Monday, December 26, 2011

Remembering "The CBS Late Movie"

One of my favorite summer memories is watching The CBS Late Movie. Launched on Valentine’s Day in 1972, The CBS Late Movie was a delightful gift for movie-lovers. For four years, it offered an eclectic mix of movies five nights a week.
The only film fan not thrilled by The CBS Late Movie may have been Judith Crist. The famous critic once wrote a weekly column for TV Guide, where she reviewed movies making their network TV debuts. She initially tried to encompass The CBS Late Movie, but the dramatic increase in workload (five more movies every week) may have proved too much, for she eventually focused solely on network movies playing in prime time.
Seven Brides on The CBS Late Movie.
For the rest of us, The CBS Late Movie was a treasure trove that revived classics (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Showboat), unearthed movies all but forgotten (Darby’s Rangers, Bunny O’Hare, Mister Buddwing, The World, the Flesh and the Devil), and introduced some films destined for cult movie status (7 Faces of Dr. Lao, The Fearless Vampire Killers).
Vincent Price as Dr. Phibes.
My favorite night was Friday, of course. Even during the school year, I could see the Friday edition. But more importantly, it eventually became “horror film night” for The CBS Late Movie. This was where several long-in-demand Hammer movies made their American television debuts, to include: Curse of Frankenstein, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Mummy, and Dracula, Prince of Darkness. Other Friday night fright features were The Valley of Gwangi, Scream and Scream Again, The Creeping Unknown, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes.
Sadly, starting in 1976, CBS began mixing TV series with its movies and gradually shifted to showing just TV shows. Most of these series were repeats of network fodder like Kojak, Banacek, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker (shown on Fridays, naturally). For a bit of originality, CBS offered British import series like The New Avengers and Return of the Saint. Still, I missed the movies! In 1985, CBS changed the title to CBS Late Night, officially signaling the end of The CBS Late Movie.
The opening graphics and theme music to The CBS Late Movie have their admirers. The theme was written by Morton Stevens, whose credits include the popular title theme to Hawaii Five-O The clip below is one of the best available on YouTube. Note that the film's title, The Medusa Touch, is misspelled!
I’d love to read some comments from other fans of The CBS Late Movie. I haven’t found a good list of all the movies broadcast.


  1. Oh, wow, Rick, I remember watching THE CBS LATE MOVIE when I was a kid! In fact, if I recall correctly, THE CBS LATE MOVIE was where I first saw a number of Hitchcock movies, including SPELLBOUND and the 1956 version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, in addition to watching STRANGERS ON A TRAIN after that on THE LATE LATE SHOW. Ah, memories! Last year, before I festooned my TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED blog posts with plenty of photos, I wrote a post about staying up late watching classic movies as a kid; here's the link, if you're interested:

    Rick, all of us here at Team Bartilucci H.Q. hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas and a happy holiday season, and we wish you a Happy New Year with all the good fortune and great movies you can handle! :-)

  2. Ah, the CBS Late Movie was a treat, when I got to stay up (or sneak out of bed and watch with the volume turned way, way low) stuff like THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS and other cool treats. Thanks for bringing this back to mind.

  3. This blog makes me think a lot of us with film blogs (90% or more) got their first introduction to film via network TV and local stations. I remember watching The CBS late movie, as well as its NBC equivalent. The thing I remember most was when a paricularly special film, such as Dracula-Prince Of Darkness, was aired, it would be peppered with commercials. No matter how intensely you watched you always had a nagging feeling you never saw the entire film.

    The Old Movie House wishes you and yours a safe a prosperous new year, and I look forward to reading more truly informative writing.

  4. Oh man, I loved the CBS Late Movie when I was a teen- it was there that I first saw 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, and Abominable Dr. Phibes, still favorite films of mine. One you didn't mention was the nutball genderbending Hammer flick Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde; I'm pretty sure I saw that one on there. I, Monster as well.

  5. I remember seeing Dr. Phibes on the CBS Late Movie, and loved every minute of it. Friday was the big night since I loved scary movies, but each night offered great stuff. And I too was so disappointed at the change-over, gradually replacing good movies with TV slop and then dropping the good stuff altogether. It was fun being reminded of something I used to love, Rick.

  6. I still remember watching those giant rabbits in Night of the Lepus on the little b/w tv in my room on the CBS Late Movie! Also, how about the Monty Python movies they used to air. Sigh.

  7. Rick, what a fun post.

    Ah yes, the Friday CBS Late Movie, which provided me with one of my favorite childhood memories.

    One evening the CBS Late Movie would be showing "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave." Alas, at the same time, local stations were showing "Black Sunday" (Bava) and "Atlantis, the Lost Continent." Which to watch? I agonized a week over my decision, but deep down, I always knew I would pick the Hammer title.

    My dad was away on a business trip, and my mom was somewhat tolerant of my taste for horror movies, but not as accepting as my dad.

    I sat down to watch "Dracula Has Risen from the Grave" in the living room with mom sitting there reading the paper. The promo before the movie stressed all the horror, gore and heaving cleavage (in the best Hammer tradition) and my mom told me no way am I watching this, especially with your father not home. I begged and pleased but there was no dissuading her.

    So I switched to choice #2, "Black Sunday" just in time to see Barbara Steele put in an Iron Maiden and the door slammed shut on her, spikes and all.

    You guessed it. My mom said this was unsuitable for me, and I was too young to watch it. End of discussion.

