Last night, I was doing some research on Albany history for an upcoming project. And as I whirred through miles and miles of old newspaper microfilm, something reminded me of an old blog post channel of mine.
It’s called “When It Played in Albany.” This was a recap of various movies that played in Capital District theaters and drive-ins on a certain day – usually it’s the major debut of a certain film, followed by the films playing on other screens in the area.
I looked at the last “When It Played in Albany” from my blog.
It was from 2013.
So I took the day I was currently researching – April 2, 1970 – and built a “When It Played in Albany” from that day. These are all the films that a Capital District movie lover could see on that day, whether it meant driving to your local cinema or attending a drive-in in the country. Now mind you, many of these theaters are long gone – some disappeared when the Empire State Plaza was built, others are now office parks or condo land. Still … this is a fun little recap.
First thing to know – there was a ratings system in place for films from that time.
One of the major releases at that time was a film called The Kremlin Letter, with the movie tagline “If you miss the first five minutes, you miss one suicide, two executions and the key to the plot!” This film was showing at several theaters that day, including the Tri-City Twin Drive-in in Menands (where it was paired as a double feature with Frank Sinatra’s film “The Detective”), it was also showing at the Mohawk Drive-In on Central Avenue in Colonie (again, paired with “The Detective”), it was appearing at the Circle Twin in Latham, and at the Studio Theater in Hudson.
You’ve never heard of The Kremlin Letter? That’s understandable. The film was a box office bomb.
As you can see from the embedded advertisement at the top of this blog, the Circle Twin in Latham was also showing the classic film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on its second screen. Both films at the time were rated “GP,” which was the original designation for “General Attendance – Parental Guidance.” Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was also showing at the Scotia Art Theater, where it was in its third straight month in that building.
The Fox Colonie Theater on Wolf Road, across from Colonie Center, aired the science fiction film Marooned, which featured an all-star cast – including Gregory Peck, Richard Crenna, James Franciscus, David Janssen, Gene Hackman and Mariette Hartley. I think it won a special effects Oscar, but I’m not 100% sure.
The Madison Theater, at that time associated with RKO General, was showing They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? in the final week of its run. Advertisements for this film noted that the picture had received nine Oscar nominations, and brought us the chant “Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah,” which I hope I never hear again in my lifetime.
The two recently built “”prestige” theaters had some smashes on their screens – the Hellman Theater on Washington Avenue Extesnion was in its second week of showing M*A*S*H, with matinee showings for adults at only $2/ticket. And no reserved seats!
The Hellman’s sister theater, the Center (in the Colonie Center parking lot, opposite where Macy’s used to be), was in its final weeks of showing the Barbra Streisand classic Hello, Dolly! – and they also offered “popular prices,” with $2 per adult and $1 per kid. Just think, you can bring your kid to see Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau in the all-singing, all-dancing, all – oh why am I even trying here?
Here’s something interesting. The Cinema 7 theater in Latham – which currently exists only as an office park – enthralled audiences with the film Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, This was the film of 1970 that introduced the concept of partner-swapping on the big screen. I think that meant if Bob didn’t want to spend time with Carol, he could spend time with Alice, or with Ted, or with … oh my head hurts.
Meanwhile, at the Uptown theater in Rensselaer, you had your cohice of watching the Oscar-nominated film Cactus Flower at night … or on the weekend you could watch the family film A Man Called Flintstone. Don’t get confused here, you don’t want to bring your kids to what you think is a family film and suddenly get an education about the beauty of Goldie Hawn. Although that might not be a bad thing.
So if you’re not thinking you want to see some of these films … there’s always the drive-ins. I already mentioned that the Tri-City Twin drive-in was offering The Kremlin Letter and The Detective on one of their two screens; their other screen was devoted to a pair of true crime films, The Honeymoon Killers and To Commit a Murder.
The Turnpike Drive-In in Albany was also showing The Honeymoon Killers, but their second feature that night was a blaxsploitation film called If He Hollers Let Him Go, starring Raymond St. Jacques as a wrongfully imprisoned man trying to clear his name.
Over at the Auto-Vision theater in East Greenbush, you could put down the roof of your convertible, hang a speaker on your driver’s side window, and enjoy the double-feature of The Virgin Soldiers – starring Lynn Redgrave – and Castle Keep, starring Burt Lancaster. Yep. War is hell, on the big screen at the Auto-Vision.
Finally, we can NOT let things go without showing the triple-feature at the Carman Drive-In in Schenectady. At 7:00, you could watch Michael Caine in the film Deadfall, followed by a Terry Sands double feature – The Ribald Tales of Robin Hood, His Lusty Men & Wenches – guys and gals, that’s the SANITIZED newspaper version of the film title, it’s actually called The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood, His Lusty Men & Wneches – followed by another Terry Sands film, Lusty Magico, a film so far forgotten that I couldn’t find it on IMDB or anywhere else.
And this is what theater patrons had for choices back in April of 1970. There was action, there was comedy, there were a couple of musicals, there were some war dramas, and even some grindhouse films for the true aficionado.
You know … this feature was fun. I should do more of these.
I just shouldn’t wait until 2023 to write the next one. Amirite?