A Jagged Edge

My mother told the A and E receptionist ‘He’s sustained a bad a cut.’ I leant in to the window and corrected her. ‘Actually, I’ve been stabbed,’ I said. It’s possible I sounded irritated, but I was speaking the truth. My sister had stabbed me in the upper left arm with a long, white-handled kitchen-knife. I had a small towel wrapped around the wound to soak up the blood.

The knife didn’t go in deep, perhaps half an inch, but the skin is under its own tension: when a thin blade goes in, the skin tears itself open a little way. The blade was but millimetres thick, though the width of the hole was the size of a fifty pence.

A doctor slid a needle under the hole and injected some anaesthetic before stitching it up. She wandered of around a corner when she’d finished. ‘Thank you,’ I said as she went, but she didn’t look back, just slowly strolled away.

The argument I’d had with the sister was (I think) over a set of car keys. There was something in my mother’s car I wanted and the sister wouldn’t give me the keys to get it, so we had a bit of a wrestle and I think I punched her in the leg. She got up, went to the kitchen for the knife, and walked toward me with it. ‘And what are you going to do with that?’ I asked, not thinking she was about to give me my first lesson in the power of show over tell. It was an interesting encounter. A stabbing requires more of the person than a shooting because the stabber remains connected to the hardware as it goes in. It must take less character to shoot someone than to stab them.

The last time a knife had bothered me prior to this incident was five years before, when I was eleven, and had gone to the cinema one afternoon by myself. At the time we lived five minutes’ walk away and the cinema was a good place to go if one could cadge the money for a ticket from a parent, and I’d managed to do just that.

I’d decided to watch Haunted Honeymoon – a Gene Wilder movie – because I liked the look of the poster and wasn’t old enough to get into the other films.

The cinema – a 1930s art-deco building which became Grade II listed that same year, 1986 – had three auditoriums, two on the ground floor and a larger one upstairs. The doors to screens 2 and 3 were connected by a dark corridor, just a short walk between two, and of course, depending on what was showing, one could move between two different worlds very quickly. A person entered the corridor, would choose left or right depending on the movie, and do so after having shown one’s ticket. Choice is always an element.

I was in screen number 2 for Haunted Honeymoon (the movie bombed) waiting for something to happen. There were usually trailers for other films or adverts for freeze-dried mash, but it looked to me as if the film was starting right away because the lights dimmed and the film’s BBFC certificate appeared on the screen, telling me the film had been classified for such and such a rating. It was then I realised I’d wandered into the wrong screen because the title of the film starting wasn’t Haunted Honeymoon. It looked like a racing car movie from the opening shots. I can’t remember the title. (I realised later I was watching a trailer for another movie and I was where I was meant to be.)

So I got up and walked from screen 2 to 3 where I thought the film must have either started or wasn’t far off from starting, and sat down in another empty auditorium. The movie had already started. I didn’t recognise the actors in this film, or what the film was about, but it was a ‘grownup’ film of some description. I couldn’t see Gene Wilder anywhere.

A cop had been killed. Now his partner was out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, and out for revenge in an unforgiving town. (Isn’t that how these films go?) I didn’t know it then but the film was a steaming pile of rubbish. At the time I wasn’t really following because I’d missed the beginning. A guy tries to pull the hot-blonde love-interest out of some bar and they end up handcuffed in the New Orleans swamps with bad guys chasing them. The bad guy looked very bad indeed: he had slicked back hair and a turned-up collar. (The only interesting thing in movie-terms about this truly evil bastard was that he didn’t have an English accent.) The film was No Mercy, an 18-rated ‘thriller’ directed by Richard Pearce. The evil bastard was played by Jeroen Krabbe; the out-for-revenge-cop by Richard Gere and the love-interest by Kim Basinger.

There is some awful dialogue in this movie. When Gere first meets Basinger, playing a piece called ‘Michel’ it’s because she’s run away with a new bloke and she thinks Gere is a hit-man who she can hire to get shot of the slick-haired bad guy. (Basinger’s mother ‘sold’ her to him when she was thirteen for a house and some money, but we don’t learn why, all we know is that she’s his ‘property’. Blah blah.) Gere – playing a detective called Eddie Jillette – needs to act like a hoodlum because he’s undercover, so he spews some beautifully clichéd ‘tough guy’ dialogue. This is one exchange:

Jillette: So why you want this guy hit?

