Not sure if the thread is appropriate (feel free to move it if not), but I just was thinking about how I came to be such a movie lover, which has led me to my current obsession with collecting Blu-rays, especially catalog titles. While fully aware this may bore the hell out of most people, here goes.
I grew up in the late 60’s/early 70’s, and this was a time when TV was awash with old movies. For those who can’t remember a time without cable/satellite, in these days we had 4 channels where I lived (Western North Carolina): the local ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates plus a local PBS station. On the networks, almost every night of the week had a theatrical film showing. NBC had “Saturday Night at the Movies”, ABC had their “Sunday Night Movie” and “Monday Night Movie”, while CBS showed at least 2 nights of movies (Thursday and Friday), and sometimes three (Sunday).
The local affiliates had to fill early mornings (9-10 or 11), weekend days (sports coverage was much less than today) and daily late nights (The Tonight Show was really the only viable late-night show then), and filled these slots regularly with old movies.
During the summer when I was out of school, I remember our local ABC affiliate showing a daily “Dialing for Dollars” movie each weekday from 9-11am. Movies I saw on this show included “Mutiny on the Bounty” (Brando version, usually shown in 2 parts on consecutive days), “Hell is for Heroes”, “To Hell and Back”, “Pillow Talk”, and “The Wings of Eagles”.
On weekend days, the ABC affiliate showed “Shock Theater”, including all the classic Universal monster movies. The local NBC affiliate showed Abbott and Costello, Ma and Pa Kettle, Francis the Talking Mule, Mr. Moto, Charlie Chan, and Tarzan films. Late-night on the weekends featured more “Shock Theater” and a ton of John Wayne films.
Feature films on the networks were a HUGE deal: the premieres of “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Goldfinger” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai” were events and drew huge ratings. When "controversial" films like "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Wild Bunch" premiered on TV, they were heavily edited (today, you see more graphic violence on network police procedurals) and some stations refused to show them. In the mid-70’s, ABC regularly showed the James Bond films as part of their Sunday night movie slot and they regularly placed in the Top Ten of the Nielsen ratings. In
Amazing, I remember some long films (over 2 hours) being shown in two parts- ABC showed both “Where Eagles Dare” and “Ice Station Zebra” over two nights (Sunday and Monday). Even more amazingly, CBS would sometimes split a showing into 2-parts, A WEEK APART- part one of “Battle of the Bulge” was shown on Friday night and part two was shown the following Friday night! Can you imagine that happening today?
One of the most amazing (and ill-conceived) 2-part showings was done for the Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". ABC decided the only way to fit the 2 hour, 22 minute film into a 2 hour time slot, with commercials, was to split it into two parts; however, ABC felt that the film needed to have some action during the first half, which they felt it lacked. In order to promote the Winter Olympics (which ABC was covering that year), they decided to take a scene from the middle of the film, namely Bond's escape from Piz Gloria on skis, to begin the first half of the film; the film would shift back and forth between this scene, the scenes that immediately followed and the beginning of the film. At a certain point, the scenes set in the middle of the film stopped showing, and, bizarrely enough, the movie flowed into its original order with the scenes (previously shown) re-shown. Part two of the movie did not have any flashbacks. To explain what was happening, ABC hired an unidentified American narrator, who voiced Bond in the context of this edit, but mispronounced key names (most notably, Ernst Stavro Blofeld as Ernst Stravro Blofeld). Part one was broadcast on a Monday and part two was broadcast on the FOLLOWING Monday in 90-minute time slots. For years, I thought this was the way the film actually was!
I remember when I was ten years old CBS was showing “The Guns of Navarone” on their Friday Night at the Movies (I can even still remember the theme music CBS used for their intro to the film…..”Tonight (dramatic pause), on CBS Friday Night at the Movies…….Alistair Mclean’s pulse-pounding adventure”). My family was going out to eat and to a local festival….I refused to go because I wanted to see “Guns”. I stayed home and ate hot dogs!
For a while in the mid-to-late 70’s, CBS (having failed to have success against Johnny Carson) showed movies in the late-night (11:30pm) time slot. I can remember many drowsy school mornings when I had stayed up till 1:30 (or later) watching a great movie!
It’s hard to imagine in these days of TCM, premium movie channels, DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming, and on-demand that there was actually a time when it was a “big deal” to see a movie like “Casablanca”, “Stagecoach”, or even a Johnny Weissmuller “Tarzan” movie on TV. But it’s where I developed my life-long love of classic film.
Ironically, waiting to hear about one of these classics coming to Blu-Ray is now the equivalent of looking through the new TV Guide in those days to see what movies were going to be on the next week.