Remembering Night Flight

While the rest of mankind uses A.D. and B.C. to divide history, I prefer to use BNF and ANF - before and after Night Flight.

Okay, not really. But it was an important show - it introduced a variety of music and movies that would otherwise have gone completely beneath the radar for most Americans. It was a beautiful thing...

It played an interesting variety of music videos, generally punk or new wave (although, reggae and more mainstream music were often featured). This was intermixed with wonderfully eclectic clips: everything from Cold War Era footage to stand up comedy.

But Night Flight's specialty was their off beat movies - Kentucky Fried Movie, Repo Man, Eraserhead, Liquid Sky, Eating Raoul, Flesh for Frankenstein, Reefer Madness, Rocky Horror and my favorite - Jekyll & Hyde: Together Again.

If the image below is even remotely familiar to you, chances are you watched it on Night Flight. It's from the film Fantastic Planet, and I hated it at the time (and Night Flight played it a lot). But I was an idiot back then interested in only two things (I won't tell you what they were); now that I am Enlightened and Cultured, I can appreciate a film such as this. The trailer from 1973 blows my mind like no other.

Sadly, I rarely watched Night Flight during its actual airtime (late Friday and Saturday nights) - I was much too busy being a rebellious a-hole. Luckily, we had purchased a VHS recorder and so I was able to tape it (the luxury of TiVo light years away). What a treat it was to pollute my mind with all those rowdy crazyass movies each week! Kids who don't remember a time when every song or movie couldn't instantly be at your fingertips perhaps can't appreciate what a blessing something like Night Flight was.

USA's Up All Night would replace Night Flight in 1988. Up All Night was a good show, in a manner similar to Elvira's Movie Macabre, but the spectacle of cult movies meshed with great music and eccentric clips was over. Night Flight R.I.P. As someone commented on IMDb "Television had never been so anarchic and probably never will be again."

[Click here to see the Night Flight theme/credits.]


  1. I love your site! And thanks for taking a look at NIGHT FLIGHT. With that female announcer, the 80s graphics, and the punk/hippie/geek quality of its programming, it was certainly one of the greatest shows ever to hit TV. There was nothing like its all-inclusiveness.

  2. I loved NIGHT FLIGHT, too. There were so many great shorts, videos, and movies! I just wish I had taped more episodes.

  3. Somewhere on a Beta tape, I have a couple hours of gloriously phantasmagoric clips from NIGHT FLIGHT!The show was one of the best things about cable at that time!

  4. I've got some vague recollections of Night Flight. I think I saw Rock and Rule on that show!

  5. Holy cow!!! I had forgotten about all those hours of my early teens watching this show! I seem to remember the local Philly NBC affiliate showing a shortened version after Friday Night Videos, but I could be worng about that.

    Man. I miss this show. Me and my friends would stay up to watch it and feel smug that we were in on something so cool at a young age. The one thing I remember vividly is the Church of the SubGenius stuff.

    How much more entertaining was TV when this show was on for 8 hours instead of 8 hours of "male-extension-pill" infomercials and "get-rich-by-buying-real- estate" informercials?

  6. I remember Night Flight would play uncut music videos that had suffered the blade of MTV censors.

    One in particular I recall was Golden Earring's follow-up to "Twilight Zone" called "When The Lady Smiles" - showing the lead singer sexually assaulting a nun in a subway and undergoing gory brain surgery later (where the doctor tosses the bloody clot he removed to a begging dog).

  7. Night Flight and Up All Night were some of the best things ever on cable TV. All gone.

  8. AnonymousMay 21, 2009

    Night Flight was such a big influence for me! Stuck growing up in rural Montana, we didn't have much exposure to anything...that is until Night Flight came along to dazzle me! Never forget Ladies & Gentlemen: The Fabulous Stains or Breaking Glass! I think Liquid Sky was also in that time frame (but I don't recall it on Night Flight.) The Young Ones also (although I think it was MTV). Ahhhh...those were the halcyon days when music and art actually inspired us! Not like today's homogenized, commercialized American Idol crap you are supposed to worship blah, blah, blah.

