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Dead Teenagers and the birth of a movie buff

From: Christina Harlin

I was raised in a strict fundamentalist home, and our church was opposed to movie attendance for a number of reasons, though probably mostly because of the necking that occurred both on- and off-screen. Only once, when I was about seven, my young mother sneaked me to another town so I could see a revival showing of Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and she was afraid that we might get caught. What would have happened, had we been caught, is not perfectly clear to me. Scarlet letter "M"s on our chests?

Perhaps not surprisingly, by the time I was eleven years old (1979) I was a movie buff. I was not permitted to see theatrical releases and the owning of a VCR was still a few years down the road, so any movie I managed to see was on television (i.e., chopped up, panned-and-scanned, and usually spliced with commercials). Thankfully many movies are powerful enough to withstand this abuse, so my enthusiasm for films was not hindered by it.

(A fawning sidenote here: I was so hungry for movies that I became a devoted fan of a movie-review program aired on our PBS affiliate out of Chicago. At the time it was called "Sneak Previews." I loved that show, and it was a staple of my week. Here I could see clips from movies that were forbidden to me, and watch you and Mr. Siskel discuss those movies with the enthusiasm that I felt, and that no one else seemed to share with me. I remember once I abandoned my family's 4th of July fireworks picnic just so I could watch you review "Blade Runner," a movie that I did not get to see until several years later. One of my fondest childhood memories.)

Anyway, because the only movies I watched were those available on television in the era before cable, I saw a good number of classics, especially on the reliable PBS, which introduced me to Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Thanks to this exposure, and my becoming accustomed black-and-white films at an early age, I was a relatively sophisticated, though limited, film-viewer long before I reached high school, if one could forgive my complete ignorance of anything made in another country or after 1972. In this light, I support your contention that AFI's Top 100 Movies list might luckily hinder the business of the Dead Teenager movie. I have never much cared for the Dead Teenager flick, but I've always been a Hitchcock fan. And imagine my pleasure when the VCR became a household item, with over a decade of movies for me to catch up on.

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