This may sound simple, but I started my photography life with digital, and it kinda threw me a curve on my first manual focus Nikon.
What your describing sounds a lot like all my cameras behavior before I get to the "1" position on the film window.
On my FG, there are two blinking dots for the meter until it hits #1 on the film counter.
On my FE2, the needle stays at the bottom of the scale until it hits #1.
On my F3, the LCD reads 80 until the film is advanced far enough.
Have you tried firing and metering the camera past that point? This is all I can think of right now.