City Limits – 1981 First Issue Cinema Special!

Recently I got hold of the first issue of the long running London listings magazine City Limits, this premiere issue was launched in October 1981 with the magazine being put together by a collective of staff that had previously worked at Time Out. What I want to look at here is the amazing cinema section, which did a great job of covering the huge amount of screenings that were happening at that time in our city. So let’s start with the very striking and bold first issue cover:

Page 1

New releases this week included: Three Brothers, Lightning Over Water, Mel Brooks’ History Of The World: Part 1 and the William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver thriller The Janitor.


Recent releases and still playing include a fantastic selection of titles that have gone on the stand the test of time, including Duke favourite Babylon, John Carpenter’s Escape From New York and The Fog, The Long Good Friday and Raiders Of The Lost Ark:








There’s a huge selection of rep screenings, George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead even gets its own image:


Of course it wouldn’t be a London cinema article without a mention of the beloved Scala Cinema, so here’s a look at what was playing that week:


The Ritzy cinema in Brixton were having a tribute season the great Peter Sellers, who had died the previous year:


Proof that free screenings have been going on for decades there was a great offer of free tickets to see Jonathan Demme’s great slice of Americana – Citizens Band.


One thing that really stands out is the sheer amount of Late Night Screenings, there’s an entire page dedicated to these and they’re not just at weekends, you could watch late night films seven days a week back then. What happened to all these late screenings, did video and TV kill them off? Were people more adventurous back then and wanted to stay out late? Here’s a look what was playing late night that week:



And here’s a final set of late night double bills that I think we could have all got behind:


So that was the state of London cinema back in October 1981, fascinating to see how things have changed and so great to compare the differences to now, I don’t think any era is better of worse, they both have their ups and downs. I do love the thought that in 35-years time someone might get hold of a vintage issue of Time Out and wonder just what the hell The Duke Mitchell Film Club was all about. We’ll see you in the front row film friends…

Eastern Heroes

Yesterday we took a look at Jet Li’s London appearance from all the way back in 1996, now today we’ll take a look at the people that put that amazing day together: Eastern Heroes. It’s a thing that’s often said, about how the internet has changed everything in the last decade, and it’s very true. Right now you can pretty much find out anything you want about a film straight away, you can watch it digitally, buy a DVD, read about it being filmed, find out who’s been cast in it and more with just a few keystrokes.  But back in the 1990s? Forget it!

And that’s why Eastern Heroes were so important to films back then; they were like a one-stop organisation to get everything you needed about Asian action cinema. Now this feature is by no way a history of them, I really don’t know enough, but what I want to do here is try to highlight how great they were at bringing that world of amazing cinema to life during those pre-internet days.

Firstly you had these amazing series of screening which ran at The Scala from the late 1980s through until the cinemas sad closure in 1993, in fact the final screening there was the Eastern Heroes Chow Yun Fat weekend, which saw the great man himself grace the cinemas stage for two amazing days of films. You can see the event programme and videos from the weekend here:


Here’s a great example of the sort of screenings that they’d regularly organise at The Scala:


Then you had their long running magazine which filled you in on recent Asian cinema releases, let you know what was coming up and had great interviews with actors and directors that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. I only have a few of their magazines left, but taking another browse through them now really brings back how much of an eye opener they were at the time.


Then there’s also the two Eastern Heroes stores which were a great focus point for film fans back then. The first store opened up in Camden and was followed by a second store located right in Chinatown on Shaftsbury Avenue. Both were stocked wall-to-wall with VHS, VCDS, Laserdiscs, magazines, posters and much more. The stores were really great and were an essential stop for any film fans in London. Here’s a great video which takes you inside the Chinatown store, along with a selection of store adverts:





But as we always say, nothing lasts forever, times changed and eventually Eastern Heroes closed down operations at some point in the late 1990s. But we’re happy to report that recently Eastern Heroes have re-launched, with Rick Baker still in charge, there are plans afoot to launch a new magazine, they also put on a recent screening in Chinatown, showing two brand new martial arts documentaries. So it’s great to have them back and let’s hope 2014 sees Eastern Heroes go from strength to strength.  Thanks for all the great times from us at The Duke!

Find out more about the relaunched Eastern Heroes right here!