    Video Killed the Radio Star! Thanks for reminding us!

  9. I've actually never seen this before. To be honest I don't think I've even heard of.

  10. Loved reading these comments. There's really nothing on TV today that I think is even similar to Night Flight. The early days of cable were pretty lawless - even MTV could be experimental at times (i.e. "The Cutting Edge" show and they'd play things like The Young Ones). For some reason, things have gotten homogenized (as Laura said)and less risky.

  11. I'm old enough to remember but I don't remember Night Flight at all. I do remember Fantastic Planet. I think I may have even seen it in the theater. It was a French film. I just looked it up on IMDB. I somehow remember that Isaac Asimov had something to do with it but IMBD doesn't mention it.

  12. Yeah I remember J men forever that's what the picture of Captain Marvel or as they called him The Caped Madman was from.And that video with that creepy band with the madballesque eyball masks gavew me nightmares.But I never saw fantastic planet on there, althoug I bought the VHS of it at Bradlees for a dollar.

  13. "The Caped Madman" was in the Proctor and Bergman (50% of the Firesign Theater) re-dubbed mash-up movie J-MEN FOREVER (a.k.a. THE SECRET WORLD WAR). Using public domain footage from several Republic serials, they put together a loopy story about a master of disguise supervillain "The Lightning Bug" (voice by Machine Gun Kelly) who wanted to take over the world with sex'n'drugs'n'rock'n'roll. Opposing the Bug were such stalwart heroes as "The Caped Madman" (Capt. Marvel), "Lone Star" (Capt. America), and "Rocket Jockey" (Rocketman). There were some bridging sequences with Proctor and Bergman in a office playing the two J-Men who tied the whole thing together.

    My favorite line: In stock footage from ZOMBIES OF THE STRATOSPHERE, Rocket Jockey shoots down a Martian space ship and says to the injured pilot, "Say, aren't you Leonard Nimoy?"

  14. Thanks to everyone for their comments, some very interesting information here. Buzz as usual is a font of pop culture wisdom.

    capewood - you may be thinking of Fantastic Voyage which DID involve Asimov (hired to do the novelization of the movie)

  15. No, I'm not thinking of Fantastic Voyage. I don't think that Asimov had anything to do with making the movie Fantastic Planet but either with promoting it or bringing it to America. But I can't find any mention of that on several sites about the movie I looked at so I may be wrong.

  16. The 'Eyeball band' was called "The Residents" and had ties to early comic fandom.
    Read about it here:

    Yes, it's my blog and yes it's a shameless plug.
    But there is a good pic of the band there.

  17. capewood- damn. I thought I solved your Asimov question. I'm afraid I don't know of any Asimov connection - but that's the kind of trivia I live for.

    chalwa - Plug away! I enjoyed reading your comic blogs - great stuff.

  18. Ooooo!
    In that case, I have a
    Fanzine Blog
    and a Dick Tracy Blog
    that will make you laugh, cry and want to be a better person!

  19. Never heard of Night Flight, but I was in a backplains town that had very basic cable, and we didn't always have cable at my house. Fantastic Planet looks like Salvador Dali on PCP. I don't think I'd like it.

  20. I used to love this! I remember when they would show episodes of Dynaman with comedians dubbing the lines over the original dialogue of the show. It's been a long time, but I remember these being hilarious.

  21. You mentioned above that there is nothing on TV like it today. That is sadly true and I am not sure why. This was not an expensive show to produce and had a nitch audience.

    Most of the new networks that started around this time started with fresh bold programing then degenerated into usual Network TV fare. Remember when FX started and was hosted out of a loft in New York City? Comedy Central (and HA)had loads of small scale, live hosted, shows and real comedy. Now it is all cookie cutter.

    Ah, the memories of youth.

  22. Actually, for you Night Flight fans...

    "Adult Swim", the late night programming on the Cartoon Network, is often compared to "Night Flight."

    And they both are compared to the '90s-era MTV program, "Liquid Television."