There aren’t many movies that I’ve ever walked out of, but Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man was definitely the first. I’m honestly not even sure how this happened since the film was released four years before I was even born. Maybe living in an Army town in the late 70’s meant that we had a theater playing not-so-fresh movies. Maybe there was a Charlton Heston revival and my Dad got a hankering to go? Whatever the case, I wasn’t even eight years old and we didn’t make it past the first act.
When you see parents taking their kids to contemporary horror movies because they don’t want to pay for a sitter and they think that the kids will just shrug off a crazy movie at such a young age–know that these people are evil. The Omega Man was rated PG because it came out at a time when violent mutant mayhem and a little full-frontal nudity wasn’t enough to earn an R. My dad being the parent and resident Charlton Heston fan figured that that he could cover my eyes if things got a little too intense. He wasn’t the kind of parent who routinely dragged me to movies I had no business watching, but for some reason he made an exception for at least part of The Omega Man and up until the scene in the department store, we were game.
I wouldn’t say that it scarred me for life, but the experience burned itself into my brain enough that I remember the area of the theater in which we sat. The movie was horrifying and I thought about those black-cloaked mutants tearing up the city at night for years. But all of the terror that opens the film wasn’t what sent us packing. Nope, it was Rosalind Cash’s strip scene that pushed my dad over the edge and prompted him to say “that’s enough of THAT” as he grabbed my wrist and walked me out of the theater.
After that, my dad’s censorship focus remained the same in what must be a pretty familiar story for American kids. Charlton Heston gunning down mutants with a sniper rifle was OK to watch, but a woman taking off her clothes and making an advance at Charlton Heston was not. As the years wore on, we didn’t wind up in too many movies where we shouldn’t have been, but every once in a while we’d go see something like Top Gun and my dad’s hand would come up out of his lap to cover my eyes whenever things looked like they were going to get steamy. I was allowed to see the fighting and I was encouraged to close my own eyes if I was scared, but when the bras came off, that was the magical line that could not be crossed.
I’m glad that we walked out of The Omega Man because seeing only that first terrifying part without the ending built the film up to something legendary in my mind. For years I tried to unsee it and then at some point a switch flipped and I was compelled to know how it ended. I’m happy to say that I still like it better than the Will Smith version.