Are you an old film junkie looking for even more?
by Martin Hafer
I love Hollywood films from the golden age of the studio system. I love the old actors, I love the occasionally corny plots and I love the style. However, I have had a bit of a problem lately…I’ve seen just about everything out there! With well over 18,000 reviews to my credit, I’ve seen most of the older films that they play on Turner Classic Movies and other television channels as well as Netflix. So if you are a complete nut for these movies, are there any other options? Well, aside from considering just getting therapy for this sort of addiction, there are some other options and I would like to pass them on to you.
Archive.org is a great site–not just for movies but for music, old television shows, ebooks, old videogames from the 1980s you can play online and so much more. In fact, its holdings are so extensive that navigating through the site is a bit difficult and takes some getting used to. All these things have one thing in common–they’re all in the public domain and are therefore free to watch online or download. I don’t watch the films or TV shows online, however, as they are displayed in a small window–and I’d rather watch them offline at my own convenience and with a bigger display. You have a wide variety of formats to choose from when to download these videos–I tend to use .ogg and .mp4’s. The important thing to know is that some of these formats won’t work on many of the video players on your computer. It might mean simply changing your settings or downloading another program. I use Media Player Classic–a free program that isn’t to be confused with Windows Media Player that comes bundled with Windows. But once you have Media Player Classic or another free video player, you’ll be free to watch tens of thousands of classic films and television shows. Are they all winners? By no means.
I love B-movies (quickly made shorter films from the 30s and 40) and it’s surprising how many fantastic A-pictures have fallen into the public domain, such as My Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. What I have really come to love, however, are some of the wonderful old teleplays–plays which were broadcast live in the 1950s. Many of these great plays later were remade by Hollywood into Oscar-winners and classics, such as Marty, 12 Angry Men and Days of Wine and Roses. A few, such as Andy Griffith’s No Time for Sergeants, were actually much better in their original television versions. You could watch the films and shows on this site for years without repeating any! I currently have several hundred of these programs on my computer, and I often watch them when I travel….all for free.
Another great source is YouTube. At the bottom of the article you can watch the full version of Days of Wine and Roses. While the video quality of some of the films and TV shows often isn’t great, particularly if you watch them on your large screen TV, most DVD machines and video game systems have built-in YouTube capability–or you could just watch them on your computer. Either way, the biggest problem you’ll face is just knowing where to look once you are there. It helps to know what you’re looking for or to try one of the bazillion channels. Fortunately, Paramount just announced that they’ve dropped 100 of their films onto YouTube for free viewing…and they’re not all junk old films but both old and new–and some really neat ones are waiting there to be discovered. There also is a Twentieth Century-Fox channel with tons of classic films. Heck, I’m discovering new stuff all the time to watch and am currently overdosing on old television shows–like many teleplays not on archive.org as well as the show Kraft Suspense Theatre.
Another possible place to search is the Turner Classic Movies website. They offer both an app so you can watch the films on your iPhone (too small for me) or iPad (a good choice), or you could just watch them from the site. These films are all ones which recently aired on their television channel. Interestingly, the lineup of shows varies by the country in which you live and Canadians, for example, get a slightly different lineup due to licensing issues. They also have a cable on demand option–and that’s usually how I watch the movies.
In addition to these three 100% free sources, there are also a variety of smaller sites which offer free screenings for the super-addicted film nuts–with strange older films or silents. They are not for all tastes (I love silent films but realize this is a hard sell to most folks) but hold a lot of great old films. The Eastman House website, UCLA archives, the Library of Congresses Edison collection and many other film preservation sites have movies just waiting to be discovered by the obsessive film nut…like me and possibly you!
If you know of any other great online sites for old movies or television, I’d love to hear from you. I’m discovering new stuff all the time and would love to find more!