/Answers: The Movies That Define Our Childhood

Chris Evangelista: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Before Avengers: Infinity War became “the most ambitious crossover event in history,” there was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The 1948 comedy teamed-up the former burlesque comedy duo turned movie stars with Universal’s classic monsters – Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Frankenstein Monster. Bela Lugosi even returned to play Dracula one last time. The result was a huge box office hit, and also, many many many years later, a film I watched over and over and over again when I was a child.

I was a fan of the Universal Monsters from a young age, so I existed on a steady movie diet of watching and re-watching Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and so on, on a steady loop. But for reasons I can’t even fully comprehend, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the film that truly had an impact with me. I couldn’t get enough of the film, and when I think back on my childhood viewing habits, this is the film that quickly springs to mind. I can remember sliding the VHS tape into the VCR and sitting transfixed, to the point where I had every line – every joke – memorized. I wish I could give you some sort of deeper answer here; reveal some inner truth about myself, and break down a psychological reason as to why this film had such a hold on me. But I think the answer was simple: I loved monsters, and Abbott and Costello were pretty damn funny. Sometimes, the simplest answer makes the most sense.

Jacob Hall: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I grew up in a house filled with VHS tapes, but there was one movie that saw more play than any other. Maybe it was because Raiders of the Lost Ark only existed in my early life as a fuzzy version recorded off the TV with commercial breaks, but Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was my go-to movie for any moment and any mood. To this day, I still know it backwards and forwards. Every line. Every beat. Every scene. It’s burned into my brain.

I remember averting my eyes whenever the Nazi villain chose poorly, because his rapidly deteriorating corpse gave me nightmares. I remember having to ask my mom who the weird guy with the mustache was in the scene with the book burning. I remember thinking that the tank fight near the end of the film was the coolest, gnarliest, most violent thing I had ever seen and that surely no movie would top it.

Years later, the film holds up. It’s no Raiders (what is!), but it a remarkable piece of popcorn entertainment that shows off Spielberg’s immense skill. It’s as funny as it is thrilling, a genuinely clever expansion on the Indiana Jones world. I like it because it’s a damn good movie. But I love it because I literally grew up with it.

Lindsey Romain: The Wizard of Oz

I can’t remember a time that The Wizard of Oz wasn’t a part of my life. It was somehow even more than that – it was my life. My mom raised me on MGM musicals and Judy Garland specifically, but nothing stuck the way Oz did. The film and its characters existed in an astral plane of existence for me, a world I could step into whenever I wanted, with the push of a VHS tape. I loved The Wizard of Oz so intensely that it dripped over into everything. I was an avid collector of memorabilia – Hallmark ornaments, dolls, costumes, blankets, figurines, books, at least a dozen plastic ruby red slippers – which I routinely displayed across my home state of Michigan. I was the freaky Oz kid, and I loved it.

I could never parse out just what about Oz spoke to me. But it’s one of those eerie things that grew in significance later, after tragedy warped my family life. My mother – who showed me Oz, Judy, the whole thing – died when I was 11, and the film suddenly took on some sort of celestial quality. I had the feeling that I was meant to have it then so I could have it now, a constant solace in her absence. Dorothy went from the pretty-voiced girl I wanted to be to someone I truly was: looking for meaning in every relationship, on my own path of self-discovery.

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