Even though I was probably only in kindergarten, I remember the movie WITNESS being a huge deal around the time it was released. It was such a big deal that my parents granted me a pass to watch my first R-rated movie. WITNESS was partially filmed in Lancaster County, PA and we lived in the city of Lancaster so everyone was excited to see it and to watch a movie that had to do with the Amish. The Amish brought a lot of tourism to our area and since my family lived in the city and only saw them when we drove to the country or the farmer’s market, we still found them to be somewhat mysterious.
It seemed like my Aunt was the only member of my extended family at the time to own a VCR so anytime a good movie came out, we had to view it at her house. She had a big living room with a wrap-around couch which could seat a decent amount of family. My Aunt was considerate enough to warn my parents that there was a scene that might be too scary for me. At that point I decided that I wanted nothing to do with this movie at all. I remember my parents telling me I could just cover my eyes when the scary scene started. I told them that I wanted to nap and I buried my head in some throw pillows and pretended to be asleep. I couldn’t help but to listen even though I didn’t want to watch.
Not too far along into the movie, maybe 10 minutes or so, I heard my Aunt point out the “scary” scene to my parents. I listened as the music swelled and I could here a man gasping and screaming. Soon after, it all seemed to calm down. I didn’t trust that it wouldn’t happen again so I kept my face covered. I stayed in this position so long that I did eventually fall asleep.
As the years went by I was granted more R-rated viewings, mostly only being allowed to watch what my Mom wanted to watch. She was in love with MEL GIBSON in the ‘80s and ‘90s so I got to watch the LETHAL WEAPON movies. I liked DANNY GLOVER‘s portrayal of Detective Murtaugh as GIBSON’s partner.
During the 90’s, my parents broke down and subscribed to the Prism network. Prism was a Philadelphia-based, premium movie and sports channel. I would tell my Dad that I was recording the encore showing of a Sixers or Phillies game and be able to record late-night soft-core classics such as FELICITY (’80) and CINDERELLA (’77). Of course from time to time Prism would air some quality, more-recent movies. On Prism I watched movies like GRAND CANYON and THE SAINT OF FORT WASHINGTON in which DANNY GLOVER played humble, proud, and stoic characters who had the ability to talk down any thug who wanted to start trouble.
My curiosity peaked about the movie I had avoided watching a decade when Weird Al Yankovic released the video for his “Gangster’s Paradise” parody called, “Amish Paradise.” He pretty much solidified Lancaster as the unofficial Amish capital of the world in his “Amish Paradise” video which prominently displayed a “Welcome to Lancaster” sign in it.
I finally rented and watched WITNESS only to be horrified by the scene I had shielded my eyes from years before, not because it looked like little LUCAS HAAS was about to meet his maker, but because I was watching my ‘BELOVED‘ Detective Murtaugh, who played a corrupt Philly cop, slashing some guy’s throat. It made me sick to see DANNY GLOVER playing a bad guy. I was able to tough it out anyway and continued through the whole movie. WITNESS turned out to be a great film. It was totally worth it to see: HARRISON FORD hiding out in an Amish community and kicking a local bully’s ass for picking on his new friends, a great representation of Amish nudity courtesy of KELLY McGILLIS, and the unforgettable silo death scene.