This is what a movie theater should be.

Long before there was this zine, before I was keeping a diary, the first time I really knew that San Francisco was home was when I'd been in the city for a week or so, and came to the Castro for a Hitchcock double feature.

The movies were great, sure, but I was overwhelmed by the theater. It's an old-time palace for film, kept in very good condition, with an ornate rotunda, wonderful murals, a big balcony, plush seats, enthusiastic crowd, great popcorn — the works.

The Castro is from a time when theaters could be remarkable, not merely a room with chairs. It's mesmerizing even a mile away, just seeing the marquee lit up. Being inside the Castro is magical, even before the lights dim and the show begins.

Arguably best of all, at intermission every night, a musician sits at a pipe organ and plays a medley of movie music, climaxing with "San Francisco (Open your Golden Gate)." It shakes the seats, and that first night I was at the Castro, I thought, This is what a movie theater should be. 

Can't count the number of times I've been to the Castro since that first night, but it's not enough times, and I've had that same thought — This is what a movie theater should be — every time.

It's not even a mile from where I live, so tonight I was there again, for another Hitchcock double bill, and another rousing round of "San Francisco." It's the theater's theme song as much as the city's, and it felt like another warm welcome home to me, personally.

Like, where've you been, wanderer? Stick around this time.

As for the movies...

Rope (1948) is a marvelous black comedy of manners and murder at a New York sophisticates' party, after a couple of college buddies have killed a third friend, just for the thrill of it.

Me, I never go to parties, they're such a bore, but this one's a blast, with tension that keeps climbing to the very end. Jimmy Stewart delivers one of his best performances, in one of Hitchcock's smartest stories.

Plus, more personally, Rope on video was the the movie Sarah-Katherine and I watched the first night we, um…. so it triggered some wickedly good memories.

In Strangers on a Train (1951), two men meet on a train, and one of them suggests that they swap murders, because "Some people are better off dead, like your wife and my father."

It's considered one of Hitchcock's great films, but not by me. One of the killers doesn't want to go through with it, the other is just nuts, and we needn't give the murdered wife a moment's thought because the script informs us that "she was a tramp."

There's some tennis that's supposed to be thrilling but seems absurd, and it all comes down to a preposterous finale on a merry-go-round that's whirling out of control. Screenplay by Raymond Chandler, music by Dimitri Tiomkin, helmed by Hitch, so this should be marvelous, but it's dated and dull.

Yet even when the movie isn't all that, when the curtains come down and the lights come up and the organ rises, the Castro is what a movie theater should be.

From Pathetic Life #23
Wednesday, April 10, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. You haven't lived until you've seen a double feature of "The Women" and "All About Eve" at the Castro. Just sayin'. Audience participation is the best!

    1. Then I reckon I've lived! Saw that exact double feature at least twice at the Castro, and also I loved seeing The Wizard of Oz with so many friends of Dorothy.

      It's a damn shame, a crime against the city what they're trying to do to the Castro now.


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