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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 115 - Escape from an evil world into filmic fantasies


CALL me what you will - film buff, movie fan or cinema aficionado - I can reveal that I have never wavered in my support of the warm, womb-like caverns of the screen where, viewing all the convulsions of filmic life, from salivating aliens eyeing edible earthlings with soft centres to the clash of computer-created armies, domestic upheavals and megalomaniac crooks intent on global financial dictatorship, I have been comforted by seeing people worse off than I am.

I have battled with Scott across Antarctic wastes with only a melting choc-ice for sustenance, risked Saharan sun blindness and desert madness, accompanying Beau Geste and buddies fending off terrible-tempered Tuaregs and, by Goldwyn and Mayer’s Metro, have seen the cosmos-reeling spectacle of sarong-clad Dorothy Lamour, peering at her lipsticked reflection in a jungle watering-hole, crooning: "There’s lovelight in the starlight with you."

My mother, also a devoted film fancier, occasionally slung me, aged around four, on her shoulders, like a fox fur, more for pragmatic than decorational reasons, while she walked to "the talkies". I was, therefore, acquainted early with that now well-known American cartoon character, once indicative of the national psyche but then new from the drawing board, with big-buttoned, Bermuda shorts and round-topped shoes, known as Mickey Mouse.

I also heard the native woodnotes wild of Tarzan, a one-man, lion-dismantling, crocodile-bisecting power house, with branches everywhere, and saw the black-ink shadow of Nosferatu, the vampire, on his way to a maiden’s boudoir for a quick bite and premier cru drink.

I HAVE been to Regents, Rialtos, Ritzes and Odeons, cinemas resembling the architectural glories of Moorish Spain, others like Doges’ palaces or Greek temples and some with the reputation of "tuppenny scratchers" where audiences shifted uneasily in their seats and the scent of carbolic soap hung in the air like a miasma from a swamp.

In my formative filmic years, I have ached on wooden benches, in the long-vanished Operetta House, in Edinburgh’s Chambers Street, during children’s matinees, where usherettes, with faces like steel engravings, systematically wielded hygienic sprays, sometimes aiming towards the children as if to discourage troublesome insects.

It was there that I participated in an action, often described as a myth; I, even I, gained entrance with two jamjars, a hard currency then accepted by some child-friendly cinema owners.

It is a far, agonised cry from the times of bartering babes to present-day admission charges which, in London, according to a market survey by Pricerunner.com, can be an average of £10 per adult for a Saturday night movie - higher than in 17 other European countries. Londoners are, reputedly, paying with hardly a murmur. In Scotland, such a charge might, at first, have audiences deserting cinemas like crowds fleeing from a dam burst, but eventually, I predict, they would cough up.

Edinburgh already has a family-owned cinema which charges £11.90 for luxury, evening seating with a drink and crisps, but its standard charge is £5.20 per adult - around the average for most city cinemas, which also have a range of time-of-day and concession charges.

CINEMAS have survived price rises, television, VCRs and DVDs, but a new threat - from pirate DVDs - is causing slumps at box-offices, especially in Scotland and particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow. According to the Federation Against Copyright Theft, the capital has for the first time dropped out of the United Kingdom’s top 50 list for audience figures.

A recent police and trading standards officers’ raid at Ingliston Market uncovered vast quantities of counterfeit DVDs, CDs and computer games. Despite that, similar fake goods are, it is alleged, still being sold there.

John McGowan, FACT’s senior investigating officer in Scotland, told me that piracy was not an arrestable offence in Scotland but was in England, and cases, because of their complexity, with thousands of discs to be examined, could take a long time to prepare for courts. "We are working with procurator fiscals to find more expedient ways of prosecuting the cases."

I rejoice at that news. It is time the curtain was raised on this real-life drama for a massive onslaught against these foul fakers, many fronting criminal organisations, so that we film buffs can escape, temporarily, from this wicked world into the filmic fantasies of murder, mayhem, war, romance, comedy as well as experience the sheer joy of simply being in a cinema.

Pass the salted, supersonic crisps, roll the projectors and let me be genuinely entertained.


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