Drama Downtown

why a downtown theater and Harrison Ford are a part of my childhood

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Beth Czech

In the year 1990, I broke the law. Kind of. Well, maybe I broke the law. Actually, maybe I didn’t break the law. OK, after some quick Googling, I’ve realized that in 1990, I didn’t actually break any kind of law. But so what? Back when I was 13 years old, I thought I was breaking the law – and that made all the difference.

Basically, I got into an R-rated movie before I was old enough. Sure, it’s not shoplifting or graffiti or bribing UN weapons inspectors, but if you were raised in a Catholic school system in Wisconsin, it felt bad. Which is to say it felt good. The movie? Presumed Innocent staring Harrison Ford. The plot? Here’s what IMDB.com has to say:

Presumed Innocent, like most of director Alan J. Pakula’s films is a complex character study. Based on a best-selling novel by Scott Turrow, the courtroom murder mystery tells the story of prosecutor Rusty Sabich (Harrison Ford) who is accused of murdering his former mistress, the beautiful and ambitious Carolyn Blah, blah blah boopty floopty blah.

I had no idea what was going on in the movie, and I didn’t really care. My friend, who had recently (and sheepishly) admitted to sneaking into R movies on a regular basis, had convinced me to do it. He assured me that the older kids at the ticket booth wouldn’t even bother to check our age, and if they did, we could just lie. He was a genius. A few tense moments after walking into the theater, I was standing in line for popcorn, my sweaty hand wrapped around my ticket. It was disappointingly easy to purchase.

In our seats, as the lights went down, my friend told me the reason he’d wanted to see this particular movie was because his brother had seen it and told him about the nude scene where Harrison Ford has some hot lawyer sex with Greta Scacchi. And sure enough – that’s what we saw. Yes, kids, this was before the internet when preteen boys had to pay $4.40 (plus popcorn) and sit through two hours (and seven minutes) of courtroom murder mystery to see, like, 30 seconds of nudity.

I’ve never been able to look at Indiana Jones the same way again.