Thursday, April 01, 2010

Good Friday at the movies

Tomorrow is Good Friday. And I decided to take a look back at a time when this date was celebrated in Puerto Rico in a very peculiar way. That is movie theaters would stop showing regular movies and they all would show a religious movie that day. Even the porno houses would do that!

I recall vividly seeing "The Ten Commandments" at the Radio City and the Regency. The movie houses were always full and everyone was at their best behavior. Seeing those movies was part a moviegoing experience and part a religious ritual, so everyone acted as if they were at church. As a boy, I found this movie to be kind of long, but I recall being amazed by the parting of the Red Sea scene.

I also saw "The Robe" in one of those Good Fridays. The first Cinemascope production, this movie tended to be less grueling to watch. It has some action scenes and all in all, it was ok.

"Ben Hur" was my favorite as a kid. I guess because it is more of an epic action movie than a religious movie. The chariot race was and still is a joy to watch. It was a long movie, but the payoff was great. I recall seeing this movie in a packed house at the Music Hall in Santurce.

The last movie I remember seeing was "The Greatest Story Ever Told" a star studded movie who was kind of boring, except for doing the "spot that star" quality of it. As a kid, I kind of liked it, but I really don't recall why. Or maybe I do. I think it was the fact that it was a Good Friday kind of movie and even though I was young, I realized there was something that people found special about that day,. Or maybe the fact that it was cool to watch old movies in a movie theater. Or perhaps, that the movies were so different.

I've seen some of these movies on DVD. I can still watch "The Robe" because of the colors and the scenery. I can watch "Ben Hur" and realize it is a fun movie. "The Greatest Story Ever Told", I can see as a product of its era, a time when Hollywood was heading into the wold late 1960's and this movie is still refusing to accept that fact. And Spotting the star is still cool. I mean the blond guy from "Man from UNCLE" is in it!

"The Ten Commandments" is kind of problematic. It is the cheesier one. The sets look kind of tacky. The acting and dialogue is really bad. And it has very little historical value. Still, it takes me back to a Friday afternoon with may mother and my late grandmother. And to a period of my life that I recall with much nostalgia.

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