The Wizard of Oz: How does someone become a movie freak? These are the formative experiences and moments of one cinephile.
I was young (probably 5 or 6 years old) and we were driving back from a family party. Being a child, I fell asleep in the back seat, which meant I was on the receiving end of one of those cherished childhood memories: your father carrying you from the car to your bed. There was always something very comforting and safe about those moments.
We walked into our house in Philadelphia. My mom had gone ahead and turned on the lights and television, so my half-asleep brain looked over at the screen.
There was a ethereal, demonic spirit with a booming voice surrounded by fire and smoke. The apparition was threatening a group of people gathered in front of it. It was the most terrifying image my still young mind had ever seen.
Yes, I had just woken up in the middle of The Wizard of Oz (1939). Dorothy and her fellowship were meeting the wizard for the first time in his throne room.
Of course, I did not know that at the time. I lost it. I started screaming and crying. My dad quickly brought me up to my room and I settled down. My brain remains convinced the episode lasted 10 minutes when I am sure in effect it was more like 30 seconds.
For years after that, I avoided The Wizard of Oz like the plague. No one could convince me this movie was not about demons born in the fires of Hell. When I finally did see it, I was convinced it was not the same movie that I saw as a younger child. How could it be? The movie I saw featured the spawn of Satan surrounded by the flames of the underworld. Now, I was seeing a floating head in a glass orb surrounded by colored lights and fog machines.
Memory is a funny thing. Walking into that living room and seeing the all-powerful Oz for the first time remains the most terrifying moment any movie has ever given me. Over time, my neurons fired to make the experience even scarier. When I finally saw the entire movie, I could not connect the image in my brain to what was on my screen. And the Wicked Witch of the West was much more frightening than Oz could ever hope to be.
What was your first memory of being scared by a movie?
Patrick McDonnell is a film enthusiast who discovered older films growing up in Philadelphia. Now, to fill in the gaping holes in his cinematic knowledge, Patrick is working his way through 100 Years of Movies, one year at a time.