Give the boy his props. Over at Nathan Bransford’s place today, he has a long, beautiful, and circular piece on the new permanence of transient things.
He references fleeting childhood memories that are now a search string away from re-realization with your adult eyes. Stuff you never thought you’d see again that can be summoned forth from the interwebs.
My favorite childhood toy was my Johnny West… “doll,” as my mother called it. I shudder to say “doll.” I originally wrote “action figure,” but that word didn’t exist in 1973. It was just a doll for boys. I had the whole set. I even inherited my older aunt’s collection of the female members of the West clan. They stayed home in the toy box a lot while Johnny went climbing trees with me.
I remember Johnny’s face as much more expressive. It was a shock to conjure up a photo from my fingertips forty years hence and see that the way I remember Johnny was not the way he truly was.
My parents weren’t big on taking us to the doctor when we were sick. Not a religious thing, just a family living paycheck-to-paycheck. I had a habit of coming down with strep every frickin’ Christmas, like clockwork. I remember when I was nine, I had a particularly bad bout of infection. My mom stopped taking my temperature when it hit 102° because she didn’t want to know any more.
I think fever baked my brain that year. I saw things that weren’t there. I had vertigo like I’ve never had before or since.
While my fever was at its zenith, I remember that the Channel 11 noonday movie was called “I’ll Never Forget What’s’name.” I can remember that single viewing totally screwed over my head. I remember an acid trip of nonsensical imagery that made no sense whatsoever. I remember a lot of swishpan camera moves and quick zooms that exacerbated my vertigo and made my queasy stomach flip. I distinctly remember a nonsensical scene where a bunch of hippie-era women flung handheld film cameras into a giant pile for no reason whatsoever.
I chalked that memory up to the fever. Surely no movie executive anywhere ever signed off on a script that bizarre. I could not really have seen what I see in my memory.
I looked for evidence of I’ll Never Forget What’s’name over the years. It took years to even show up on imdb, leaving me to believe I even had been hallucinating the title. But then it showed up. Directed by the guy who directed Alfie. Okay. But beside a passing mention on imdb, there was no other evidence that the film existed.
Based on Nathan’s challenge, today I googled to see if anybody ever put any clips of I’ll Never Forget What’s’name on YouTube.
Not only did someone post the trailer, they posted the entire movie. Wow. Okay, so I skipped forward… forward… forward… Hmmm. It’s wacky, certainly. But it’s not the nonsensical acid trip that I remember. It must have been the fev— Ewwwww shit.
This is it! This is the part I remember. Watch from 1:25:00 to 1:28:57.
Three solid minutes of nonsensical imagery. It wasn’t a mirage. It wasn’t fever. The mystery is solved after 37 years. I have my answer.
But, am I better for it? With the itch scratched, with the long-festering curiosity quelled, am I more self-actualized? Or am I more literal and less imaginative? Is it preferred that it was all the product of a pot smoking film writer and not the smoldering synapses of a Loveboat Era kid in pajamas?
Bah. Terrance Malick, wherever you are, don’t google that imagery you are thinking of committing to film. There is nothing new. It has all been done. Every thought has already been crosshatched somewhere on the quilt of institutional memory.