When I was a dorky kid back in the day, my favorite cable channels were always things like The Learning Channel, Discovery and A & E. The programming has since regrettably morphed into endless reality TV, ghost hunting and real estate shows, but I’m betting most Retroist readers recall when their lineups were mostly documentary-type programs. Some of them were pretty fascinating and outright weird, especially late at night when they needed filler. These time slots were sometimes with occupied by British fare picked up on the cheap, which brings me to our subject.
I was always a night owl as a kid, and it was during these small hours that I first encountered The Incredibly Strange Film Show on Discovery, and had my mind well and truly blown. It was an oddball Brit production that was, well… exactly what the title indicated. Every episode explored the history, plots and production of a particular film, genre or director. Some old, some new, the only common thread was that the subject was very much off the beaten path. It was here that I first heard of a guy named Ed Wood, Jr., witnessed a crime-fighting wrestler named El Santo fight the Mayan Vampire women, and was exposed to the work of a then-unknown director called Sam Raimi.
I was just fascinated by the people and films I saw on this show. What twelve/thirteen year-old (as I recall being when I first saw the show) wouldn’t want to know more about the man behind Invasion of the Astro-Zombies? At the same time, I was despondent that I’d ever be able to actually see any of these films. After all, I couldn’t see the supermarket that I rented movies from ever stocking The Corpse Grinders. Pre-Google, there just wasn’t any other source of information for this kind of niche stuff.
Luckily for me, my first exposure to MST3K wasn’t far away. I watched it religiously, but TISFS seemed to only air for a very brief period. Still, I credit it for a lifelong love of weird, cheesy, strange movies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available on DVD. I’m not sure it was ever even on VHS. Until the day when humanity comes to its senses and releases this gem, you can enjoy many of the episodes on YouTube.
Any MSTie will love this terrific, warm-heated look at the stranger side of cinema.