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My First X

Following on from the ‘My First 12”’ post, which has been receiving such a big response, can you remember what was the first X (or 18) rated film you saw? For people around my age and older this would have been at the cinema, for those a bit younger probably on video, and for those younger still on DVD (no doubt it’ll be via the internet for many people these days).

Mine was ‘Cabaret’ in 1973, when I was thirteen. I saw it at the Phoenix cinema in Wallasey Village, where I managed to slip in unnoticed. I knew nothing about the film beforehand, but was aware of the title song, which was on the flip side of ‘What A Wonderful World’, Louis Armstrong’s #1 hit from 1968. Maybe it was this connection that drew me to the film – little did I know that it would make such a lasting impression on me.

The reason it was an X (it was later, during the 80’s, re-classified as suitable for 15 year olds), was because the storyline included two of the biggest taboo subjects of the time, homosexuality and abortion. Despite both having been legalized in 1967 the British censor still took a dim view of such things, so you had to be 18 to see this movie when it first was shown at the pictures.

‘Cabaret’ cleaned up at the Oscars in 1973, winning in eight of the ten categories in which it was nominated, including Best Actress (Liza Minnelli’s portrayal of singer, Sally Bowles), Best Supporting Actor (Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies) and Best Music (‘Willkommen’, ‘Maybe This Time’, ‘Money Money’ and the title track, to name but a few). This haul is all the more impressive given that the film that pipped it for the best picture award, ‘The Godfather’, had to content itself with just three Oscars overall. Despite all this, whilst ‘The Godfather’ is rightly afforded the status of one of the greatest movies ever made, ‘Cabaret’ has, by contrast, become something of a hidden classic.

During recent times I’ve been surprised at the amount of people I’ve spoken to who’ve never seen ‘Cabaret’. Quite a few of them told me that the title put them off, the term cabaret nowadays associated with middle of the road light entertainment, rather than the decadent nightlife of Weimar  Berlin, which the film depicts.

Lots of people presume ‘Cabaret’ is  a ‘Chicago’ type musical, given that both originally came to prominence as Broadway stage productions, (and shared the same director / choreographer, Bob Fosse – Fosse also directed the film version of ‘Cabaret’ and had planned to do the same with ‘Chicago’, before his death in 1987), but ‘Cabaret’ is so much more. For starters, this shouldn’t be regarded as a musical in the conventional sense, despite having one of the greatest soundtracks of all. The film centres around the club where Sally Bowles works, so all of the numbers (except ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’, which is rousingly sung by a member of the Hitler Youth in a provincial beer garden, providing a powerful illustration of the rise of Nazism), are performed on stage, some in the satirical style that was a potent ingredient of German Kabarett .

Based on John Van Druten’s play ‘I Am A Camera’ (1951), which was adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s book ‘Goodbye To Berlin’ (1939), inspired by his experience of living in the city during the early 30’s, ‘Cabaret’ is about the shift from the old to the new, providing a snapshot of a key moment in history – the fall of the Wiemar Republic and the rise of the Third Reich.

The film would catapult Liza Minnelli into cinema’s hall of fame alongside her mother, Judy Garland, and her father, the director Vincente Minnelli. Her iconic Sally Bowles image was inspired by silent movie star Louise Brooks, whose best-known films, ’Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Diary Of A Lost Girl’ (both 1929) were made in Weimar Germany.

Seeing ‘Cabaret’ emboldened me in my attempts to get to watch more X rated movies, and during the following year I sneaked my way into two films I just had to see, ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Enter The Dragon’, plus a few more less memorable ones. So, apart from everything else ‘Cabaret’ was a rite of passage for me, part of the process of growing out of childhood and into my teens, but with a tantalizing twist - the alluring image of Liza’s Sally in her ‘Mein Herr’ splendour firmly imprinting itself onto my sexual DNA forevermore.

Cabaret Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabaret_%28film%29

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26 Responses to My First X

  1. david dunne July 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    the very first X rated film I got into see at a cinema (whilst underage -big thrill!) was The Omen, at the tender age of 14, down at the long-gone New Princes Cinema in Monton, Eccles, closely followed by Carrie. Carrie remains probably my favourite and most-viewed film. The New Princes was a wonderful cinema for many reasons, not least because the manager would sell the posters and display stills for 50 pence many of which decorated my bedroom as an adolescent.

