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John Howard Reid

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Hollywood's Vintage B Movies Revived On DVD
By John Howard Reid   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, August 22, 2010
Posted: Sunday, August 22, 2010

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Hollywood's vintage "B" movies have made a spectacular comeback with film fans, thanks to their ready availability on DVD discs. Indeed, some major suppliers like Alpha and Sinister Cinema specialize in "B" pictures.


"B" Movies, Bad Movies, Good Movies


In Hollywood's heyday, there were actually studios along so-called Poverty Row who produced nothing but "B" movies, destined mostly for big-theatre slots as a "special added attraction" to a much-publicized release from a major studio.

In addition, many of the larger industrial towns actually supported cinemas that ran "B" movies exclusively.

The budgets for these movies were small, because they were hired out at flat rates rather than for a percentage of boxoffice takings. In my neighborhood, the going rate was $10 a day. That meant selling 100 admission tickets for a dime to pay for the movie. The larger "grind houses" as they were called, hired two features, including a more expensive offering with a name star like Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. This could cost them as much as $20. And they rounded out the program with an out-of-date newsreel which set them back half a dollar.


Despite their small budgets, many of these movies were well-made by skilful craftsmen like Bill Beaudine and Robert North Bradbury who knew how to turn out quality product in double-quick time. On some occasions, locations were used as a background for two movies at once!  

Of course, fans don’t particularly care about budgets. What they want are involving, exciting stories with lots of action and personable actors. And this is exactly what "B" movies aim to deliver.


Now that so many of these movies are available on DVD, no wonder there's a revival of interest.

You can see that interest reflected not only in DVD sales but in books like my own "B" Movies, Bad Movies, Good Movies (currently number 10 at Amazon’s Kindle store), Hollywood "B" Movies: A Treasury of Spills, Chills and Thrills (presently number 40 at Kindle), and Best Western Movies: Winning Pictures, Favorite Films and Hollywood "B" Entries (number 60 at Kindle).


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