OK, Boomer. This is the definitive streaming service you need to visit. About the same time MTV kicked off in 1981, Night Flight came to life on USA Network. Night Flight represented an avant garde replica of MTV, and both were great for about 10 years, but their differences were significant: MTV was 24/7 and broke mega-stars. Night Flight ran two hours on Saturday night on USA Network, and it played to the pierced and tattooed crowd that had no friends. Night Flight quit while it was ahead and fell into rock and roll obscurity, while MTV drifted into reality TV and irrelevance.
But now, thanks to streaming TV and its insatiable demand for material, Night Flight returns with a very impressive collection of videos, documentaries, weird TV series, mountains of exploitation films, early teen sex comedies, and Japanese weirdness. All that’s missing is Bill Clinton.
So what’s up there? I just finished watching a documentary on Captain Beefheart, a Frank Zappa protégé who released possibly the most enigmatic LP ever released: Trout Mask Replica. Other documentaries visit a multitude of performers, from John Lee Hooker, to Keith Richards, to Pussy Riot. Weird cartoons from Dyna Man to Bubble Gum Crisis to Gumby follow. Then you can revisit the Church of the SubGenius and learn why you should be giving all praise to “Bob.” Let there be slack.
The exploitation movies are excellent as well and range from Circus of Fear to Isla, the Wicked Warden to the 3d monstrosity Coming at You. That one you might want to skip; it sucked when it first came out and has aged poorly. So there are few clunks—but your clunk may be my cult favorite. Best of all, there’s a major treasure trove of rock videos that saw little to no MTV airplay, mountains of Blaxploitation films, Italian Giallo thrillers, long collages of those weird short films you never see outside of film festivals, a Dr. Ruth channel, and the groundbreaking punk performances hosted by Peter Ivers, New Wave Theater.
Most of the documentaries here are solid, and I loved the one on the mysterious artist Banksy. It’s just like flipping channels, without the bother of dropping into the middle of something cool and missing the opening act.
Not all of this material was actually shown on the first run of the show, but it’s all in the ethos and spirit of those blessed days of rock and roll excess. I did notice quite a few Robert Mugabe docs that Ink 19 covered over the years, and here’s your chance to see them all at one reasonable price. The quality is very pre-digital but generally from clean copies from 16 mm or 35 mm films.
Night Flight is a subscription streaming service. I viewed it on my computer, and so a good broadband service is all you need; my 100 Mbps line had no problems with skips or hanging. I have to go now, the shower scene from Isla, She Wolf of the SS is running. Art. I’m devoted to it.
Night Flight: nightflightplus.com