Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Classic Movies on CBS All Access

We picked up CBS All Access to watch the new Star Trek shows, which are worth the price of the service by themselves, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the classic movie offerings in their library. Streaming services have not generally been interested in the classic film audience, and those that specifically catered to us met premature ends for not raking in as much money as the owners wanted (Alas, Warner Archive and Filmstruck, our time together was too brief). CBS All Access might avoid the fates of those services since it offers exclusive new shows like Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks and other more recent feature films, but it has the ability to give classic movie fans some great content as it launches its new Paramount Plus name in 2021 with a massive expansion of the available titles. Right now, though, you can get a taste of the pleasures that might be on the horizon by sampling the classic movies CBS All Access already has in its catalog.

Now owned by ViacomCBS, Paramount Pictures goes way back to the silent era, with a full century of movies in its vaults. That means that classic movie fans could get easy access to a lot of lesser gems from the golden age of Hollywood, including the Bulldog Drummond series of the 30s, the Hopalong Cassidy films, and the Hope and Crosby road pictures, not to mention big hits from director Preston Sturges, the classic noir genre, and dozens of great comedies, Westerns, and dramas. A quick perusal of the movies made by Paramount over the decades shows the depth and breadth of the titles that could be made available as the service seeks to increase subscribers by opening the treasure chest of offerings.

Early signs indicate that Paramount Plus WILL open that chest, even if classic movies aren't its core content. In the first place, it has too much good material not to use it, and, in the second place, some of those goodies are already on its current CBS All Access service. You can watch the 1927 silent hit, Wings, which won the First Oscar for Best Picture, or catch Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March in The Desperate Hours (1955). Sunset Blvd (1950), Sabrina (1954), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943), That Touch of Mink (1962), Father Goose (1964), and Teacher's Pet (1958) are also in the current library. With many of Hollywood's most iconic classic stars in its pictures, Paramount Plus can be sure that its older movies will appeal to casual viewers of the classics as well as diehard fans. You don't have to live and breath classic movies to appreciate Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn!

While Netflix continues to dominate the streaming market, it has zero interest in satisfying the tastes of our niche of viewers, and Amazon Prime can be very difficult to navigate when it has multiple bad prints of public domain films dumped into its catalog and a smattering of quality classics mixed in without a grouped category to make them easy to find. (I can spend HOURS hunting through Amazon in the hope of finding a decent print of a movie on Prime, and most of the time I don't have much luck.) Lately I've stopped trying to find something on the other services because CBS All Access has been more than happy to offer me a nice collection of classic movies that I can enjoy. I am hopeful that the relaunch in 2021 will bring me lots of options and make Paramount Plus the streaming service I know it has the library to become.

(PS - If you already have CBS All Access, go watch That Touch of Mink immediately! It's a delightful comedy with an absolutely adorable performance from Doris Day.)

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