One of the best things about the summertime is the CAPA Columbus Summer Movie Series, which shows old and modern classics every weekend for a couple months. This summer has had a wonderful line-up of movies including Tron, The Sound of Music, Vertigo and Airplane!, but none of those films have me more excited than 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
My first movies
My memory of movies goes back pretty far. I remember seeing Return of the Jedi in theatre with my parents, I would probably have been four or five years old, as well as going to see Temple of Doom with my dad. I don’t remember the whole movie or experience, mostly key scenes and emotions, but even that early in my life I absolutely loved movies. Blame on too much television or VHS, but I was always watching a movie (and it was probably Star Wars).
Let’s all go to the movies!
One other movie I remember seeing when I was quite young was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at the Ohio Theatre downtown. The Ohio Theatre was built in the late 1920s and everything on the inside was restored in the 1970s to show off its natural beauty. Even today going in the theatre is a treat. The ornate gold walls and handrails…massive chandeliers, top row balcony, velvet seats, carved statues, stained glass…you name it, it has it. Heck, it even has a resident organist that rises out of the stage and plays tunes before every show. You remember the scene in Annie where Daddy Warbucks buys out the theatre and they all go to the movies? Well, every time I walk into the Ohio Theatre I feel a bit like little orphan Annie…and it’s wonderful.
Considering the theatre still takes me aback today, you can imagine how it felt as a child. The building was huge and it felt like a momentous occasion. I knew that night out with my folks was special but I didn’t know that the movie I was about to see would make such an impact on me. I think we sat in the balcony and I remember the “Mighty Morton” organ playing before the movie. The Ohio Theatre has a big red curtain (as every good theatre should) that slides open to reveal the movie screen…and then the opening of 20,000 Leagues started…
The opening to that film is epic in every sense of the word. The musical score is huge, the titles make everything feel important and the opening scene even has curtains that open. I’m not a huge Walt Disney fan, but this movie was a high point in their life-action career and if you ask me, quite possibly their best life-action film ever. I was enthralled with the story, the characters, the submarine, the octopus fight…everything. This movie had everything I could possibly want in it (except maybe spaceships and robots). It could very well be the first “old” movie I remember ever seeing and, with help from my father, my love of classic movies was born right there and continues to this day.
Good movies never die
In the grand scheme of things, movies are movies. Movies don’t get better or worse as time goes on, at least not the good movies. And 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a good – nay, great – movie. It’s a science fiction movie through-and-through, but you don’t have to be a fan of sci-fi to enjoy it. It’s a great story with good characters and in this case, it is acted wonderfully by everyone involved. It’s also funny too when I think about 20,000 Leagues and the actors it introduced me to. Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre and James Mason were some of the biggest names in Hollywood way back when and this was the first movie I saw any of them, so whenever I saw them in other movies it was always, “hey, it’s that guy from 20,000 Leagues!”
Getting a chance revisit 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in the same theatre where I first fell in love with it more than 25 years later is pretty amazing, if you ask me. In a time when new movies have been pretty lack-luster, it’s nice to have place to go and experience the classics as they should be.