Tomorrow, You Only Have Memories Forever, Again. Twice.

As a child, going to the cinema was special. Seeing even a crummy movie back then was somehow way more fun than seeing an absolutely amazing movie is for me today. Of course, my childhood was in the pre-video era, when perhaps the anticipation of a movie and the fond memories of it afterward were greater than they are now, even though the movies themselves were less spectacular by far. Having no video, I could not replay the movies I liked whenever I wanted. I saw them only once and then they were gone, continuing only in my mind where they often grew over time into something much more fascinating than the movie that inspired them.

These days, we guzzle at the media-trough, day-in day-out, and forget those leaner times. Compared with the children of today I was media malnourished; we didn’t have an X-Box, 100 TV channels, or a library of streaming video to choose from at home. There were only two TV channels in my home town, and one of those didn’t broadcast till after lunch, when you’d get hours of boring cricket, and even that would be in black and white. (Australia didn’t get colour TV till 1975 and my family not till years after that).

So, for colour movie entertainment, there were really only two ways to go. My very earliest memories of movie-going are of the Drive-In, in a car packed with crying younger siblings. Or, for a more refined viewing experience, there was the cinema, where on special occasions, Dad would take me on a lad’s night out. In my home town, the movie palace was the old 1920s CAPITOL THEATRE, where Dad watched films when he was growing up, and I experienced a lot of my own great movie memories too, including seeing my first JAMES BOND film. My vivid memories of cinema-going start with a viewing of DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER with Dad at the age of 7. I had not seen anything like it.


I remember we walked the few blocks to the “THE PICTURES” one summer evening, probably in early 1972. Dad bought our Maltesers, Jaffas and Fantales, we took our seats and when the house lights went down, we watched the cartoon. I get my love of cartoons, which ultimately led me to working in animation myself, from Dad. My Mum never “got” cartoons. (I am reminded of the time Dad and I laughed so hard at a BUGS BUNNY cartoon on the Telly, that Mum stomped out of the kitchen, mixing bowl still in hand, to see what the hilarity was about. After alternately staring blank-faced at the cartoon, and watching us kack ourselves with laughter, she sighed in resignation to this mystery and went away none the wiser.) Anyway, it saddens me that nowadays cinemas show commercials instead of cartoons, but they were still dependably shown at the cinema when I was little, to our great enjoyment. With any luck the cartoon that day would have been by WARNER BROTHERS (maybe even the beloved Bunny) then after some brief COMING SOON info, the movie itself finally began. I leaned forward to watch…

CRASH! A judo guy is hurled through a window. BASH! A man in dark glasses is choked and gruffly interrogated by a mystery man. Wait, now there’s a pretty lady in a bikini.. We finally meet the mystery man; an intense-looking bloke with cranky eyebrows in a polyester safari suit, who inexplicably strangles the friendly bikini lady with her own bikini top. (!?) In the next scene, eyebrows-man is confronted by the bloke he seeks; a smug-looking man flanked by henchmen, their guns understandably leveled at violent eyebrow-man, who suddenly steams fiercely about the place, stabbing the henchmen; THUNK! THUNK! Then, in a scene I remember most vividly, he tosses smug-man into a vat of molten mud. (Wow.) And all of this before the opening titles, which featured a diamond encrusted cat and silhouettes of cavorting and bejeweled naked ladies.


That was a lot to process for someone more used to DOCTOR DOLITTLE (seen on a previous boys’ movie night). Amazingly to me at the time, I soon discovered that the cranky guy with the eyebrows, who single-handedly provoked this non-stop sequence of unexplained violence, was the “goodie” of this movie; James Bond. He was a “real” person but capable of unloading just as much cartoon violence as Bugs Bunny and, unlike the rabbit, when he despatched his foes in cartoonishly outrageous ways, they bled and stayed very dead. This was a new idea.

I’m not even sure if Dad himself knew what was in store for us when he bought our tickets. Had he ever seen a Bond movie before? Perhaps not. I seem to remember him squirming uncomfortably in his seat as James Bond did his all baddie-murdering and lady-strangling. This must have been a racier evening than Dad had planned for his 7 year old son, who was transfixed in goggle-eyed amazement nevertheless. I had absolutely no idea what it was all about, but unlike DOCTOR DOLITTLE, which has almost evaporated from my memory completely, I sat at the very edge of my seat engrossed in finding out what this naughty Bond fellow got up to next. It was some grownup code that needed deciphering, especially the scenes with pretty ladies that had, to my 7 year old brain, a weird undefinable something extra that I could not fathom..


