Horror fans in particular, and movie buffs in general, probably know that line well. Actually, it’s a part of the last line from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 film, Psycho. Norman Bates, played so creepily by Anthony Perkins, has been taken down—wig, dress, and all—and now sits quietly in a cell. In a voiceover, “Mrs. Bates” thinks, “They’re probably watching me. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of person I am. I’m not even going to swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know, and they’ll say, “Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly.”
I saw that movie when it was new and I was a kid during summer vacation in Far Rockaway, NY. Scared the crap out of me. My folks rented a couple rooms in an old manor house, and the building’s sole shower was in…gulp, the basement! Guess who didn’t shower for the rest of the summer.
I love memorable movie lines and thought I’d share a few from films in my favorite genres. Not all are classics, like Psycho, but who cares? We all have our guilty pleasures.
“You are a stench in the nostrils of God!” Okay, you really have to be a fan of bad horror movies to know that one. It’s from the 1981 flick, Deadly Blessing—directed by Wes Craven, no less. The line is uttered by Ernest Borgnine—an Academy Award winner, for crying out loud—who plays a Hittite—a sort of “Amish with an Attitude.” It’s supposed to be an intense scene, so why do I hit pause and roll on the floor every time I watch it?
“For who now is your father if it is not me? I am the wellspring from which you flow. When I am gone, you will have never been. What would your world be without me?” If you thought Ernest Borgnine delivering the previous line was bad enough, you won’t believe who managed to mouth these lines with a straight face: James Earl Jones! He played the evil wizard, Thulsa Doom, in 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. In a movie starring the Governator, the man with the most awesome voice on the planet managed to top the charts.
“Crom, grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!” You’re right, I couldn’t let Arnold off the hook. This is also from Conan, one of his early films. He has about fifty words in the entire movie, thankfully. Among them is the following line, which he bellows after being asked what is best in life (think heavy Arnold accent here): “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, to hear the lamentations of their women.” Really…
“Make me a sergeant, gimme the booze!” Jensen the drunk can see giant ants crawling in and out of the storm drains of Los Angeles in the 1954 classic sci-fi movie, Them! (Yes, the exclamation point is part of the title.) This was one of those cautionary films during a paranoid era that focused on the possible effects of fallout from the atomic bomb. The sound that the ants make just before they strike still creeps me out. For a B movie the cast included James Arness, James Whitmore, and Edmund Gwenn, who’d previously won an Oscar for playing Santa Claus!
“I heff no son!” Okay, The Jazz Singer (1980) is neither fantasy, sci-fi, nor horror, but this line is another one that makes me pause the DVD in order to crack up. It is uttered by, arguably, the greatest actor of the 20th century, Sir Laurence Olivier, at the tail end of his career. His character is a Jewish cantor who, upon seeing that his son and heir apparent (played by Neil Diamond, one of my favorites) has taken up with a shiksa, tears his shirt and sobs that line as he races from their apartment. It’s supposed to be an emotionally charged moment…it ain’t.
“I’m still here, Chief.” Dennis Quaid delivers this line a number of times in my second-favorite movie of all time, Frequency, which came out in 2000. Given various health issues of years past, my wife and I use the line all the time. So what does this film offer to elevate it to such a lofty ranking in my estimation? Time travel, serial killer, father-and-son relationship, baseball…’nuff said. Totally improbable, but a wonderful film.
“Dad, wanna have a catch?” Who does NOT know where that line comes from? Field of Dreams is my favorite movie—EVER. Nothing more to say here. It will have its own post soon.
We can do more of this another time. There are no limits to the number of memorable movie lines. Let me know some of yours.
SWORDS & SPECTERS UPDATE: I just approved the proof for the paperback version of The Sons of Ornon, and it should be available any day now on Amazon. All five of my books currently in eBook format are available on Barnes & Noble and Amazon for a whopping .99, at least through the end of April. Enjoy!