Any British film fan of a certain age will have fond memories of Moviedrome. For those who don’t, it was a film series shown on BBC2 between 1988 and 2000 dedicated to cult movies. More than just series of films, Moviedrome featured an introduction originally by director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, Walker) and later by Mark Cousins.
In the first two years, as an impressionable 12/13 year old I had my first experience of: The Wicker Man, Big Wednesday, The Last Picture Show, Barbarella, Johnny Guitar, The Parallax View, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Fly (1958), The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, D.O.A. (1950), The Thing From Another World, The Incredible Shrinking Man, THX 1138, Night of the Comet, The Big Carnival aka Ace in the Hole, Alphaville, Two-Lane Blacktop, Trancers, Five Easy Pieces, Sweet Smell of Success, Sunset Boulevard.
Then in the third year something interesting happened. Alongside movies I had never seen – Yojimbo (my first Kurosawa movie), Something Wild, Carnival of Souls, Manhunter (the first and still the best Hannibal Lecktor movie), Badlands (my first Terrence Malick movie) and Performance – they started showing movies I had already seen and loved such as: Assault on Precinct 13, Brazil, Get Carter, The Terminator, An American Werewolf in London, The Beguiled, Rumble Fish and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? Many of the films shown are well known if not that well seen. But then others really blindsided me: despite being 27 years old at the time, Sergio Corbucci’s spaghetti western Django had never been shown in UK cinema’s or on UK network television until its premier on Moviedrome in 1993.
This continued into the fourth season with one of my all time favourite genre/B movies Mad Max II shared a double bill with Orson Welles’ bizarre documentary about fraud and fakery, F for Fake. It was around this time that they started showing more themed double bills including The Day of the Locust / The Big Knife, Alligator / Q – The Winged Serpent, Wise Blood / The Witchfinder General, but the one that stood out for me was the David Cronenberg double feature Dead Ringers and Rabid. To the best of my memory, this was the first time I had seen a Cronenberg movie, I quickly looked out all the other s and have been a fan ever since. The real appeal of the series isn’t just the movies I got to see, it was the introductions by Cox. A man passionate and knowledgeable about movies, particularly genre movies. This you must remember was at a time before the internet as we know it. A time when information about older movies wasn’t as freely available and copy of Halliwell’s Film Guide was as close to IMDB as existed at the time. Listening to Cox talk about Cronenberg’s body of work and in comparison to other horror directors and revelling in its wideness and the “vicious horror lurking behind the most mundane things” certainly gave me a greater understanding of what made certain horror movies disturbing.
Alex Cox’s final season of Moviedrome came in 1994 after a seventeen week run, many of them including double features, Cox ended with Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich’s seminal noir thriller adapted from Mickey Spillane’s novel of the same name. the movie features an interesting maguffin that Cox borrowed for his 1984 movie Repo Man. The interesting thing about the timing of this movie on Moviedrome, was that it was still fresh in my memory a few months later when I saw another movie that also borrowed the idea, Pulp Fiction. It was around this time that I started studying film at university as part of my degree course, many of the films on the watch list had been movidrome films. The series seemed to have come to an end in 1994 but was resurrected in 1997 with Mark Cousins introducing and choosing the movies. His choices often seemed more recognisable or mainstream, or was it that I was so immersed in film by this time a had already come across them? None the less the choices were always interesting and as Cousins promised they were “movies you won’t forget”.
Since its cancellation in 2000 there has not been anything like Moviedrome on British television. Nothing, including film courses at university has ever introduced me to such a breadth and depth of weird and wonderful movies. Mark Kermode has dabbled with the formula providing movie introductions on his blog and to Film4’s Extreme Cinema season, but this is far from the scope and impact of Moviedrome. All I can do is that Alex Cox, Mark Cousins and BBC2, and appeal to BBC or any other channel to do something similar.
You can see a list of all films shown on Moviedrome HERE