Tuesday 5 May 2015

Close Encounters under the stars

Growing up through the 70s and into the 80s, I absorbed a lot of American culture through TV, books and films.  Some of it left me cold (what the hell is a Twinkie and why would you eat something like that?), some of it made me gape (American teenagers had phones in their rooms?) and some of it made me wish we had the same thing in England (local TV stations, horror hosts and drive-ins).
Me & David, waiting for the sun to go down...
The drive-in.  Just the phrase sounded impossibly cool to me - you drive to the cinema, stay in your car and watch the movie! - and the whole thing got better when I realised they often showed the kind of trash film I certainly didn’t get to see at my local flicks.

But here in Britain (I imagine the weather played a huge part in the decision), drive-in’s just didn’t exist.  There were occasional outdoor shows (at Somerset House in London, for instance) but none that I ever got to and then, last year, I discovered a company called Luna Flix.  They were putting on a few outdoor films at Stanwick Lakes, one of which was to be “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” (a film I love) and had it not been for my heart attack at the time, I’d have gone.

Well, Luna Flix are running another programme this summer, up until early September and when my friend David & I went through the list, we realised we’d like to go and see most of the films - especially the first, “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” which, we both realised, we hadn’t seen for at least ten years and couldn’t remember big chunks of it.
David sets up camp
I hadn't eaten Space Raiders in years.  They were very nice...
Launch night was Friday 1st May.  David got to the park first and set up camp at the ‘outdoor theatre’, a terraced area of grass next to the lake across from the visitors centre.  As I walked around, I could hear a steady stream of space-related music, showed my ticket and in I went.  It was great - a big inflatable screen (that didn’t wobble), great sound-system, a hot drink tent and plenty of friendly fellow film-lovers.  Although we had to wait until it was dark, the time went quickly and a charming alien (we suspected the lady from the ticket office dressed up…) came amongst us, giving out packets of Space Raiders.  After a brief introduction, the film show (digitally projected Blu-Ray) opened with Daffy Duck in the classic “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century” and then we moved onto the main feature.

With the night fully dark and the geese flying on the lake, the film began and we were all immediately wrapped up in it.  For me, it held up really well (though some of the effects shots suffered in HD), I loved the atmosphere and I loved looking up from Doug Trumbull’s starfield on the screen to the stars above us.  All in all, it was a fantastic experience.

By the time the film ended (around 11.15pm) it was cold (losing weight and taking blood thinning tablets isn’t a good combination for keeping warm) but we headed back to the car, chatting away and both of us agreed it was a great evening.  There are plenty of upcoming films in the programme we want to see - some just the two of us, some with our families - and if this is what the outdoor cinema experience is like, I want more of it!

And I am really, really looking forward to watching “An American Werewolf In London” at the end of July.  Can you imagine it…?

If you’re local, check out the schedule here and pop along, it’s great fun.

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