My Favourite Film of 1940.

Film For quite some time, I was in two minds about the notion of an in-vision announcer presenting films, either as part of a strand or the house style of a television network. Being something of a spoiler phobe to the point of trying not to discover too much about a film beyond who's in it and what's on the poster, the idea of someone providing an introduction should be anathema.

Done badly, and I've seen this done very badly, the critic offers too much of an analysis, almost assuming we've already seen the film and in the worst case giving away the ending. At their best, they give some information as to how the production was initiated, how it fits in the time period, themes and ideas to look at for and generally a sense of celebration and excitement about what we're going to witness.

Sometimes they're included on dvds, Leonard Maltin popping up to present a "Night at the Movies" on the Warners dvds which also include an animation, short documentary or drama, a bit of newsreel and an introduction to the main presentation, providing a flavour of the context in which the film would have been originally shown, albeit in a much smaller auditorium.

But thanks to YouTube many of these old and some new introductions are available so should you not want to go into a film without some back-up, you can always watch someone against a white background or sitting on a study set offering some guidance. Here's a short guide and some examples of the kinds of introductions available.


For decades, since its launch in 1994 TCM has utilised researched in-vision introductions to their films during prime-time as way of setting themselves apart from other film channels who almost seem annoyed that they have to interrupt the commercials with content. Here are a couple of examples featuring stalwart Robert Osborne introducing His Girl Friday, my favourite film of 1940:


Doesn't need much of an introduction and indeed there's a website with a wealth of information about this 80s and 90s BBC Two cult film strand usually broadcast on a Sunday night. YouTube is filled with the introductions by Alex Cox and his successor Mark Cousins. Here's Cox's intro to what would be my first viewing of The Terminator in 1990 at the age of sixteen:

Here's Mark Cousins's first introductory gig for Scarface, again the first (and last time) I saw that film:

Booklets were published listing the films in Moviedrome with some of the text from Cox's introductions and you can download these from his website.

Film Four

Film Four's channel is awash with film introductions. Some were recorded for broadcast before films, others to fill the gaps between as publicity for some new release. Some are with directors and actors and some of them are with critics, notable Mark Kermode who himself used to present horror films on Channel 4 as a rival to Moviedrome.

Mark Kermode's Movie Club

A short lived attempt by Kermode to resurrect a version of Moviedrome, introducing his favourite films via the Kermode & Mayo YouTube channel. Here he is on Breathless:

BFI Player

Now a hyperbolic Kermode has a regular gig introducing weekly selections from the BFI Player's catalogue. On Brief Encounter:


The easiest way is probably to the search for the name of the film and whatever the strand is and see if anything crops up. The other seam is the Q&A often recorded at film festivals in which director and/or cast were present for a screening of the film and although the results can be interminable, with the correct moderator they can be fascinating. Here's a bootleg recording for the TIFF Q&A for St Vincent:

An official BFI Q&A about the Shaun The Sheep film:

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