Film Feature: B is for backstory

 
 

You could catch up on the blockbusters that feature highly in the Oscars, or you could follow Stephen Allen’s guide to B-movies

“So what movies have you seen recently?” This is a question I love being asked because I get to see the reaction to titles such as Billy The Kid Versus Dracula. To put it simply, I love B-movies. I love schlocky, cheesy, obscure movies with completely ridiculous premises. I love them more than modern mainstream movies, because at least there’s some creativity behind it.

Granted, that creativity mostly involves ninjas, robots and vampires or some twisted hybrid of those three. If Robo Vampire doesn’t sound like the greatest concept for a movie, then we can’t be friends. Also, it’s always more enjoyable when you know you might find a laughably worse movie next week. Or better yet, you might find an unknown gem.

Basically, part of the fun of obscure movies is searching for them. Even in today’s information age, questions like exactly how many movies Godfrey Ho has made, or how many mainstream movies have unofficial sequels is still unknown. Granted, this may be because most people who aren’t me don’t want to know. So, why has the interest in these kinds of movies increased? Well, there are several reasons but some aren’t that interesting.

One such reason is the creation and banning of the video nasty. In the early 1980s, when the amount of houses with VCRs increased, the popularity of video increased in tandem. Suddenly, the focus shifted from the cinemas to the home.

Consequently, movies wouldn’t have to be released in theatres to reach the majority of the public. But the English government, being the control freaks that they are, tried to find a way to censor the more disturbing videos that weren’t being certified by the established ratings system. Most were simply re-cut, but some were put on a list and banned. Thus, the DPP list – the list of video nasties – was released and almost the entire list earned a lot from import sales alone.

Simply because everyone was curious why they were banned, these films gained widespread notoriety and made a lot of money for bootleggers. The list is still a source of names for anyone interested in terrible and ridiculous horror movies. Even the famous schlock horror movie The Evil Dead was originally banned under the act.

Let’s just face it, when your legislation is up against the awesomeness of Bruce Campbell, you’re going to lose. There was also I Spit On Your Grave, which doesn’t deserve its following and was also known as Revenge of the Women. Anyway, most of these movies have been released after the millennium, bar eleven that have yet to submit for ratings. Mostly because even the filmmakers realised that they sucked.

One other reason worth mentioning is the popularity of an American comedy show called Mystery Science Theatre 3000. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, MST3K involved three comedians (two of which were puppets… it made sense at the time) making fun of z-list schlock. It introduced a whole new generation to these strange and funny movies. It showed us that these movies were an endless source of comedy (but don’t watch B-movie comedies, they are voids from which humour cannot escape).

Admittedly, it wasn’t as popular over here as you could usually only see it on the Sci-Fi Channel (you know, when it was spelt right) after midnight. Which is a shame, because it is impossible to get any episodes on DVD, because they relied on their channels rights to the movies they were showing, rather than acquiring the rights themselves.

Either way, it was an incredible show that I can’t say enough good things about. But, that isn’t funny, so… emmm… oh! It introduced me to a movie that I now watch every Christmas: Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. Once again, how could you not love a movie with that title?

B-movies have actually had a fairly long and fairly interesting history. As mainstream media has evolved, so have their low-budget counterparts. From their original creation as 1930s double feature B-units to the exploitative movies of The Asylum, there is plenty of ground left uncovered by this feature.

So go to that weird DVD store, avoid eye contact with the clerk with the hook hand, pick up some crappy movie with a title like Ninja Commando 3, invite some friends over and have a bit of a laugh. But remember, these films are a part of cinematic history, like the deformed cousin twice removed that no one likes to talk about. So, if you don’t mind, I have to get back to watching Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People… no, I’ve no idea why it exists either.

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