Back in the 1970s, Glasgow didn’t any real equivalent to NYC’s Deuce, but there was a little line of Classic chain theatres in Renfield Street, just down from the old Glasgow Apollo, as well as the Tatler Club on Sauchiehall St. and the Curzon on Charing Cross.

In 1973, the Classic Grand launched on Jamaica Street with the idea of establishing itself as a swanky new venue for filmgoers. It had been a cinema years before, but the building had been lying derelict for almost a decade, gutted by fire. Now it was refurbished, with a lot of money being ploughed into its transformation.

Classic Grand Opening

‘Inside, it’s luxury all the way, The Evening Times gushed, describing the bronze tinted mirror opposite the entrance, regal red striped drapes and 3 foot frieze of ‘deep amethyst vinyl’ together with upholstered seats (390 of them) with plenty of leg-room promised.

‘Classic pride themselves on appealing to everyone,’ Peter Strick, the Exec Director told the paper, going on to describe the varying kinds of movies that would be shown.

The opener was to be Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (u) before launching into a couple of X-certificates – although the plan was to also include a number of U and A certificates like Black Beauty for the younger generation to enjoy.

Within a couple of weeks of the Classic Grand opening, dodgy sounding titles such as Labyrinth of Sex (x) and You Can’t Run Away from Sex (x) began to dominate the programming, although slots were still found for a James Bond season.

The idea of anything family friendly gradually disappeared, and like the other Classics, it soon succumbed to regularly screening softcore pornos and became a ‘classic’ fleapit, albeit there would also be some more general types of film, the sort that could be seen across the city in the mid-1970s.

At this point, for example, the ABC chain were showing Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet (x) and early Scorsese effort Boxcar Bertha, (x) which was teamed up with blaxploitation revenge thriller Slaughter (x). The Odeon went with Sexy Susan Knows How (x), while a few weeks later the same cinema played host to the subject of last week’s post, Across 110th Street (x). Elsewhere, a number of picture houses presented A Clockwork Orange (x) in the months before Kubrick withdrew it from British screens.

Glasgow Film Theatre May 1974

Just a little over a year later, another and very different kind of cinema, opened nearby. This was the Glasgow Film Theatre, the successor to Scotland’s first arthouse cinema, the Cosmo.

The first films screened in May 1974 included the work of many big-name auteurs. There was Fellini’s Roma (x), followed by Trauffaut’s The 400 Blows (a), Hitchcock’s Psycho (x), Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (aa), Bunuel’s Viridiana (x), and then another Fellini, La Dolce Vita (x).

If I had been enough old enough to be allowed in, though, I’d have chosen to see one of the great 1970s double bills, which was on at the East Kilbride’s Caledonian – Don’t Look Now (x) and The Wicker Man (x), although The Exorcist (x) would have been mighty tempting too. That was on across several screens in the city centre.

Classic Club Cinema Glasgow 1975

What was to be called the Classic Club Cinema opened in the summer of 1975, aiming from the off to show ‘uncensored films which deal frankly with human relationships’. The first two films screened were All American Girl and Lisa’s Felly, neither of which I have ever seen. Or have any real desire to seek out.

Occasionally, though, the Club and its two neighbouring Classics would also show a range of exploitation movies and even underground obscurities. There would be kung fu flicks, gialli, blaxploitation, spaghetti westerns, cult chillers like Pete Walker’s The Flesh and Blood Show (x), and the kind of movies that in America would find their way onto the drive-in circuit.

The bored, the cold, the unemployed, the dirty raincoat mac brigade, students and folk who just enjoyed non-mainstream celluloid would make their way into these picture houses. By the late 1970s, I’d go and see the odd cult film in this type of venue. There were late night horror screenings where the audience would shout out, talk incessantly and throw food at the screen if the the movie was a dud and, very often, you might find the kind of curiosity that you would equate more with the GFT. One of these was Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (x), which I saw at one of the Renfield Street Classics. Music related films and documentaries always seemed to find an audience there.

Classic Glasgow 1974

In Glasgow, as Jubilee debuted in the early summer of 1978, the extended run of Star Wars (u) was finally nearing an end and the two big films were Close Encounters of the Third Kind (aa) and Saturday Night Fever (x). The Bitch (x) was also creating a stir, and Joan Collins even made a personal appearance at the ABC2 although that held no appeal to yours truly.

With World Cup fever building in Scotland and Ally’s Tartan Army about to set out on their march, the GFT decided to get in on the act with a season of films about Argentina, including a critical study of the Peronist movement. Okay, maybe they weren’t really trying to get on the act commercially as I hardly think this season would’ve proved to be box-office gold.

There were many angry letter sent to the local press complaining about the ‘filth’ being shown at cinemas like the Classic Grand. Today, some might look back with distaste and be thankful that the Classics and Tatlers are no more – although it would take only seconds to find material online that is far more hardcore than anything ever shown publicly in the 1970s in Glasgow.

The most striking feature about the cinema listings of the ’70s is the surprisingly high percentage of X-certs (replaced in 1982 by the 18 rating) that were programmed in the grindhouses, big movie chains and even the independent Glasgow Film Theatre, although the mega-success of Star Wars would change this. Strangely enough, I suspect that the most controversial film advertised above would be the GFT’s screening of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, a technically innovative silent era masterpiece made by a director whose previous work The Birth of a Nation displayed clearly racist beliefs.

I’ll be taking a look at some of the works mentioned in this post in the upcoming weeks, starting with Jubilee.