A great movie should be personal and not based on stats or public opinion. A great movie should be something that shapes you or move you in your journey of life. I grew up in the 1970s cinema era with the black & white televisions, when going for a movie is about the biggest event you could have. There were no discos, no karaoke, no internet cafe, no clubs, no cable tvs and not even VHS. Owning your own home theatre is unimaginable. Even on our black & whites, we had only two channels, RTM 1 and RTM 2. TV screening starts only at 5 pm, Mondays to Fridays and 2 hours earlier at 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. So movies were the biggest thing then.
My dad loved the movies and it would be a monthly ritual for me to go to the movies with him and mom. My brother who was older by some 10 years wouldn’t join us as it would look uncool to go out with his parents. However, he takes me by himself, just the two of us, big brother and little brother to the movies too once a month. Meanwhile my elder sister was working in Kuala Lumpur, would also take me to the movies every time she comes back at the beginning of each month. Being the youngest certainly has its privileges and mine was my abundance of movies.
My version of great movies of my childhood days were very varied. They formed strong images in the crevasses of my memories and subconsciousness. My 10 most memorable great movies of my early childhood days were;
“Ben Hur” was one of my earliest memories of a real blockbuster. Charlton Heston immediately became one of my earliest favourite actor.
The seventies were the golden age of the Westerns and “Mackenna’s Gold” was my All Time Best Western Movie. Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif and Telly Savalas were my superstars from the this movie but it was the song “Old Turkey Buzzard” sung by Jose Feliciano and written by Quincy Jones that is forever engrained into my mind. It was my first movie hit song.
No real movie lover would miss a James Bond movie and for me, my first real Bond movie was George Lazenby’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service“. While it was considered the flop amongst Bond movies, it converted me and prepared me for Roger Moore. I did not have the chance to watch the Sean Connery Bond movies so George Lazenby was my first Bond.
Christopher Lee dominated the seventies with his Dracula series and my very first, “Dracula, Prince of Darkness” was probably the closest first cult movie for me.
My first love with Westerns was “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” starting my favourite actor, Clint Eastwood and one of the baddest bad ass, Lee Van Cleef.
The greatest Chinese movie actor is undisputedly Wang Yu and his “One Armed Swordsman” series. A folk’s hero and a true Clint Eastwood of the Chinese cinemas then, the “One Armed Swordsman” captured every kids’ imagination as soon we were all swords fighting in the playgrounds with one arm tucked inside our shirts.
“The Doberman Gang” would have flopped in today’s circuit but times were simpler then where a simple and shallow plot could catch the imagination of the cinema patrons and remembered coming out of the cinema, feeling a big “wow” factor.
“The Dirty Dozen” was an incredible war movie starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Jim Brown where 12 convicted felons, volunteered for the ultimate suicide mission against the Nazis.
A real classic which moved me to tears, “Haathi Mere Saathi” crossed the language barrier and warmed the hearts of many non speakers. The elephants in the moive were absolutely adorable. It was a movie where many Chinese and Malays watched. It ran in the cinemas for months and it was truly one of the first few “muhibah” movies when people were simpler and nicer.
Lastly but not least, making up the top ten great movies of my early childhood would be “The Magnificient Seven“. Adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurais”, this classic Western made legends out of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn and James Coburn.
While the great movies of my early childhood days may not compare to the depth and the technicalities of the later hits but they formed an intergrated part of what I grew up with in the seventies.