A much later viewing in my adulthood identified this mystery element as a cheesy, nudge-nudge-wink-wink 1970s kitsch-eroticism, only one notch up the bogus-innuendo scale from Benny Hill. In the early 2000s, myself and my friend ROBERT had decided to watch all the Bond movies in order over several days, with the easy review-ability of LAZER DISC. We both had dim, fond memories of seeing a few of these films in our childhoods, and watching them ALL seemed a grand idea. However, like an all-you-can-eat challenge at the neighborhood Hof Brau, that once-grand idea soon fills you with regret and nausea when you are at half way, and will ultimately break you completely. Fond memories or not, we simply could not chew our way through all the pap. (For the record, Roger Moore was the greasy plate of macaroni and beef that sent us scuttling to the lavatory).


Seeing these Bond movies again was a revelation. Some were cheesy-but-good, one or two were actually good-good, but the vast majority were just plain silly. As for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, it was revealed to be the most lackluster of Sean Connery’s Bond movies by far. He was beyond his sleek, 1960s, dangerous-panther phase, and had not yet reached his later, 1980s, silver-fox phase. It was those awkward in-between years; his 1970s, bored, toupee-and-girdle phase. The film had little of the danger I had remembered, and was actually tame compared to what children watch today, almost AUSTIN POWERS.

I rather preferred the deadliness of the film I had carried around in my head since childhood, and perhaps that’s the secret to the Bond Franchise’s success? Maybe this film series lives so vividly because we’ve EACH selected our favourite dishes from the Bond buffet table — the best baddie, best helicopter chase, most vivacious babe, snazziest theme song, most bruising brawl, scariest henchman, most exciting car chase, greatest gizmo, and the best Bond-actor — and assembled in our minds a custom-made, mega-meta-movie platter all along? We each remember an absolutely awesome Bond movie that perhaps never really existed.

In fact, this may be the case with many of the films that I love, especially those that impressed me as a child. The versions of those films that I hold in my mind were merely inspired by the actual films, and what I love was only ever in my imagination. After all, foods, wines and whiskeys often gain more flavour by being allowed to age undisturbed in a cellar, and perhaps this true of film as well. Is the human mind the oak-barrel aging room of media? If so, perhaps our relationship to film has fundamentally changed in the post-video age, when we can instantly call up any scene from any movie that we wish on YouTube or streaming video. Easy access to the originals doesn’t allow for the distortions and amplifications of memory.


So rather than overwrite that old memory of being enthralled by DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER at the age of 7, with the unimpeachable evidence that the film is actually pretty shoddy, with a puffy lead actor who barely performs above a yawn, I prefer to keep the thrilling memory of the movie experience I’ve had in my head all those years: Me at the age of 7, with Dad on a boys night out to see a great movie! Vividly-remembered scenes of James Bond brawling in a swimming pool with not one but TWO kung fu bikini girls, WOW! And that deadly fight in a lift, COOL! What about that stunt with a car going though a skinny alleyway? YEAH! And what’s going on with those two very creepy assassin guys? Hey Dad, maybe we shouldn’t talk about it too much, because Mum wouldn’t “get it”, don’t you think?

It’s the stuff that a cuddly childhood memory is made of.

72 thoughts on “Tomorrow, You Only Have Memories Forever, Again. Twice.”

  1. Movie theaters were like a playground back then. You could shuttle from movie to movie and spend the whole day there.

    Australia didn’t get color until ’75?! Yow!

  2. and imagine working in the film industry, in any capacity, and keeping in mind that, for the vast majority of audiences, your work had to impress quickly once, and never, ever again after it’s theater run, barring the unlikely private screening. then came film clubs, then tv movie “events”, then tv syndication of film libraries, then video rentals, now vast online libraries. wow, what meteoric shifts!

  3. I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t see a Bond film until I was a teenager. I remember being surprised that I could find such trashy stuff incredibly enjoyable and what the heck? I didn’t know ANY women that looked like those women. The latest Bond was good, I liked it a lot, but it was…… real??? He seemed like some other cool guy.

  4. Nice! My father brought all four of us (way too young) kids to see ‘The Odessa Files’. We were all absolutely petrified of the spies and Nazis the entire movie, but never made a peep, nor even shifted in our seats– simply because of the great privilege we’d been accorded.

