My abiding memory of Rutger Hauer isn’t Wedlock or The Hitcher or even Blade Runner. It’s Split Second. Sort of. Back in the good old days my local two screen cinema would run one-off showings of less popular movies at a discount price. My mum and I saw a few of these films, including Conan the Destroyer. I saw Natural Born Killers on my own.
One of these “Tuesday specials” was Split Second. It had “the bad guy from Blade Runner” in it and looked pretty cool so I decided to go. Like all sane people I arrived early to get a good seat. The cinema was empty so I picked the perfect spot and settled down to contemplate the futility of existence (or whatever it was we did before smartphones) while I waited for all the other Rutger Hauer fans to arrive.
The lights went down.
The trailers started up and I was still alone in the theatre. It slowly dawned on me that I now had a decision to make. Back in those days there was still an “intermission” between the trailers and the movie. During that time an usher, usually a woman, would stand at the front of the room with a tray of sugary snacks and a beverage or two in an attempt to encourage us to stock up before the movie. Normally a few people would line up, grudgingly buy something and then the usher would head back out and the movie would start.
But I was on my own. Which meant that when the usher arrived I was either going to have to a) sit awkwardly while she stood at the front of the theatre, both of us well aware I wasn’t buying any Butterkist or b) buy something. Being English, I of course decided on the latter. Apparently the usher wasn’t interested in that awkward stand-off either, because when the lights came up no one appeared. I sat there for a minute or two then the lights when down and the film started.
According to IMDB, Split Second is 90 minutes long but I remember it feeling like a really long film. I’m not sure if that was the quality of the film, or the fact that I’d had too much Pepsi during the day but either way, about three-quarters of the way through the film I realized I was going to need to go to the washroom before the end of the film.
Not only did we have fake intermissions and ushers with trays in the good old days, we also had real film – none of this slap in a hard drive and press a button nonsense. A living human being (known as a pro-jec-tion-ist) actually ran the film, changed the reels and replaced the projector bulb when it blew in the middle of the film.
I had no idea what the policy was regarding films and empty theatres. Would the projectionist see the theatre was empty? Would he stop the film and head out early for a pint? Should I call through the little window to let him know I was just nipping out but not to worry because I’d be back? The only thing I knew for certain was that peeing on the floor in a cinema is frowned upon in most countries.
So, I apprehensively left the theatre, jogged down the stairs to the washroom for a quick splash and dash and then ran back upstairs to my seat. All the while I had visions of returning to the cinema to find the lights on, film off, and some old guy sweeping the floor. To my relief, that didn’t happen and I did get to see the rest of the film. It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen but not the worst, either (that’s Space Island starring Ernest Borgnine).
I doubt the projectionist even knew I was gone and probably wouldn’t have bothered stopping the film anyway but to me Rutger Hauer will always be the star of a mediocre science fiction movie playing to an empty theatre while I run to the washroom. That and the attack ships thing.
R.I.P. Harley Stone.[Rutger Hauer (1944–2019) by Philip Harris first appeared on Solitary Mindset on 25 August 2019]