Friday, 8 May 2015

The Lyric

The time, 1981, the place, the Lyric Theatre on 42nd Street… I was sifting thru some snapshots of Times Square as it was in the halcyon days of Exploitation film exhibition and one can’t help getting caught up in the romance of seeing MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY looming large on a theatre marquee. The Times Square of this era which bumped and grinded to the rhythms of extreme violence and sleazy sex is a sort of Xanadu within the Exploitation headspace, a collection of pleasure domes that sold dreams for the price of a double-feature. But for all my rampant cinephilia, I probably would have given Times Square a wide berth, preferring not to run the gauntlet of pimps, pushers, sex workers and freaks looking to turn out a quick buck from some babe in the woods. What an unnerving experience it would have been to see a late night showing of Maniac at the Lyric, and then having to make a 30min trip home on the subway to one of the boroughs, negotiating the bums and pickpockets and perhaps the odd serial killer working the hole (as William Burroughs called it).

The Lyric theatre which sat right in the middle of Times Square was one of the more salubrious picture houses on the strip, its grand spacious lobby was immortalized in Taxi Driver as the theatre where Travis Bickle takes Betsy on their doomed date. I was reading some memories of the Lyric by people who attended the theatre in the 70’s and there was some interesting speculation on whether Scorsese had the marquee specially dressed for the shoot (displaying the double-bill Sometime Sweet Susan and Swedish Marriage Manual) as the Lyric was not generally known as a porno theatre. That scene in Taxi Driver hinges on Betsy’s disgust for “dirty movies” so perhaps a regular fixture of the Lyric, say Andy Milligan’s Bloodthirsty Butchers, might not have worked so well…

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