Alcohol, I was to learn, was a rare luxury at press screenings, but in the years to come I would review little but softcore porn, bad teen movies and the sort of horror movies not even horror movie fans normally bother with. I would review them for listings magazines, free magazines and the Monthly Film Bulletin (which scrupulously insisted on running reviews of every film released, as a matter of public record). I would review them because no-one else wanted to, and because I needed the work.
Every so often, I would stumble across a little nugget of interest - a screenwriting credit for Barry Levinson tucked away in the credits of a low budget exploitation pic, for example, or a deliriously entertaining Dutch melodrama by a little known director called Paul Verhoeven. But it was three years before I reviewed a film the general public might actually have wanted to go and see (Flashdance) and another three years after that before I finally reviewed a film that I might actually have wanted to go and see (Aliens). I think that's known as paying your dues.
Since then I have written about film for around two dozen different publications, not all of which you will have heard of, and at least three of which went bust overnight, owing me money and requiring me to start my reviewing career all over again, from scratch. At one time or another, since the mid-1980s, I have been the official film critic for publications as diverse as Today, The Sunday Correspondent, Tatler, New Statesman & Society and The Sunday Telegraph.
I liked being a film critic - I got to see blockbuster movies weeks, sometimes even months before the non-film reviewing public, which meant seeing the movies before my appetite for them had been blunted by exposure to too many articles, reviews and overly explicit trailers. I also liked being obliged to see films I wouldn't normally have seen. I even enjoyed some of the bad films. Only twice did I find the job physically hard to take; once during a British film so dreary it gave me a panic attack and I was forced to go outside into Soho Square and take deep breaths in order to calm down, and another time, during a Chinese movie, when I didn't just nod off, but actually started to drool in my sleep.