This morning, as I enjoyed my day off from work, I surfed the cable channels until I happened upon a movie I hadn't seen since it came out in theatres in 1973. It was the first R-rated movie my parents ever took us to, Day of the Jackal. I got caught up in the story, thanks mostly to some good acting by Edward Fox, who plays the title role. The story pulled me in, and I remembered almost nothing, except for a couple of details, like how he tightened a rope around his arm, a tree and the high-powered rifle, so he could get a steady shot, (see photo, above) and how once he had adjusted his sights, he placed one of the bullets he intended to use on President de Gaulle, and the melon he was practicing on at two hundred yards blew to smithereens when he hit it, dead on.
What I do remember is that my parents' attempt to introduce us to adult cinema at ages 10 and 8 respectively was considered a grand failure and something of a joke. It's mostly sex that got the movie its rating; there's hardly any real violence in it at all, other than the implied violence of what may or may not happen in the climax of the film. And the way that Mike and I responded to the sex scenes was with abject boredom. As the story goes, when Fox is just about to bed down yet another woman he is using as cover, 8 year old Mike says, at the top of his voice, "Oh no. Not again." Apparently it brought down the house.
The problem may have been in the timing. I'm not sure if it was a busy night in the baby sitting pool, or what. But when I think about it a bit, I realize that I may have given my father a reason to think I could sit through two hours of suspense and intrigue and very little action, other than the sex. I had started staying up later on Saturday nights in order to watch Mission: Impossible with my dad. I enjoyed pretending to understand the plot-lines, until I saw the joy it gave my father to explain them to me.
I didn't care much what was going on in the story; I just liked the time with my dad. It was horror movies with my mom and spy movies with my dad.
But I wasn't ready for all the intrigue and, well, "naked ladies," as I referred to them then, The Day of the Jackal had to offer.
My other embarrassing R-rated movie story is the time my mother and I decided to go see An Officer and a Gentleman together. The sex scenes in that movie are extremely graphic and realistic. (Who can forget Debra Winger's famous line, "Pass me a towel, will ya?")
I sank as far down in my seat as I could and waited for the end credits to roll. Of course, it's a great film, but not one a 20 year old dude wants to see with his mom. Oh, God! I shudder thinking back on it all these years later.
Now when I see Day of the Jackal or An Officer and a Gentleman on HBO or wherever, all I want is just one more chance to sit down with either or both of my parents and get their responses once more, the comments I can no longer recall. Like everything else, these movies make me miss my parents. But they also provoke a smile and a sense of gratitude that they've brought the departed back into focus, if only for a moment.