Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Herbie and me

I grow up in a suburb south of Stockholm, and we had a movie theatre there, called Fanfaren. In the autumn of 1981 a film opened in Sweden called Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), and eventually it found it's way to Fanfaren. And I went to see it. I was very young and it was the first time I ever went to the movies on my own. And even though it's almost 30 years ago I remember it vividly, everything about it. I was thrilled! I remember the film, me sitting there watching it, me walking home afterwards, and then discussing it with my father when I got home. I even remember some of the things he asked me, like if it had been shot with a camera looking out through the front windscreen so the audience would feel like they were driving the car.

It's easy to see the appeal. A young boy and a cute car being manhandled by evil adults, and a lot of slapstick in between, what's not to like?

Very few movie experiences has been in the same league as that one, perhaps none can compete. And it doesn't matter that I saw all the Herbie films again a couple of years ago, not being particularly impressed. When I was seven years old, it was the best thing in the world.

There were four films made about Herbie back then, from 1968 to 1980, and they were created by Gordon Buford. The first two was directed by Robert Stevenson, the last two by Vincent McEveety. Stevenson had a long and eclectic career, doing both noirs in the 1940s and children's films in the late 1960s and 1970s, including the Irish classic Darby O'Gill and the Little People already in 1959 and Mary Poppins in 1964. McEveety on the other hand mostly made TV action series, like Airwolf, Simon & Simon and Magnum P.I. as well as various episodes of Dallas, Murder, She Wrote and The Rockford Files. I was addicted to all of those shows so perhaps McEveety has shaped me more than any other director. Or maybe not. The director wasn't exactly the major force in those TV series.

But to get back to Herbie. I'm delighted to have found that Herbie, the car, has his own page on imdb (click here), and that apparently there are more Swedes who have experienced the Love Bug as young impressionable children.

About four years ago I went to see a new version of Herbie, Herbie Fully Loaded (2005), with a friend of mine and her son Alex. Unlike me, he didn't see it on his own, but even so, I wonder if it would've made as big on impression on him as my first experience did on me. I don't remember what he said about it after. I myself found it moderately entertaining. But it felt rather nice to see it with a young boy, even if it wasn't my own son.

Why did I suddenly start to think about this? Because of a random remark by Kent Jones, or was it Barry Putterman, on Dave Kehr's blog. It was like a Madeleine cake. And now, when thinking about it, it's with nothing but joy. It was a happy day, a happy time, a happy memory. And I still get a bit misty-eyed when thinking about it all. Maybe I should call my father, or Annie and Alex, and see what they remember.

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