Saturday Night at the Movies

In this week’s Sunday Star, I look at the launch of TVOntario‘s online Public Archive, which features 40 years of vintage broadcasting.

The content is plentiful: from kids programming like Today’s Special, The Polka Dot Door, the years-ahead-of-its-time sci-fi/comics show Prisoners of Gravity, current affairs programs Realities and Studio 2 and some of the best interviews from the lit-interview show Imprint. If you grew up in Ontario, chances are one of these titles rings a ball. Take a day off work and let it all soak in.

Also exciting are the hours of interviews hosted by Elwy Yost in Talking Film and Saturday Night at the Movies. Every Saturday night, from 1974 until his retirement in 1999, Yost presented a themed double bill followed by discussions and interviews with many luminaries of Hollywood and European cinema. This might not seem like a big deal in the age of  TCM and DVD commentaries, but Yost was one of the first to present films in such a way to Canadian audiences.

Over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve single-handedly credited Elwy for igniting their love of film and I’m certainly no exception.

Growing up without cable television in the badlands of Northern Ontario, I came to rely on Elwy’s warm and welcoming introductions on Saturday nights. My first introduction, sometime in the mid-’80s, was a double bill of The Seven Year Itch and How To Marry A Millionaire. That same Halloween, Yost introduced me to Young Frankenstein (only years later would I finally see James Whale’s Frankenstein, although on late-night CBC).

Saturday Night at the Movies still plays weekly (the longest running film/discussion show, says TVO) and is now hosted by Thom Ernst.

As you can see in the above photo, SNAM even had its own magazine in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The programme for 1979-80 featured fantasy and science fiction with The Thief of Bagdad & Things to Come, disaster flicks like A Night To Remember & History is Made at Night, G. B. Shaw adaptions Caesar and Cleopatra  & The Importance of Being Earnest, all the while peppered by reviews and columns by Gerald Pratley and Robert Fulford.

It also showcased some great Toronto-centric ads, like this one for the Capitol Theatre at 2492 Yonge St., back when it was known as the Fine Arts Cinema, specializing in international fare.

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