Dirk’s Five: Odeon Memories

In a mash up of our usual features, this is a Starburst Memory that meets the Dirk’s Five. The Odeon in Bolton held a very special space in the heart of any child growing up in the town in the seventies. In many ways, it WAS the town, as many of my earliest memories are of visiting it with my mum and dad, and later, catching the bus there on a Saturday morning to join the childrens’ club.

In the five below I have listed the strongest, most affecting movies that I saw there as a child, but there were other cinemas in Bolton. I saw JAWS (1975) at the ABC on Churchgate, its an abandoned tax office now, but I remember being 7 years old, nervously waiting in the line that trailed outside the door. My parents were unsure whether or not they were doing the right thing taking me to see it with its ‘A’ certificate and there were some disapproving looks from people in the queue. I was made of strong stuff thanks to my obsession with early horror and KING KONG (1933).

When Ben Gardner’s head makes a sudden, shocking appearance, I leapt on my dad’s knee, only to be pushed aside by the woman next to him who had done the same thing.

Later that year, I refused to go swimming in Lake Windermere, “I told you he was too young!” my mum said as I surveyed the surface of the water, looking for a silver fin.

She was wrong of course, because watching JAWS was one of my keys into the unique capacity of cinema to charm, thrill and shock.

The Odeon was survived in the town centre by Studios 1,2 and 3. It was once known as The Lido and was the local ‘flea-pit’. When the Odeon was closed there was a big fear in the town that distributors would not work with such a lowly place. Mr Don Radcliffe was quick to rebuff such rumours, in the Bolton News:

“The latest James Bond film OCTOPUSSY will be screened along with the latest STAR WARS follow up RETURN OF THE JEDDHI (sic).”

Nowadays, if the trolls who frequent the Bolton News’ website saw that the JEDDHI were coming, they’d assume that it was some sort of Islamic plot dreamt up by the council.

The Studio 1,2, and 3 cinema gained some vicarious fame thanks to Peter Kay, the nation’s favourite observational comic, working there as an usher and milking experiences for his stand up material.

However, it will always be the Odeon that remains the dream palace of my imagination.


1) THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (Lester, Spain, UK, 1974)


A sequel to THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1973), apparently strewn together from the  additional material from the shooting of the earlier film. I adored them both and saw them many times. I didn’t really pay attention to the rescue plot, I loved the set-pieces of sword-play and the natural charm of Michael York. My dad had a passing resemblance to Charlton Heston, so he would take the part of Richelieu to my Athos. I don’t look like Oliver Reed, but I reckon I could drink him under the table.

2) STAR WARS (Lucas, US, 1977)


I was rescued from a school fate by a friend of the family. He had a bunch of daughters who were not interested in seeing a film with a whistling dust-bin and a shaggy dog with a blaster. The rest, as they say, is history.

At one point, I turned to Michael, my chaperone for the day and we smiled a smile that we both recognised that life would never be the same again.

We went back to fate, bought some jam, and we never saw each other again.



Although this was released when I was 5, it was on a regular pattern of repeat showings throughout the decade. It was also shown with THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958) on a loop. The lobby area of the Odeon seemed to have the point of sale cards for SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER (1977) long before it was actually shown. I managed to convince my dad that this time it was the new film, only to watch Tom Baker as the evil wizard in GOLDEN … for one last time.

I once took my mum (to give dad a break) and we saw a great second feature WATCH OUT WE’RE MAD (1974) that I loved but have NEVER seen since. Of course its on you tube in full, but I’m not watching it because it will break the spell.

4) THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (Gilbert, UK, 1977)


From the moment I saw this at the age of 9, I knew immediately that I wanted to be an international spy, playboy and have a licence to kill. I told my teachers of my intentions, they laughed, imagining that it was little more than a childish fantasy. I, of course, had the last laugh.

The late Richard Kiel was great as Jaws … and I’ve managed to mention two Caroline Monro films without mentioning her … doh!


5) CARRY ON BEHIND (Rogers, UK, 1975)


Although mum was doubtful about Jaws, she thought nothing of taking me to see this low-rent addition to the Carry On series. Sid James is played by Windsor Davies and ‘owd fella’s chasing young girls on a camp site’ looked weary back then. My parents’ idea of great cinema has always been adaptations of TV favourites: NEAREST AND DEAREST (1972), THE LIKELY LADS (1976) and ON THE BUSES (1971).


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