During the late 1960s, when I was a film student at UCLA, I felt I had to catch up fast in my knowledge of American films. After all, it was foreign films like Carl Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (1948) and Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1957) that introduced me to what the film medium could do.
So I went with my late friend Norm Witty to see the 99¢ triple features at the remaining movie theaters on Broadway downtown. Most of these theaters are no longer showing films, though at one time it represented the highest concentration of movie theaters in the U.S.; it was called the Broadway Theater District. It included the Cameo, the Tower, the Palace, the Los Angeles, the Arcade, the Roxie, and the Olympic theaters (though the last one was located on West 8th Street). Most of them ran movies all day and all night, usually as triple features.
Even back then, most of the patrons were just intent on getting a good night’s sleep in a theater seat that wasn’t too sticky or dirty. The rest rooms were something of a horror, and the refreshments were pretty disgusting. The worst of all was the Arcade, which we went to only once.
Probably the best film I saw on these all-night excursions was a Universal picture starring Charlton Heston, Richard Boone, and a radiant Rosemary Forsyth called The War Lord (1965). Heston and Boone are two Norman knights who take control of a Saxon village. Heston falls in love with Rosemary Forsyth, a Saxon maiden who is betrothed to another villager. When he exercises the jus primae noctis (“the right of the first night”) and demands the right to bed her before her betrothed, the Saxons begin to mutter. But then Heston decides to keep her, and war breaks out. Franklin Schaeffner directed the film, which is still worth seeing when it comes around.