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“Fahrenheit 451:” Remake Has To Be Better Than The Original.

“Fahrenheit 451:” Remake Has To Be Better Than The Original.


Talk about a long-buried memory.

As I zipped through Tuesday’s online edition of The Wall Street Journal I stumbled on this headline in the Life and Arts section: “A Fahrenheit 451 for the Digital Era.”

That stopped me.

It was a piece about HBO’s remake of the 1966 film “Fahrenheit 451.” Both are adaptations of Ray Bradbury’s book by the same name. The new version airs on the premium movie channel May 19th.

I’m not a big fan of science fiction and haven’t read the novel. I did see the original movie, though. 

Sort of.

Lemme back up.

When I was a kid we lived a little more than an hour south of New York City in rural Monmouth County, NJ. Once or twice a year the Dougherty bumpkins would pile into the family station wagon and head into the big city for sightseeing, dinner and a movie. 

I was 14 the time we decided to see the new Julie Christie movie, “Fahrenheit 451.” Tickets cost $5 each and there was a spirited debate between my parents about whether anyone should ever spend that much to see a film.

Ultimately, they splurged and we found ourselves in a dark theater near Times Square. We sat in the middle of a row in this order: my father, my mother, my brother and me.

That’s important.

About 15 minutes into the movie a man came in and sat in the seat next to mine. He had a winter coat folded on his lap. 

A few minutes later something tickled my right knee. It felt a little like pins and needles, so I readjusted. Then I felt it again. Stronger this time. I looked down and could see the guy in the next seat had his hand under his coat and was touching my leg. 

I was terrified. I whispered to my brother to tell dad that a man was touching me. My kid brother didn’t whisper to my mother beside him, he just shouted.

My father sprang to his feet and so did the pervert. There was a foot race to the door in the back of the theater and the freak had a lead.

My brother, mother and I also sprinted to the lobby. It was a while before my dad returned. 

“Son of a bitch got away,” he said breathlessly. “Down the subway.”

“What were you going to do?” I asked.

“I was going to kill the bastard,” my father replied matter-of-factly.

Turned out, it was a day of firsts. First time we’d ever paid five bucks each for movie tickets. First time I’d ever heard my dad call someone a bastard. (He’d used the other expletive one other time: When he got a fish hook in his finger.) First time I realized there were weirdos in the world who liked to fondle girls who were sitting in movie theaters with their families.

It was also a day of lasts. Last time my family ever sat with either my mother or me next to an empty seat.

Every time I've gone to a movie since 1966, I’ve scrutinized any stranger who sat next to me. If some SOB touches me in the dark, I won’t need my father to kill him. I’ll do it myself.

Oh, the manager of the New York movie theater didn’t seem shocked by what had happened. He did apologize, though, and refunded our money. 

I never saw the rest of the original “Fahrenheit 451.” Looking forward to the remake.

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