  5. My dad was also my ambassador to cartoons, particularly Warner Brothers and Rocky and Bullwinkle. And to James Bond. He was a big fan, and there were many nights when I heard the Dr No soundtrack playing on the hi-fi while I was falling asleep in my bed down the hall. I also remember when he was tasked to take us kids to see a Disney movie, he would joke about taking us to the latest Bond flick instead. And, that opening scene to Diamonds are Forever vividly cemented my fascination for Connery’s Bond forever in my mind. It’s still my favorite Bond, for the eerie Messrs. Kidd and Wint, Bambi and Thumper, Jill St. John, the surreal desert and moon set scenes, the car stunts, Vegas, and all the other things you mentioned, and more. I confess that I haven’t seen it in years, and it is overripe for reviewing. I hope that I still disagree with you after I have! ;)

    • Don’t get me wrong Russell. I have tremendous affection for these films. It’s just that sometimes, I remember something more exciting than the actual films. So yeah, I now wonder if RE-watching a childhood fave may be a bad idea?

    • James, oh no, I didn’t miss your point at all! I will always treasure those childhood experiences! They are absolutely formative! I’m always trying to reconnect to that child. But I don’t think that re watching is a bad idea. It can aid that re connection, for one thing. But I guess there are risks–it could be that the re view totally torpedoes the original experience. I think that is rare for me, tho (and it happens more with films I saw at an older stage of my development, I think). I think I can usually separate my child from my adult, also. I merely expressed that I hoped my next experience of DrF will differ from yours–that I will love it as I did when younger (I’d seen it a few times since my childhood, but not for a decade or two). I allow that it’s possible, however, that it will lose some of its sheen. I hope not, but there is that chance. Some things are indelible–those first encounters which lead to love are, for sure.

  6. Yes, there are so many movies I don’t want to watch again, because the memory of them has been so inspiring; I’m pretty sure the reality can’t live up to it. :)

  7. We used to go to a tin shed and watch Hop-a-Long Cassidy movies and if you yelled loud enough you won free tickets to the next week it was called The Bughouse, it was the best. I have wonderful memories of those times.

  8. I remember Sharkgirl who after diving in the water somehow lost her top. Even underwater it changed my life forever. I must have been 8 or 9.

  9. Jamie – when did you first see FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE? The weirdness of Robert Shaw and that fight scene in the train compartment? A weird balance too of cartoon scary – knife toe shoes – and winky Playboy cleavage but then also the confined life & death struggle in the train compartment, maybe the best fight scene in movies ever? Confuses me still, and I’ll bet even if he had an idea what to expect in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER he wasn’t prepared for how graphic for it’s time and for your scale it was.

  10. I have a VERY vivid memory of seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark with my Dad which totally blew his mind, and Airplane which made him laugh so hard that he almost fell out of his chair. My Mom was away for both those weekends so it was a very special occasion indeed!!

  11. This is really great, Jamie. It takes me back to a memory of my Dad after he had seen the original Planet of the Apes. He loved it so much. I loved the film before I ever saw it. The first one I was able to see was the 1971 sequel Escape from the Planet of the Apes:

    I was blown away. When I saw apes in space suits I was floored.

    We saw the film at the drive-in near our house. In fact, we could see the screen from our front porch and our family would re-watch that film multiple times from that porch. It was one of the best memories from my childhood.

    Thanks for reminding of it, Jamie.

    Hope you are well.

    — Brian

    • Hey Keun! Great to hear from you! I think I remember you mentioning to me that you had been to Sydney but I had missed the detail that it was when you were a kid!

    • Hi Jamie! Yeah from 1969-1972 or 1973. I forget myself. Glad to see you are doing so much better! Medical stuff is no fun. Still paying on my experience from 6 yrs ago. Ugh.

  12. Love this. I came of age during the Roger Moore Bond era, (I’m going to say, the least cool Bond.) But I remember loving all the “amazing” tech at the time! The submarine car! And yeah, I missed every single double entendre.

    • Ha ha! Yeah, i was a ROGER MOORE kid too. I’m old enough to have seen one SEAN CONNERY film in the theatre, but it was Roger from then on (apart from TV reruns of course). I came to appreciate that I was robbed, and Sean was actually better.

  13. This is one of my all time favorite essays of yours! I love that Bond is basically an idealization of what constitutes a “real” man. It is really pretty funny looking back, but I am sure it was serious stuff at the time. The drawing is hilarious! :))

    • Ingredients for classic Bond: helicopter gunships, babes- (A) nice (B) evil, a ski chase, a casino, brawling with a big dude, cheesy quip, shagging on a bearskin rug, car chase with guns blazing, a creepy bad guy with- (A) eye patch (B) duelling scar, baddie-base in- (A) volcano (B) undersea. (C) outer space. Recipe: stir fry and add cheese.

