Sunday, January 31, 2016

"The Ipcress File," and Cape Cod

Memories from childhood can be striking, mysterious.  Sometimes the memories are unusually distinct; sometimes vague, elusive. 

This includes, indeed, images and stories from television, and films.

Last week, I watched the excellent spy film The Ipcress File (starring Michael Caine), on TCM.   I think the only time I had seen it, previously, was when it originally came out, in 1965. It's possible I saw the film again a few years after that, on TV, but I don't believe so.  

I asked my brother about the movie, after watching it again.  He told me we originally saw it at a movie theatre on Cape Cod.  He said (I have no memory of this) that our mother took us to see it, along with one of our childhood friends.  (I was nine, in 1965; my brother was twelve.)  

My brother's memory of seeing the film on Cape Cod is, I am sure, accurate. The website IMDB notes that the film was released in August of 1965.  In August, during that part of the 1960s, our family would have been on the Cape, staying in a small cottage we rented each summer.

I recall liking the film, decades ago, but before seeing it again, last week, I remembered only one detail from it--a sole detail, and nothing else.  It was the image, in the film, of a nail. The scene with the nail—an important scene, in the movie--scared me, as a child; in watching the movie again, I can see why it did, can understand why I focused on it, then, to the degree I had.  Last week, the scene, and its memorable image, may not have been as frightening to me as it had been, decades before, but it was still riveting nonetheless.  

If my childhood memory of the film was limited to one arresting detail from a particular scene, my memories of Cape Cod, during the summers of that era, are far less confined.

I remain drawn, for example, to any number of memories of the cottage we rented--which include watching part of the 1968 Democratic Convention, on the black and white TV set in the small living room. (Although the furniture in the house was not our own, I think the TV set might have been ours, brought from home.) The TV was near the living room's picture window, which overlooked a bluff, and the ocean, just beyond.  The cottage--which we rented until perhaps 1970 (when I was fourteen)--was (along with the area surrounding it) one of the places I have loved most in my life. 

A number of years later, on a visit to the Cape–at the end of the 1970s, as I recall--I tried to find the cottage (which, my father had told me, had had a second floor built onto it).  I couldn't locate it, couldn’t find the dirt road which had led to the small neighborhood.  In the end, after taking a different route, I was, simply, unable to tell if I was in the right place. The entire area had been developed, it was unrecognizable, and after a short time (startled by this loss of bearings), I gave up looking.

(Photo above: the cottage referred to, on Cape Cod; the photo is marred by a vertical crease toward the right side of the picture. I don't know the date of the picture; it is probably from the mid-1960s)