The idea of a channel devoted to classic films isn’t new, but in the UK Talking Pictures TV has found what seems to be the perfect nostalgic formula.
While TCM (Turner Classic Movies) has been around since the 1990s and more recently Sony Movies has launched a dedicated ‘Classic’ channel, these and others tend to focus on relatively big budget, popular films. Talking Pictures, on the other hand, offers an eclectic mix – from well-loved classics to obscure 1950s and ’60s B-movies, which in some cases I’d never even heard of. As a geeky film-mad kid in the ’70s, if films weren’t big enough for the three TV channels or to warrant a listing in a Halliwell book, they would have remained unknown to me (unless they were a horror or scifi B-movie, in which I might come across them in another book).
Even so, there was very little opportunity to see such films, so Talking Pictures has been a treasure trove of gems including early directorial efforts by the likes of Terence Fisher and Michael Winner, not to mention scripts by Brandon Fleming – whose work sent me off on some detective work a few years ago.
Launched in 2015, I was glad to be able to recommend the station to my dad, who also got much enjoyment from it in his final years.
That perfect formula isn’t just a mix of A and B movies, there are also vintage TV series, obscure factual films, and even repackaged home movies, which would never be shown on mainstream channels.
A rival, Retro Movies, disappeared in 2019 after a couple of years on air. Often showing similarly little-known films, the print quality was often poor, and somehow the channel failed to rival Talking Pictures.
The 2020 pandemic lockdown, with more people at home, exploring TV channels and perhaps seeking comfort in the past, has seen a further boost in audience, but a fall in advertising revenue.
So if you feel like ‘supporting film history’, as the delightful station ident says, why not take a look at its merchandising arm, Renown Pictures? It offers tempting box sets on themes, like thrillers, Children’s Film Foundation, comedy, monsters, scifi, and transport; and a lot else besides – mugs, shopping bags, T-shirts, and even ‘bombshell’ compact mirrors.
It’s a great way to say thank you to the channel for sharing its wonderful archive.
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