Five Beers: In Defense of the Trashier Side of Cinema

I saw the last flick to ever be shown at a drive-in close to my hometown. Ark Vue Drive-In Theater was its name. Sadly, it is now a fucking Wal-Mart. But, damn, you could get close to 300 automobiles inside the lot during its prime. The drive-in theater roared successfully straight into the beginning of the 1980s. Everything about the experience – including the giant screen next to the open field – left a permanent impression on me. I’m not one for nostalgia, but – sigh – those definitely WERE the days.

I remember my own eyes growing as big as two flying saucers when I first caught sight of the concession stand and saw all the illustrations. HOT DOGS! POPCORN! SODA! CANDY! It was quite an experience. Sadly, those warm summer nights under the stars and in the presence of a great big glowing screen are all but gone today.

I also recall spending many a late night in some of the grimiest VHS rental stores to ever land in Vista, California. The seedier they were, the better their selection of titles. Sometimes I would rent one just because of the explosive cover art. A fact that has not escaped some of the distributors who put out their titles with newly commissioned reversible artwork. But that was how we saw those B-movies and cult classics when the Drive-Ins closed.

ScalpsHell, there’s always a first time with these gore-guzzling flicks. Like the first time I saw the bloody nightmare of Scalps. Written and directed by Fred Olen Ray (The Alien Dead), this effective horror flick is as minimalistic as B-movies get and yet I still remember how badly it freaked my shit out. (Modern day horror films like The Bye Bye Man have a few things to learn from watching these titles.)

Plan Nine from Outer SpaceFor a long time, I’ve been a fan of the strange and twisted world of the B-movie. These cult classics feel tattooed upon my skin. Blame my mother. She had me watching Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space and Bela Lugosi in Invisible Ghost with her as a tiny tot in Batman underoos. Karloff, too. While I also grew up on a steady diet of Roger Corman and Vincent Price titles (most found today on Scream Factory’s Vincent Price Collection), I know it wasn’t just one film that made me a believer in the cheesier and gorier side of the theater aisle.

Whether the film dealt with aliens, blobs of goo created by man (or from space), or cowboys in strange and foreign lands, I’ve always been watching with a smile, my hand buried deep in some hot, buttery popcorn.   While I do have my favorite titles when it comes to modern moviemaking, so many new releases leave me feeling, well, underwhelmed and, more often than not, are absolutely joyless in their delivery of realism.

The Valley of GwangiYawn. Something is missing. Special Effects guru Ray Harryhausen (The Valley of Gwangi and many others) was right in his belief that movies don’t have to be realistic to be entertaining. And so I find myself returning time and time again to the trashy territory of the B-movie, back when entertainment ruled.

The Man with the X-ray EyesAnd that’s why I have gone into RAGE MODE with the reviews for my little corner of Reel Reviews. I still hit up the big boys from time to time, but Badass Sinema Unearthed is here to stay. These B-movies – no matter how strange or hilariously awful they are – deserve attention and, almost certainly, reconsideration. They are often misunderstood films, forming their own Island of Misfit Toys. If you ask me, titles like Corman’s X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes are goddamned cinematic monuments to a time when there was a “WE CAN DO IT, TOO” attitude in Hollywood.

Originally, these releases went hand-in-hand with the drive-in. Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s, the drive-in theater was THE place for nonstop action in America. Families and teenagers alike were there. And who could blame the kiddos? A private bedroom on four wheels?! Forget about the movie, let’s shag! The Beach Boys sang about what truly went down at the drive-in when the movie started. Occasionally, someone would actually watch the movie and see something otherworldly that they would never forget, though…

…and that’s what Badass Sinema Unearthed celebrates with that pint of beer rating.

Let's all go the lobby

Distributors like Severin Films, Vinegar Syndrome, Arrow Video, Grindhouse Releasing, Scream Factory, Retromedia, Olive Films, The Film Detective, and Kino Lorber Studio Classics (to name but a few) deserve a solid round of applause for their continued (and wildly successful) work on getting these lost treasures out to the public with 2K and 4K restorations and tons of NEW supplemental material. They GET it. They even have the merchandise to prove it.

The Screaming SkullThese distibutors understand that Gen Xers like myself want these titles in their library. Millennials want to see them, too. Even Babyboomers want to revisit 1958’s The Screaming Skull. That sequence in which the new bride, Jenni, is visited by the rolling skull is one of the most harrowing you’re likely to ever see. Don’t believe me? See for yourself because Shout Factory’s extended arm, Scream Factory, just put it out on blu-ray.

The fact is that these B-movies are absolutely crushing it at home. With most of the video rental stores closed now – the victims of what befell the drive-in theaters with the uptick in more convenient ways to see a movie – the market for B-movies has decreased to one: VOD. We have few ways to see these era-soaked genre films anymore and, trust me, there are gems still out there just waiting to be polished and re-discovered.

Cathy's CurseWhen I see a forgotten slice of cinematic sleaze from the dark side of filmmaking (or a new one that the studios ignore), I absolutely lose my shit. The new release of the 1981’s nunsploitation flick, The Other Hell, by Severin Films proves just how hungry audiences are for these titles. Alongside Cathy’s Curse, Severin and others like it lead the way when it comes to 35mm depravity. And, honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the results.

B-movies, no matter how schlocky, are making a HUGE comeback. We might be a small group of freaks, but we are absolutely being spoiled by their special 1080p rollout. And, trust me, Reel Reviews and Badass Sinema Unearthed will CONTINUE to be all over their second coming. This, I promise.

Why? Because we live in an age where joy itself is a form of protest and, goddamn it, I swear that my badass cheese-eating grin will be visible with each and every release from the trashier side of the aisle. God bless. Amen. And peace out.   I’ve got films to watch…

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