    So I put on "Atlantis the Lost Continent." She watched it for a few minutes and gave her approval. But I think I was squirming in my seat wanting to desperately to see those other movies. Pure agony.

    Boy that Late Movie theme music brought back memories. In addition to "Hawaii 5-0", which is one of the greatest TV themes ever, I've been very impressed with Morton Stevens' work on the "Thriller" television show.

  8. That's a great story, Kevin! Hey, ATLANTIS is kinda creepy too...aren't some of the slaves turned into pig-men? Tonya, I first saw LEPUS on The CBS Late Movie, too. Ditto for DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (Ralph Bates & Martine Beswick...what a pair!) and THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS. It's been a blast to read all the comments to this post.

  9. Wow, talk about a nostalgic post (turn on the way back machine Mr. Peabody). If memory serves, I first saw The Valley Gwangi, The Dr Phibes films & the one you mentioned that I was blown away by as an adolescent; The World, the Flesh & The Devil. Great post, thx for triggering those memories.

  10. Ah, memories. Great post, Rick. I used to watch the CBS Late Movies but can't remember any specific one.

    I'd add Channel 11's Million Dollar Movie to the mix since it was there I saw many early vintage films like SYNCOPATION with Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville. I've never seen it since, but I'm always on the look out. It was there too I remember watching many of the early black and white monster movies.

    Then there was The Late Show and then The Late Late Show - another good source of movies.

    There was also, if I'm remembering correctly, an Early Show on CBS - daily films in the late afternoon.

  11. Wow, that theme music! The swelling horns in the beginning took me right back to middle school.
    What is it about little snatches of melody that punch up the memory so much?
    Does anyone know if this theme is available on CD anywhere?


  12. I've read online where the theme is based on a Mort Stevens song called "So Old, So Young." But I can't confirm that because I also can't find a recording of it.

  13. The complete list (with a few errors)

  14. wish CBS could bring back The CBS Late Movie now that David Letterman's retiring move Craig Ferguson after the late news then put The CBS Late Movie on after him wouldn't that be peachy??????????!!!!!
    Cherilyn Hannen

  15. The announcer was mainly Norm Stevens from the CBS New York outpost (whose shift also encompassed the overnight hours, and who therefore had the honor of signing off WCBS-TV in New York anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour before it was to sign on again); when he was off, other CBS staff announcers such as Hal Simms, Wally King and Bill Martin filled in.

  16. I have never forgotten the "CBS Late Movie" because it was such a weird witches brew. Whatever classic (Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes") or schlock ("The Thing With Two Heads) the night had to offer, it was all gloriously sold by a breathless announcer who mad sure your butt was seated. This show turned a 12 year old into an insomniac. Good times.

    1. It still brings back great memories, along with the ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK.

  17. Thanks for posting. It peels away the years!

  18. One movie that me and my brother used to love that I haven't seen mentioned here yet was ISLAND OF TERROR with Peter Cushing and Edward Judd. The one about the silicone-creatures in the island that ate people's bones! Whenever we'd see in the TV Guide that it would be airing on the following Friday night we would be excited all week!!!

  19. I was in the 12th grade when the CBS late movie got it's start, to my great surprise on 2-28-1972 they were going to air the X-rated * The Damned *. Even though it was a school night ( monday ) I made plans to into the den turn the volume down low & watch the movie, but it was not to be. WFMY channel 2 Greensboro & WTVD Durham were afraid of a backlash chickened out and didn't show it. 40 years later on 2-28-2012 I saw it on netflix. Other great movies I saw were " Night of the Lepus " " The Black Scorpion " & all the great Hammer horror movies.

  20. The CBS Late Movie was terrific! Best Movies Ever! Especially the show's theme song

  21. I just found this tribute and many times the CBS Late Movie was a friend who kept me going. I remember in 1981, I was 15, when I was sick with swollen glands, I was tired but for some reason I could not sleep, must have been the meds. I just pulled a few all nighters and watched the CBS Late Movie, one movie I remember, they played both parts of the miniseries about Jim Jones starring my favorite actor, Powers Boothe (he was almost a ringer for Jones and played the part well) from the time he was a kid to the mass suicide of the People's Temple. Mom kicked my butt to my bedroom once so I had to finish the show on my 12 inch black and white TV.

  22. WOW! When I was a teenager, I used to watch The CBS Late Movie religiously each Friday night even during school time. I used to love watching the thrillers they would show and also, Made For TV movies that I had missed when they were initially run> I remember watching the reaired "Birth of the Beatles" around either 1984 or 1985. I actually enjoyed this. It was originally aired on ABC. CBS also reaired many of their made for TV movies during the run of the CBS Late Movie. They also reaired several select episodes of the "NBC Sunday Mystery Movie", but only as "CBS Late Night Mystery Movie". I also remember watching the classic 1966 film "A Big Hand for the Little Lady" on the CBS Late Movie as well. They even reaired quite a few Made for TV films that were intended as pilots for hoped for TV series' that never materialized.

    However, I have been searching for one particular Made For TV film that was aired/reaired on CBS Late Movie. It was simply titled "Remember". I have been searching for information about this particular TV film, but so far, have come up empty on information. I don't know if this was a 1970's or 1980's TV film. I simply recall it simply bi its title. Does anyone else know about this TV film? If so, please share any information about it. I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks very much.

    Thanks for bring back many wonderful memories.