I have not watched Episode III, Revenge of the Sith yet, and I’m not sure if it’s all that good, as a movie.
But I am taken in by the hype of it all, as I was when I first watched Episode IV, which was just known as Star Wars then. Way back then. Long time ago… far, far away and all that.
My older sister, my younger brother and myself were deemed old enough by our parents to go watch a movie all by ourselves for the first time. So, one fine Saturday afternoon, my parents dropped us off at Bras Basah Road, and we walked to The Odeon, which is now some funky arty building selling arty funky stuff, right opposite the Raffles Hotel.
Being able to watch a movie without parental supervision was a thrill in itself, though we weren’t the only unaccompanied kids in the theatre. The area around Bras Basah Road contained many mission schools at the time, and the students from the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, Catholic High, St Nicholas (not Santa Claus) Girls’, St Joseph’s, St Anthony’s Convent and the Methodist Girls’ School used to congregate around what’s now the Museum and University district of town. Schoolkids dashing across roads and sometimes getting into the nastiest accidents was quite the norm then. I had this classmate who had a habit of falling into construction pits while waiting for his parents to pick him up.
I don’t remember watching many movies when I was a kid, which means I mustn’t have watched many movies at all, because, as you can imagine, this was the age before the DVD, or the VCD, or the LD. We did have electricity though, and a very expensive Betamax VCR, but video pirates weren’t so easy to find then. So, yes. I don’t think I watched that many movies except really old ones they screened on the television. We did have television. Colour one too.
But back to the cinema, or the theatre, as they were more popularly known then. Apart from being the analog age, this was also the time before cineplexes and multiplexes. Each ‘theatre’, had just the one screen, and usually a huge one. I think the largest one must’ve been at The Lido. The one at Capitol Theatre used to be stained with shit from the pigeons which roosted in ledges near the ceiling, so that the likes of James Bond and Rambo would often appear speckled with birdshit.
Most of the cinemas were owned by Shaw Brothers, (except for The Cathay, which was not), and they’d decide which of their establishments would host which movie franchise. I remember The Lido hosted the early James Bond and Bruce Lee films, while The Odeon did Star Wars and The Capitol did Jaws.
So, at The Odeon, my sister peered into the box office and picked our seats from the grumpy auntie with the horn-rimmed glasses who marked the seating sheet with her red crayon, or was it her lipstick? Looked the same.
Sis bought me and my brother a cone of kacang-puteh each, which even in those days, would’ve been considered cheap, at 10c, as compared to today’s popcorn fare. You need to strike lottery before you can afford both a movie ticket and a tub of popcorn.
My brother lost his cone of kacang puteh just when the lights were dimmed, and then the movie started.
The opening sequence, the prologue and the music blew our socks off. Then, if I remember correctly, this must have been the first movie with one of those surround sound Dolby things, and the first movie to employ such stunning special sound effects. So special, and so loud, that when the first Star Destroyer loomed across the screen, my brother wet his pants.
There were many more movies we watched together after that, but Star Wars was remarkable because it lent itself to a million possibilities in the games we played with each other, the cartoon drawings we did, and the number of new foreign toys which were beginning to find their way to Singapore, and for which we wheedled and needled our parents to buy.
I’ve a friend who watched Star Wars at the theatre with her brother too, and she used to use Star Wars as a weapon of blackmail every time her brother wanted to ‘play Star Wars’ after that. Once, she even convinced him to put on her swimsuit (one with a frilly skirt) before she’d play ‘Rebel Alliance’ with him. Me and my friends still hanker after Star Wars toys. And I’m sure some of them fight with their own kids for Star Wars toys too. And it started a long time ago, on a fine Saturday afternoon in Singapore in 1977.