  14. I forgot to tell you that I made the revisitation to DAF I had promised to make. Remember: DAF had always been one of my favorites, but in reading this blog post I wanted to see how well it had held up, since I hadn’t seen it in many years. My verdict: It is A Tale of Two Cines–it is the Best of Bonds, and the Worst of Bonds. I think you pegged most of the best parts. The pre credit scenes ending with the mud baths and the zipping scalpel throwing is weird and cruel–necessary for a good Bond movie. Bambi and Thumper are great. They kick Bond’s ass, and in that awesome John Lautner house, no less. And Messrs. Kidd and Wint are great villains–that opening scene with them with the helicopter is wonderfully surreal. I even like them when they bury Bond in the desert (tho sealing him in that pipeline is preposterous). Added to what you say, it has the Shirley Bassey sung theme, and a great John Barry score–the space scenes with the satellite being gobbled up are, and later, with the killer satellite lasering the ICBMs, are scored gracefully, but with awe and menace, too–indelible. The car chase in Vegas is iconic, but that moon buggy chase is terrible! (Here we get into the Worst!) The pursuing cars and ATVs fall and crash all over themselves to make it seem dramatic. (I made a fun discovery: Look close and the buggy loses a wheel toward the end of the chase, at 2:15 in the video, below). Prior to this, Bond’s escape from the research compound supplies the stinkiest cheese you mention, when the astronauts try to grapple and punch at Bond in slow motion, because it’s “outer space” (like when, as a kid, you had slow motion fights)–so DUMB! The climactic fight at the oil derrick is anti-. But it’s the last real Connery Bond for a while, so that makes up for a number of sins. And the high notes still reach quite high. Ultimately I guess I have to say that it went down a few notches in my Bond book overall, tho, so good call. If I’d originally seen it in sequence after what is now my favorite of ALL Bonds, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I might have a different opinion of it today, so I guess your theme of “Tomorrow, You Only Have Memories Forever, Again. Twice.” is true.

    • Thanks for your recollections and impressions, Russell! I think the Bond movies would sometimes show up on telly as a kid, but as a cinema experience, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER was my first, and then SPY WHO LOVED ME was my second.

  15. Jamie!

    Those drawings are great! Like illustrations for a DIAMONDS children’s book!

    I have a lot of affection for DIAMONDS (and LIVE AND LET DIE, GOLDEN GUN), as they were all directed & written by Guy Hamilton and Tom Mankiewicz, respectively. While not the same tone as the early classic Bonds, these flicks have such a weird vibe to them.

    DIAMONDS is dripping with witty one-liners throughout, and a surreal twist to the proceedings (Bond burned in a casket, the fight with Bambi & Thumper, Blofeld in drag, etc). Connery, I feel, is more lively in this film than he was in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, where it was clear he was bored to tears of the whole enterprise. In DIAMONDS, he’s working with a cool million dollar paycheck, and he seems to relish the lighter tone. I read somewhere that he and Hamilton would rush through the day’s filming so they could catch a round of gold before nightfall!

    Anyway, I’m delighted to read your childhood memories of the cinema. Thanks for sharing!

  16. When I was a young boy a quarter got me into Saturday morning movies for the whole afternoon. I can’t remember how many cartoons there were each time followed by a short movie. Shark Girl sticks in my memory because she lost her top while swimming after sharks! Oh and a to be continued next week! What a blast! Thanks for the memories Jamie!

    • I’m part of the television generation and that is what separates my childhood from that of my parents, who like you, had no TV. Nevertheless, we both enjoyed linear narrative media– television and film. I’ve recently been wondering if cinema/TV narrative will cease to have the appeal that it once had, because this current generation of kids has grown up with computers and the internet since they were infants, and are more engrossed in branching media– games and so on– which have never grabbed me.

  17. James!

    Roger Moore’s Bond as “greasy beef and macaroni” — ha ha! SO true!

    Thanks for writing about the universal (but seldom explored) experience of seeing films with beloved family members. I first saw “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” with my grandfather, an ex-tugboat Brooklyn guy with mermaid tattoos.

    • I did not know you had any familial connection to NY. Tugboat captain, eh? very cool! (my pop was a jockey). I don’t remember ever seeing any films at the cinema with any of my grandparents, although I remember watching TV matinees with my father’s parents at their house a few times.

      Thanks for commenting, George!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.