This is my version one of those “Stranded Island List” exercises that is well known. Everyone’s played the “If I could go back and live in any time in history, I’d pick the [BLANK]” game. But what if you set yourself only the time and place that you saw in movies? Could you narrow it down? Well, let’s see if I have done that. I give you my list:
1. 1980s Los Angeles
Think back to all the great action movies that were taking place in the mid-to-late 1980s: Beverly Hills Cop 1, The Terminator, To Live & Die in L.A., Lethal Weapon 1, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon 2. If you saw these, you probably grew up thinking that there was always a massive car chase taking place on the 405 and that houses would explode at random because some bad guy planted explosives in there. All the girls who lived there were models, supermodels or Playboy Playmates. Consider also that this was the time of the “Showtime” Lakers, of the Scioscia/Sax/Hershiser Dodgers and the L.A. Raiders and Rams. So you’ve got a great time full of great sports, beautiful women everywhere and, of course, the chance to end up an accidental extra in a shootout, a bank heist or a car chase. What more could you want?
2. 1880s-90s London
London is one of those places that could fit any number of times for you: the mod 1960s (of The Italian Job and the first James Bond films) or the punk 1970s. But I’m picking the gaslamp-filled, dark and moody 1880s. The London of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, From Hell and Sweeney Todd. And yes, it seems like madmen were running around the streets of Londontown in those days. But this is also the London of Around the World in 80 Days and The Prestige: the time of discovery when magic and science seemed to be colliding. This is the time when species were being discovered and they were being brought back to the science and nature academies in London. It’s the time of explorers and of archeologists and of physicists. It’s the time of the great science discoveries. Suspense, mystery, science and fantasy colliding? Sign me up!
3. 1930s-40s Shanghai
Port cities are always a good choice in this exercise: things are always happening. If you’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Empire of the Sun or Kung Fu Hustle or Lust, Caution, you know that these were trying times for Shanghai. This is the time of World War II. There’s danger, intrigue, mayhem and gangsters. There’s armies and navies all over the place. It’s a time when cultures are clashing. Plus, everyone is dressing up like they’ve seen gangster films and must emulate and improve on the ideas. And if things go bad, just go aboard any ship and engage in some harmless piracy! It’s all good!
4. 1600 Paris
I’m being a bit broad with this one because dates can be fuzzy. But that said, you know time period. It’s the time of The Three Musketeers (take your pick, I usually go for the Oliver Reed/Michael York version, but that’s always a subjective point). This is the time of Dangerous Liaisons; of the “Ancien Regime” (the time before the Revolution). And yes, in order to enjoy this time, you had to be aristocracy. Anyone else had a lousy time of it. But if the idea of walking the streets with a sword tied to your belt and the chance to engage in dangerous affairs doesn’t excite you, you’re not a romantic.
OK, that’s my list. What’s yours?