The crackle of excitement running through the courtyard was practically visible, and it can’t just have been relief that the rain held off, although thank God it did. The cold stone floor of Somerset House is a very different, albeit gloomily impressive location in the pouring rain. There was no need to worry; it stayed dry, admittedly not in a bacchanalian sense. The vast number of uncorked bottles and discarded cups paid testament to that.
That and the fact that everyone seemed to arrive with the picnic equivalent of a three course meal and half a bedroom of soft furnishings suggested there were enough veterans to know the score. The Film4 Summer Screen has been running for over a decade now, attracting sell-out crowds to a mixture of cult classics, golden era hits, and new releases. Each year, more and more people are initiated alongside the repeat customers who can’t get enough of the opportunity to relax on a summer night for a film in the middle of a premier London spot.
We were firmly in cult classic mode this Saturday for True Romance (1993) and The Warriors (1979). After a couple of hours of musical build-up, the announcer at the start drew cheers from the very mention of several actors in the Tarantino penned Tony Scott film that counted as a box office flop in its day before going on to achieve a long afterlife. It’s kind of disturbing to think it was over two decades ago the crazily frenetic comedy crime film exploded onto the scene, sandwiched in-between Tarantino’s own directing efforts, Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994).
Despite changes to his screenplay that sees the story unfold in a linear way and conclude far more happily than one expects from Tarantino, he has expressed satisfaction with Scott’s take. The mix of glossy style, crazy humour and graphic violence works well in their hands. At the heart of this very bloody tale sit comic book store employee Clarence (Christian Slater) and newly started out call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette). It’s sort of a romance – the fact a true romance can occur in Detroit at all is remarked on by Alabama – but there’s also the usual mixture of drug, violence and gangsters.And a ridiculous array of cameo roles. The list of actors walking through is quite phenomenal. There’s Gary Oldman as the chilling wannabe Rastafarian pimp Clarence takes down, Christopher Walken as a Sicilian mob lawyer out to track down the stash of drugs Clarence and Alabama then make off with, Dennis Hopper playing Clarence’s former law enforcement father, James Gandolfini as a mob enforcer, Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn as not entirely professional police officers, Samuel L. Jackson in blink and you’ll miss him role, Val Kilmer as imaginary Elvis and even Brad Pitt as a layabout stoner. Beat that cast list.
Tarantino’s unique brand of humour that created a famous speech on the origins of Sicilians, also finds a lowly movie studio employee spill an entire bag of cocaine across himself when stopped by traffic police, and ends in the almost obligatory Mexican stand-off, left a very satisfied crowd. I suspect most people wrapped up on the mildly chilly Saturday night had not only seen the film, but counted it amongst their favourites. Come the closing credits, it appeared to leave a number of people in a strange mood of satisfied rapture.
Alas, the break between films spelled the end of the evening for many, unfortunately myself amongst them. Already past eleven, and with Walter Hill’s violent New York gang thriller The Warriors not due to finish until shortly before one, the train beckoned. Streaming out with a number of happy people clutching pillows, blankets and sleeping bags, I could only lament the reduced public transport forcing me away.
Behind us, the sounds of an excited crowd began to pick up again. With a few more nights left to run, we had to leave the Summer Screen behind for another year, but it will be back, and I strongly suspect so will I.