For more than a year, some friends, my wife and I have been getting together monthly to watch movies that fall outside of the mainstream.
It started out as B-Movie Night but has evolved to include more than Definition.org’s take on the term:
“A B movie is a low-budget commercial motion picture that is not definitively an arthouse or pornographic film. In its original usage, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the term more precisely identified a film intended for distribution as the less-publicized, bottom half of a double feature.”
Our adventures into the territory have encompassed everything from silent films like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu” to 1950s low-budget sci-fi like “Invaders from Mars,” with some detours to 1960s for “Carnival of Souls” and “13 Ghosts.”
And, while we didn’t have the benefit of William Castle’s classic Illusion-O gimmick, we did have the benefit of popcorn and the occasional “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-style crowd commentary.
With a little more than a year under our belts, here are some one-sentence movie reviews of some of what we watched in that time:
“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920): A mind-blowing achievement in mood and atmosphere, especially considering it was filmed before the adoption of sound in films, let alone the horror genre.
“Spookies” (1986): A movie so bad that viewers have fabricated wholesale an urban legend about it being strung together from the pieces of two unrelated movies (which it was not).
“The Little Shop of Horrors” (1960): No musical numbers and no Rick Moranis still makes for a pretty entertaining time with Seymour, Audrey Jr. and a very young, very unhinged Jack Nicholson.
“Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla” (1952): Poor Lugosi, acting his heart out, can’t quite save you from co-lead Sammy Petrillo’s shrill, exhausting ripoff of Jerry Lewis’ shtick.
“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1978): Depending on your tastes, the best movie ever made or the worst movie ever made.
“Transformers: The Movie” (1986): Proof that my wife loves me, since she sat through this cynical marketing attempt at selling more toys in the 1980s.
“In the Mouth of Madness” (1994): A movie that features the marble rye lady from “Seinfeld” chopping her husband into coleslaw — but no marble rye.
“Wizards” (1977): Spoiler alert, there are only two wizards and one is a pair of feet attached to a huge beard.
“A Bucket of Blood” (1959): The name Walter Paisley enters B-movie lore as character actor Dick Miller (“Gremlins,” “The ‘Burbs,” “The Terminator”) both courts and kills people from a group of too-cool-for-life beatniks.
“Nosferatu” (1922): F.W. Murnau’s silent, non-licensed take on “Dracula” was improved by a soundtrack from 1990s Goth-rock band, Type O Negative.
“Carnival of Souls” (1962): Slightly unhinged organ playing and a literal carnival of souls are two reasons this is an all-time classic.
“Big Trouble in Little China” (1986): Kurt “Yessir, the check is in the mail” Russell continues a fruitful relationship with director/composer John Carpenter.
“13 Ghosts” (1960): Not the awful 2000s remake, but the one that’s goodly awful.
“Invaders from Mars” (1953): It doesn’t get much more classic than a people-napping sandpit that’s in league with a Martian head in a glass bubble.
“The Man Who Laughs” (1928): Not a whole lot of laughs in this tragedy starring Conrad Veidt that (probably) inspired the look of Batman villain, The Joker.
“Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988): The definition of truth in advertising, it also drew one of the biggest laughs ever when a titular clown quickly fashioned a balloon dog to chase and track some troublesome humans.
I hope one of these will get you started on your B-movie journey. It’s filled with Ghoulies, Critters and evil puppets, but well worth the trip.