tries to kill the apes for some reason I can't quite remember.
So instead of seeing this:
We were forced to watch this for an interminable hour and a half.
Which means instead of watching someone's head explode, we felt like ours were going to. Or wished they would, as watching "Going Ape!" is a experience that makes you long for the sweet release that death will bring. Make no mistake: I have nothing against orangutans in film, per se. I love both examples of the Clint Eastwood bare-knuckle brawlin' with an ape by your side ouvre ("Every Which way But Loose" and "Any Which Way You Can"), and in fact own both on DVD (thanks to a Sam Goody store closing sale, where they were found for a mere $3.99 each!) But "Going Ape!" was a most unworthy entry into this genre.
I eventually did end up seeing "Scanners" though. My dad took me to it. He liked horror movies, and was pretty good about taking me to see R-rated fare, and in fact was my escort to "The Howling", "The Thing" and "An American Werewolf in London", among others. Thanks, Pop.