If you happened to pass the 1990s in Britain as a certain sort of alternative and/or obscurantist cinephile, you know BBC2’s Moviedrome, which, albeit belonging to the proud old tradition of the television movie show, showed primarily cult films. But what makes for a cult film, anyway? A cult film “has a passionate following, but does not appeal to everyone.” Yet cult film status “does not automatically guarantee quality,” nor does the box office money a picture either made or failed to make. But we can categorize all cult films under certain genres, and often more than one, given their “tendency to slosh over from one genre into another, so that a science fiction film might also be a detective movie, or vice versa,” all sharing the common themes of “love, murder and greed.”
Those words come straight from Repo Man, Walker, and Sid & Nancy director Alex Cox, a cult filmmaker of no small renown. He also hosted Moviedrome, providing much more than the standard movie-show framing of and introduction to the night’s feature. At the top of the post, we have his opening segment for Edward G. Ulmer’s cheap but astonishingly enduring 1945 film noir Detour, which you can chase with the film itself just above. You may also remember Carnival of Souls, which we featured in full as one of Time Out London’s 1oo best horror films — well, Cox ably gave a Moviedrome primer on that one as well, describing it as one of the most influential cult movies of its kind ever made.
But Cox talked about a lot more than filmmakers some might describe as schlocky and exploitative; he also talked about the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, who took schlock and exploitation to its highest point of cinematic artistry. Last year, we featured an examination of Hitchcock’s sleight-of-hand in the making of Rope, the suspense master’s supposedly cut-free tale of killing and deception. Just above, in Cox’s intro for the film, you can hear more about why this film made the cut, as it were, into Moviedrome’s league of “cult and weirdo type movies.” You can learn about many more such disreputable-yet-reputable pictures through Cox’s many segments posted to Youtube, as well as in the full text of his Moviedrome Guide available on his “free stuff” page. The Moviedrome faithful might also consider having a look at this gallery of films from the show’s Alex Cox years, and the exegetic Tumblr blog Moviedromer.
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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.