  2. Ben Murphy July 19, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Interesting piece. The first 18 certificate I saw was Nightmare on Elm Street, when I was about 7 years old. I didn't particularly want to watch it, and thought it was very frightening, but I was with other people who were watching it and didn't have much choice.
    The first 18 I got out from the video shop was Robocop. I was about 9 or 10 - irresponsible video shop owners, tut tut! - and I absolutely loved it, though the violence was fairly extreme.
    The first 18 at the cinema was Reservoir Dogs. It felt quite transgressive going in (I was 14, I think), and that made the experience all the more exciting.

  3. Martin Brown July 19, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    "The Exterminator"
    video nasty rented from Granada by my older brother, watched the on the massive top loading VHS player (it was a bit shit & not very shocking)

  4. Jimmy Ellis July 19, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    In 1987 when I was 7 years old I watched "The Thing" with my brother.
    Seeing that dog turn inside out stayed with me for quite a while. Although I don't really remember it as a scary memory, more a how on earth did they do that.

  5. Billy Caldwell July 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
    I saw this when I was about 12 years of age at a friends house because they were the first family on the Hulme Housing Estate to get a video recorder and believe me in thos days that was BIG news!! It was a Sanyo Betamax if I remember correctly and there was about 25 of us all crammed into the living room! it was just like being at the pictures and I remember just being BLOWN away by the technology at the time as we still had a Black and white TV at Home...LOL!!

  6. Darren Hesford July 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    My first x rated film was Jungle Burger at the Theatre Royal 2 in Hyde, for those that don't remember it was an animated film and was shown before the main feature which if my memory serves me right was Warriors ?

  7. Aaron Ellis July 19, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

    Terminator, still love it to this day. Always wanted to play the Tech Noir, seemed a sleazy enough place.

  8. shep July 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    I'm pretty sure it was a ropey 3rd or 4th generation VHS copy of The Evil Dead, when I was about 7. I seem to remember it being banned at the time, along with stuff like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cannibal Ferox, Driller Killer and many others. My best friends brother was a real video nasty fan so used to palm us off with some of them to keep us quiet when he had to "babysit" for us. Thankfully I think I turned out pretty normal...

  9. Gordon July 19, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Probably The Incredible Melting Man at the Odeon 3 in Glasgow in 1977, I was 12. Can't believe we got in. Afterwards I was terrified that I was going to run into him whenever I walked round a corner. I actually stopped at some sharp corners and peeped round them first - I didn't go to see another X for two years because I was so traumatised, that was Phantasm at the ABC and I had nightmares for weeks afterwards. X-rated movies were obviously not for me. I still find myself putting my hands over my eyes at gory moments in films.

  10. David McGinn July 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Robocop!
    Thank you for your co-operation.

  11. Mark Cathcart July 19, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    I feel I'm the oldie here, my first x-rated, or would that be unrated... In my day reel to reel tapes were still the media of choice, there were regular shows at Rugby clubs often accompanied by live performances... Oh yes there was... So while those local councillors and all those other business owners etc. Were supporting the local athletic endevors, it wasn't just for the sport.

    Now, I assume you were really after commercial films. I can't be sure of the lineage, so without reverting to checking on wikipedia or somesuch, I' guess my early cinema expereriences were Last Tango in Paris, Clockwork Orange and I assume Cabaret since I definately saw it, but don't remember having to sneak in.

  12. adam satow July 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    The first X rated film that I actually watched was the 1st terestrial airing of Alien in 1979/80, my mum let me watch by myself at the age of 9, great film and gentle introduction. It was some years until I graduated to Driller Killer, Texas CSM and later when working at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, I managed to catch up with classics such as Rabid Grannies and Toxic Avenger et al. What great classic days of film making!!!

  13. Juliet July 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Mine was The Bitch with the fabulous Joan Collins, at the Odeon in Bexleyheath. I went with a group of older boys and girlfrends of my own age. I think we thought wearing a lot of make up would guarantee entry. It did. One of my friends is still married to one of the boys, although she was going out with his friend at the time.

  14. Jon Freer July 19, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    I think the first 18 certificate film I saw was Blink, on an aeroplane, coming back from the US. I must have been in my early teens at the time. I found it fascinating and quite scary in places. Watching it years later I found the film was quite different to how I'd remembered it!

  15. Duncan July 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    I was 11 years old, on a PGL holiday in Eastbourne Summer 1982 - computer programming.
    After learning how to program a version of breakout on a Spectrum, we kids terrirized the poor uni students that looked after us into renting out a video.
    Film was Night of the Demon - utter dross. Bigfoot kills gropey high school kids in a variety of fascinating ways - death by ripping off penis etc etc... However, I did manage to sit next to a lovely girl and allow her to hide behind my shoulder, which facillitated the ability to dance with her at the disco later that evening - particularly KC and the Sunshine band "Give it up" she was called Barbara, which I thought was a strange name for a German.