Michel: Is that important?

Jillette: Stay outta this, lady.

Michel: I don’t like the way you say lady.

Guy: What’s this going to cost?

Jillette: A lot more than her.

Michel: Drop this guy, he’s a loser

Jillette: Look, you want me to go to a strange city and make a hit I gotta know who the guy is, what his habits are. You let this broad go down on you a coupla times – she runs ya life. You came up here because you don’t fuckin have the guts to hit him y’self. And you don’t have the balls to keep your woman in her place.

She slaps Gere, who thinks about things for a moment then slaps her back. The guy Basinger’s with is impressed by this needless violence.

Guy: I think we can do business.

It’s torture. Unfortunately the slick-haired bad guy has followed Basinger and her man from New Orleans and uses an RPG to blow up the guy’s car – subtle, attracts no attention – and kills Gere’s partner while he’s babysitting the blonde back at the hotel. We learn the bad-guy is called Losado.

All I could tell was that Gere and Krabbe wanted each other dead and it all ‘kicked off’ at the end with a shoot-out in some typically seedy New Orleans hotel while rain poured onto the neon signs.

Gere and Basinger get friendly before the bad guys come over for the final shoot out which annoys Losado because his property shouldn’t be touching another man. He picks up a pillow from the bed and sniffs it, detects the scent of his property, then shoves the pillow into the face of the guy he instructed to follow her. As punishment for letting her slip away this doesn’t seem too serious. Then he produces a knife and slices the man’s throat open.

I actually recoiled in my seat through shock, for this was the first time I’d seen anything like that. It was one of those ‘jaw-dropping’ moments.

Outside I looked for the poster of the film I’d seen and, when I saw it was an ‘18’ I felt slightly excited, like I’d got away with something. I ran away from the cinema before any of the staff came outside and demanded to know what I thought I was doing watching that movie. I didn’t tell my parents that I’d seen No Mercy.

A few weeks after being stabbed I was in the same auditorium with three school friends. We went to see Godfather Part III. Say what you like about this movie in respect to the other two, it is almost perfect compared to No Mercy.

The Corleones travel to Sicily where their son is performing in an Opera. Michael and Kay are not on the best terms. This might be because Michael had everyone murdered back in the 70s – including Fredo, his witless brudder.

A digression: can I be the only movie-fan who was glad to see Fredo get whacked-out? It can’t be true. He was such a whining little bitch that I’m guessing many persons secretly applauded when he got one in the back of the head in that fishing boat. Who could complain? He was told in terms which were unambiguous:

Michael: Fredo, you’re my older brudder, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.

This simple warning comes after Moe Greene storms out the Vegas hotel-room the first movie. (I suppose the only thing worth pondering is what ‘love’ means to Michael Corleone. Whatever its definition, surely it involves emotion? By this point, that’s the thing Michael is significantly lacking, so the question is a fair one. Why does he say it? He means it because it’s the ‘love’ which allows Fredo a second chance, yet it can’t mean more than a familial clause in the contract.)

By Part III age has softened Michael somewhat. He’s weary of the old ways of doing business and wants, finally, to make his family business legitimate. However the other mob family (the Catholic Church) have been trying to screw him in a European business deal and, to ease negotiations, he agrees to have everyone murdered.

The four of us are sat watching the movie, and we’re getting near to the end, when – to make some point about opera drama – Michael quickly thrusts a bread knife to his throat and demands his former wife gives him the order. At this moment I looked like some sort of wimp because at the sight of a knife flashing into shot I flinched in my seat. (Our party was balanced equally, three guys, three gals, and flinching like a feeble Fredo next to a teenage girl lubricates none of her gears.)

Of course I decided why I’d flinched. My arm might have been healing nicely (the girl I was with once washed the wound while I sat on her bed) but a small pink gash can leave psychic damage in a teenage male. That kind of damage takes longer to heal than flesh because the psyche is more prone to infection.

One has to wonder about the effects of apparently minor experiences on the mind. One can say I remember this happening or that happening and laugh about it because it’s in the past and that it doesn’t matter; Is any experience ever processed away without lingering effects on attitudes or behaviour or both. Which sides wants most to win?

Image result for fredo and michael

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