As a B-Movie or B-Picture (seldom also Germanized B-Film ), the film of a so-called double feature , which is cheaper to produce, was previously called. Today, a B-movie is generally understood to mean a second-class film with a generally low film budget and mostly low artistic standards. Films of this type are mostly located in the horror or splatter , science fiction or action genre .
B-movies have been around since the economic crisis of the 1930s, when there was increased demand for cheap entertainment. Double screenings of B-films served this purpose. B-Movie studios were about " Republic " and " Monogram ". Directors like Edgar G. Ulmer shot exclusively B-movies and soon specialized in getting by with a low budget and short shooting time. It is not uncommon for B-films to be shot in the back of larger productions for cost reasons.
In the better economic times of the 1950s, B-Movies could hold up as entertainment for young people and drive-in moviegoers, especially science fiction, horror films and the like. Furthermore, the Hollywood studio system came under financial pressure from so-called anti-trust campaigns and television around 1950 and, in addition to expensive large-scale film projects and technical experiments to outperform television (wide screen, 3D cinema), also turned to more economical productions. Long contracts with actors and directors became rarer, but new, independent productions came up. Here the budget was smaller, but the creative freedom was partly greater. However, the focus was always on commercial success. From 1957, Roger Corman proved to be an extremely productive B-movie maker. Another famous director here was Jack Arnold . Also worth mentioning are the hammer films named after their British production company .
B-Movies were also long considered a recommendation for actors and directors for the big Hollywood films , until this was largely done through the television series . Examples include Jack Nicholson and John Wayne , who rose from B to A actors. Often, however, the B-movies were rather the last chance for actors who could no longer hold their own in the main business (here are examples of the appearances of Bela Lugosi in the films of Trashregisseur Ed Wood ).
The term B-movie is now used more generally for low-budget films and less respectable genres, such as horror films. The boundary to trash film is fluid. However, today the boundaries between B-movies and other forms of feature film have become much more permeable, which can be seen, among other things, from the fact that classic B-movie materials such as Godzilla are now part of mainstream cinema.
B-Movies are films that are aimed at widespread audience success and are intended to achieve their goal with the least possible production effort. This distinguishes them from so-called " A-Movies ", in which an experienced, professional production team and actors are deployed, film scenes are repeated until the recordings meet the requirements - which means a correspondingly longer shooting time - and in which Complex and realistic special effects can be used for impressive scenes. All of this requires a large production budget.
In B-Movies, all elements that "unnecessarily" increase the cost of production are left out, in the conscious acceptance of less realistic or only hinted at special effects, improperly executed scenes that are not or too seldom repeated or practiced, and with the use of inexperienced or untalented actors and Production workers.
Nevertheless, the brisk B-movie production in Hollywood from the 1930s onwards led to B-movie stars of their own and some directors almost exclusively staging B-movies, which could certainly achieve cult status . Some directors accepted the minimal production conditions - often in a playful, artistic way - as a challenge for new dramaturgical processes in order to still produce realistic or visually appealing effects. The best-known example of a producer of the early B-movies is Edgar G. Ulmer .
Today's classification - differences to earlier
The division of films into the A-Movie and B-Movie categories is based on economic and artistic aspects. The A-Movies have a significantly higher budget . These films are shown to a broad audience in cinemas, which means they have the longest exploitation chain and are usually placed on the market with advertising expenditure. The term A-Movie for these films is unusual. Rather, they are divided into so-called blockbusters or flops according to their financial success .
B-movies are primarily characterized by smaller budgets . But this is always to be seen relative to the A-Movies. B-Movies differ from other low-budget productions in that they are less interested in artistic expression than primarily in commercial profit.
Most of the time, a B-movie was therefore a genre film such as B. Western or horror film . Genres such as blaxploitation , slasher films and women's prison films established themselves almost exclusively as B-movies . Later this term was also used for films with content of a lower quality. In contrast to “low budget”, the term B-Movie today has a negative aspect.
In contrast, it is pointed out that it is precisely the B-movies that were not produced for the flagship cinemas, unsmoothed by studio politics, that could allow themselves to take up topics that were taboo in mainstream cinema. So be partially massively to find social criticism, such as in B-movies Night of the Living Dead ( Night of the Living Dead ), Godzilla and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre .
B movies as a subculture
Film festivals that only show B-Movies, for example B-Film Bastards in Nuremberg, have established themselves in several German cities. Most of the time films are shown that are cheap and therefore involuntarily funny.
- B-Movies are the focus of the American comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 .
- The band Fehlfarben have in their hit One Year (It's Going Forward) the line of text "Gray B-film heroes will soon rule the world" - what is meant is the election of actor Ronald Reagan as US President.
- Especially bloody horror films, so-called splatter films , are also often cheap productions.
- Arthur Lyons: Death on the cheap. The lost B movies of film noir , Cambridge, MASS (Da Capo Press) 2000. ISBN 0-306-80996-6