Saturday, July 29, 2006

Trek to the Hills, 1979



December 7, 1979: my girlfriend and I have joined the throng on Crocker's walk around 4pm, in a gigantic line awaiting the premiere of Star Trek's first comeback, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".

It's cold--we're bundled up and shivering, and other people have brought sleeping bags and little heaters, making the line look like an encampment. Every 10 minutes, a self-designated timekeeper near the front of the line yells out something like, "2 hours and 40 minutes to go!" And everyone cheers. Every time. The cheers are especially large for major markers--"2 hours!"--"1 hourrrrr!"--and when it gets down to the last 5 minutes, it's completely crazy, a call every minute. The street nearly explodes when the call "Doors opening!" comes through. The packs are hoisted, the wallets unpocketed. The line inches inward, into blissful, popcorn-scented warmth.

More cheers as the surprisingly austere main title comes on. And when the Klingon ship first dips into view. A news crew is there filming, as an unrecognizably-made-up Mark Lenard (as the Klingon captain) yells something like "Kreplach!" and photon torpedoes shoot into the mysterious space cloud. It is like the Beatlemanic screenings of "A Hard Day's Night": every time a familiar character hits the screen: screams, applause. Des Moines native Stephen Collins, as Commander Decker, tells Captain Kirk that Kirk doesn't know the Enterprise a tenth as well as he does. "Bull$#*+!!" calls someone from the peanut gallery. Laughs, more applause.

The film goes on, at first indulgent--47 closeups of the refitted Enterprise in porno detail!--then glacial: 7-minute shots of the V'ger cloud intercut with Sulu and Uhura staring wordlessly into its maw. But none of us care. We have all sent our letters to Paramount and Roddenberry over the years, and have just received the fruits of our democratic actions, just in time for Christmas. The pace picks up just in time to give the finale some of the adrenaline of the original series, and then we all spill smiling into the winter night, looking for our cars through puffs of icy breath.

We have seen new Star Trek, with the original cast (and a Des Moines native), on a Cinerama screen, in Dolby surround, at the fabulous River Hills.

Ahhh. Moviegoing!

3 comments:

Janet said...

Well speaking as the aforementioned girlfriend, I can say that Mark's memory of the actual "Star Trek" movie experience is a lot better than mine. I do remember standing in line in the cold... and the movie itself was gorgeous to look at even if I did have a hard time following it. I mainly remember that long damn line... and freezing in it... and then not quite getting what "V-ger" was.

One of the other movies I remember seeing at the River Hills was an awful piece of crap called "Roller Coaster." It featured SENSURROUND - which hadn't been used this effectively since "Earthquake" three years earlier... and it starred George Segal who chased some young punk bomber through various amusement parks. The thing is, everything looked fabulous on that 70-foot curved screen.

As for Star Trek, I do remember that the whole thing was worth waiting in the cold and sitting through those detailed Enterprise shots to get to the final lines:

"Ahead warp one, Sulu"
"Heading, Sir?"
"Out there..." (thoughtful, wistful pause, then a wave of his hand toward space) "...Thataway!"

Mark said...

Hmmm, wasn't that a 90-foot screen? (That kinda sticks in my mind because I wanted to see "The Poseidon Adventure" there in '73, because the tsunami in the film was 90 feet, which I could then scale against the screen!)

Funniest thing about "Rollercoaster": the group Sparks singing the same song for about 15 minutes!

And Sensurround--remember the warnings at the beginning of those films? "The management is not responsible for the personal and physical reactions of the viewers." And the hype at the time was that the River Hills walls would literally crumble if the Sensurround speakers were left on for about a year.

Anonymous said...

Mark and Janet, I was there the next night! (I must admit, it was the only Trek movie I missed opening night. What was I thinking?)

To this day, I always associate River Hills/Riviera with opening nights for blockbuster sci fi films... especially Star Trek XI, Alien, Aliens. The last two were especially noteworthy there!