  16. Sally anne July 19, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    I was 13 with my friend Dawn we watched Saturday Night Fever at Wolverhampton Odeon. We got changed in school putting our uniforms in our bags. I can still feel the excitement as we sat on the top of the bus going into town. I loved the film and the intro of John Travolta walking along the road with the can of paint is still one of my faves. Thanks for reminding me of a great evening.

  17. Dave Green July 19, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    Hi again Greg,
    another fantastic question bringing back some great memories. My first X rated film was a Quadrophenia (X) and Scum (AA) double bill in an old crumbling cinema in my hometown of Plymouth. The year was late 1980 and the Belgrave Cinema was definitely passed it prime by then and would let anyone in for anything. As you would expect we did our best to look older but there was no way we looked any older than the 13 yrs we were. The place was literally on its last legs and would soon become the Belgrave Snooker Hall its been ever since. Quadrophenia was a film all of my friends from school wanted to see as the Mod revival was well under way and we were all fascinated with the music, Scooters and cool styles. Scum was the first film on that night and none of us were prepared for the tour de force it was back then. It had such a positive effect on us all that none of the 6 friends who joined me that day has ever been to or is ever likely to go to Borstal, Prison of even a greenhouse again ! As for Quadrophenia it was a fantastic film for a rebellious 13 yr old to see at the time, my love affair with scooters (Lambretta's) continues to this day and having been into the punk thing first this was my first real foray into proper dance music where i have resided ever since. I spent the next two years collecting original 60's 7"s off all my friends parents which would be lined up on picture rails in two huge attic rooms and my bedroom had a wall of soft porn pics just like the films troubled hero Jimi which upset my grandmother a fair bit when she visited as i was still quite young. As i said great memories, great friends and in Scum's case the best short, sharp, shock i ever had !

  18. wayne h July 20, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    Confessions of a Window cleaner .....made a big impression on my adolescence ...my Window Cleaning career is still on the back burner though

  19. Pablo Contraband July 20, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    I watched Evil Dead on video with some older lads (aged 10) - crapping myself throughout. I watched Garters and Lace shortly afterward- a 'blue movie' with Sam Fox and others. Preferred the latter.

  20. Steve KIW July 20, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    The fella with a suitcase of dodgy pirate VHS films did a roaring trade on our estate though sadly not at my mums since we didn't have a video. One of the neighbours with a lax view on parenting did though and so it was that three days before my dad's first London Marathon I watched 'American Werewolf in London'. Subsequently mum's plans on getting to various vantage points in the city during my dad's run were scuppered by my point blank refusal to go down any tube stations :)
    Also remember enjoying a Lemon Popsicle or two before I hit double-figures.
    As for Cabaret - never seen the Minelli film but did see it at Studio54 with Molly Ringwald playing the lead. I was sat right at the front and in the intro she came into the crowd and gave me my own dance. I enjoyed that quite a lot more than American Werewolf :)

  21. simon green July 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    it was carrie

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrie_(1976_film)

    with a bunch of school mates at the local savoy... and we were about 15 'ish.

  22. Stewart McCall July 20, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    I used to have a friend in school who had a lucrative trade in renting his dads video collection...until inevitably somebody got caught with an aforementioned contraband vhs and phoned his parents who were clueless...

    Anyway, a bit aside from the point, I think it was Trainspotting and I watched it at a friends house when I was about 12, in full knowledge that if my parents found out: id get my balls booted!

    Still one of my favourite movies though!

  23. TC July 21, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    My first X rated movie was Saturday Night Fever. I was twelve. I'd won a talent competition the day before and with my winnings I bought my first make up. Pearl blue eyeshadow and strawberry lip gloss. Then I went to see the film. Ended up seeing it about 5 times after that.

  24. gary phillips July 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    my first x rated movie that i saw was the exorsist. i think it was at the carlton cinema in birkenhead probably 1976. it scared the life out of me.

  25. Ian August 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    If i remember correctly it was the "Great Rock And Roll Swindle" I would have been 14 at the time and looked it so, we must have "sneaked" in !

  26. Steve August 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Back when I was 12 or 13 my parents used to send me to the movies once a week, probably just to get me out of their hair for a few hours, but I remember going to "1984" ,
    and I will never forget that movie, So dark , miserable and scary, But it made such an impression on me, one of the most thought provoking, and disturbing movies I would ever see, I still think about it from time to time, and when I came to live in London for a few years I was constantly reminded of it by the flood of surveillance cameras everywhere.

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