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Saturday Morning Pictures



The Luxor


  It must have been a London tradition imported into the new Hemel by the young immigrants in the fifties.  In London I went every Saturday morning to the ABC Cinema at the Nags Head at the junction of Archway and Holloway Roads.  On arriving in Hemel in December 1954, my Mum soon found out that Saturday morning pictures were to take place at the Luxor Cinema in the Marlowes in Hemel Hempstead.  Ah, The Luxor.  What a flee pit. It was an old brick building located where the Woolworth store is today.  It  was the aim of all us kids to  get to the cinema early in order to get a seat in the front row of the balcony if we could.   We weren't allowed through the front door but had to queue down the left side of the building and were admitted through one of the exits at the back.  It cost about a shilling (0.05p) to get in and they sold ice lollies and ice creams - no matter what time of year it was.  The queue was always long before the show opened and the 'big boys' would more often than not push in the front of the queue.

Inside the cinema was dark and dingy with seats covered in a  red sort of velvety material.  Unlike velvet, however, this material was not soft and when wearing short trousers it made your legs itch.  The noise levels inside were unbelievable.  About 300 children aged between 5 and 15 would scream, whistle, shout and boo at any and every opportunity.  The programme of films was a mixture of news, cartoons, serialised features and more cartoons.  There was a compare, Uncle Andy or something like that who would open the show and read out the names of children whose birthday it was.  They got to go up onto the stage and get a birthday card and some sweets.  There were usually about three serialised films each week.  A Western, (cowboys and Indians), a Science Fiction and a Period Adventure.

The Western film always had the good cowboys in white hats and smart clothes and the bad guys wore black hats, did not shave and looked very scruffy.  There were lots of shoot outs and chases on horseback.  The camera would pan from the good guys to the baddies constantly to cheers for the white hats and boos for the black hats.  In these films no-one's gun ever ran out of bullets.  The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid and Roy Rogers were typical fare.

The sci-fi would be something like 'Jet Morgan and the invaders from Mars'.  Shots in space revealled vacuum cleaner type cylinders suspended from wires sliding across the screen emitting sparks from a rocket at their rear.  The aliens were always ugly.  Our space heroes were dressed in white, often with goldfish bowls over their heads.  The aliens usually wore black and had ingenious secret ray guns.  We cheered at the whites and booed at the blacks.

The Period epic was something like Robin Hood, William Tell, Richard the Lion Heart, The Scarlet Pimpernel or my all time favorite, Zorro.  Now Zorro was strange because as you will all know he was dressed all in black.  Strange for a hero to be in black, so for Zorro we all cheered at the blacks and booed and hissed at the whites.

Most of these serials were over some 10 parts and each week they would end at some very dramatic point in the plot.  Jet Morgan has been surrounded by Zygons and his weapon is useless.  A large net is launched at him whilst in the background the evil Doctor Zygon is preparing to operate on a tied up earth woman with a ten foot laser gun.  A voice emanates from the screen as the picture freezes "Will Jet escape the net or will he be captured and disintegrated?  Will the evil Doctor sizzle his way through the soft white flesh of the earth woman cutting her neatly in two or  will Jet escape in time to save her?  Don't miss next week's thrilling episode of Jet Morgan and the Zygon rectum's."

What a great time it was.  I feel sorry for today's youngsters,  deprived of Saturday morning pictures


Ron Moss


06 November, 2004         Ron Moss