Over the past year and change, Roger Ebert has written a new chapter in his more than forty-year career as a major film critic. Now some of the earliest days of that career are online thanks to the Library of Congress and SiskelandEbert.org, which presents raw tape archives of the early episodes of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s film review shows that aired for decades, starting in 1975.

I grew up watching Sneak Previews, the second incarnation of their show, and this archive isn’t just a time capsule, but a reminder of some of my first exposure to film criticism of any kind. I think the show was the first exposure to film criticism that a great many people had, and it is a reminder of a time when getting detailed info on films was a much more difficult process than turning to an IMDB app on your phone. The voices of Siskel and Ebert were enough of a cultural force that the idea of the thumbs-up rating system became universally recognized.

Before there was Sneak Previews, which became At the Movies, there was Opening Soon at a Theater Near You, which was the first TV appearance of Siskel and Ebert. Here’s the very first episode of that show, in which they talk about, among other things, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Just look at Siskel!

And here’s the ‘worst of 1982′ show, which is great as a reminder of some justifiably forgotten films. I wonder how many of you have even heard of Inchon.

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