Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Geekly TV Listings

As a young teenager forming a love of cinema, I owed a great deal of my film education and appreciation to BBC 2’s series Moviedrome. This UK show was presented by film-maker Alex Cox (later replaced by Mark Cousins) who, each week, would introduce an eclectic mix of left-field, mostly American genre films. Viewers would be treated to showing of both schlocky, exploitation material alongside films of a more esoteric nature (the latter I grew to appreciate more at a later age.)

It was where I watched, for the first time, a list of film which occupied and awakened my pubescent mind to exciting, alternative (and many occasions) darker cinematic experiences: Escape From New York, Night of the Comet, Brazil, Vamp, Rabid, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Darkman, Trancers, Manhunter, Halloween and later on, La Vie Sexuelle des Belges (The Sexual Lives of Begium) and Spanking the Monkey. Moviedrome was a place where you could watch stuff which was normally off limits to you at the local video shop and all you needed were understanding (or unaware) parents and the ability to set your video recorder’s timer on a Sunday night (school in the morning!) These films were often watched the following day of broadcast, usually with a group of friends all crowded together in someone’s bedroom. They encouraged debate, sparked our imaginations and led us to seek out and rent similar titles, when possible.

Paradoxically, the digital age we’ve living in where viewing accessibility appears boundless, hasn’t necessarily guaranteed the full availability of the types of films synonymous with Moviedrome, especially from the earlier series. Some are still missing from DVD (especially in the UK), terrestrial TV doesn’t have the budget to screen this type of programming anymore and satellite channels appear to show more obvious ‘cult’ films, presumably down to the pressure of screening work which is more accessible and likely to draw a wider audience. I know the internet has everything we could wish for information-wise, but the opportunity for this stuff to be presented directly to an audience, with background information on the history and social context of the film, makes a huge difference.

It’s a shame that teenagers growing up in this era, desperate for something a little different and unique from the normal, generic crap fed to them, don’t have a series like Moviedrome to help shape and guide their undernourished cinematic interests.

Check out Alex Cox's website which includes a PDF of an old Moviedrome film guide:

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