If you’ve recently experienced the extravagant big-screen adaption of the theatrical pop-opera “Les Miserables,” you’re likely to be walking around with a nagging numerical nugget lodged in your head.
That would be 24601, the prison ID number of the saintly Jean Valjean, first evoked in song by the cruel guard Javert in the musical’s “Overture/Work Song/Look Down” lyrics.
Movies, especially among the most suggestible fans, have a way of making pertinent numbers stick in our heads evermore.
For instance, what self-respecting film buff could ever check into a hotel or resort room numbered 237 without conjuring up the freaky image of an ax-wielding Jack Nicholson in “The Shining?”
And how many times have you chuckled knowingly when some movie employed a fictitious telephone number with the non-functioning prefix of 555? (There’s a musical correlation to that in the memorable Tommy Tutone tune “867-5309/Jenny,” that forever put that randomly selected number on the pop-culture map.)
And certain movie-obsessed math dolts probably have Darren Aronofsky’s indie thriller “Pi” to thank for planting the mathematical constant 3.14 in their noggins forevermore.
Any movie lover worth his salt will have a passing familiarity with the famed Fibonacci numbers (a sequence of integers, starting with 0, 1 and continuing 1,2,3,5, 8, 13 … with each new number being the sum of the previous two) from their appearance in the mysteries of “The Da Vinci Code” and “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.”
Digits are key elements in the titles of literally hundreds of movies, among the most memorable that leap to mind being “The 39 Steps” (Hitchcock’s classic spy chase), “54” (about New York’s infamous disco club), “61” (charting Roger Maris’ great homer odyssey), “101 Dalmatians” (Disney’s animated doggie tale), “200 Cigarettes” (twentysomethings partying) and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” (Captain Nemo and the Nautilus).
Odds are, every movie lover can tally up a pretty cool list of numbers-related movies. Here’s a baker’s dozen or so the get the countdown started:
“The Dirty Dozen” – Twelve misfit soldiers off on a secret mission to kick Nazis keisters.
“Oceans Eleven” – Las Vegas hijinks and casino heists (your pick of the Frank Sinatra or the George Clooney crews).
“10” – Dudley Moore’s midlife crisis conjures up bikini-clad perfection in Bo Derek.
“9 Songs” – Two attractive young people meet at a rock concert and engage in a lot of sex.
“8 ½” – Fellini’s hall of mirrors about a movie director retreating into his own memories and fantasies.
“Se7en” – A serial killer employs the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi.
“Six Degrees of Separation” – For a mysterious young black man, every person is a new door to a new world.
“The Fifth Element” – A futuristic cabbie gets drawn into the search for a legendary cosmic weapon that keeps evil at bay.
“Four Rooms” – New Year’s Eve. A fading New Orleans hotel. Four directors’ short stories intersect.
“Three Men and a Baby” – Three swinging bachelors are tamed by one adorable baby girl.
“Two For the Road” – The rocky lifelong ramblings of lovers Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney.
“Once” (Irish buskers in love) or “One Million Years B.C.” (Raquel Welch in an animal-skin bikini) or “The Big Red One” (Lee Marvin and WWII).
And finally, “Less Than Zero” – Hipster novelist Bret Easton Ellis writes about drug-addled hipsters.
- Dennis King