The "B" movie was a term for a shorter, lower-budget feature film that would play in front of the high-class "A" movies back in the days of movie palaces. Though that phenomenon did not last forever, the term "B" movie stuck, and was used to refer to just about any low-budget, high-concept movie, usually in marketable genres like crime, horror, sci-fi, Westerns, beach movies, blaxploitation, kung-fu movies, erotic movies, monster movies, etc. Eventually, the form had its own legion of fans, even if--or perhaps because--the movies never achieved the respect that their "A" cousins did. Here's a selection of so-called "B" movies to catch on Netflix this month.
Killer's Kiss (expiring 5/1)
After making his feature directing debut with Fear and Desire (which he subsequently suppressed), the great Stanley Kubrick moved into a more commercial realm with the 67-minute quickie Killer's Kiss (1955). It's a fairly ridiculous story about a washed-up New York boxer who gets mixed up with a dance hall girl, and the combination leads to murder. But the 26 year-old Kubrick already had plenty of style, and he cooked up a unique, deep-focused, realistic view of the city streets, as well as show-stopping moments like a showdown in a mannequin factory.
The Killer Is Loose (expiring 5/1)
Director Budd Boetticher, who broke into movies as a bullfighting consultant, went on to direct a series of "B" movies that culminated in a remarkable series of seven Westerns starring Randolph Scott. The 75-minute crime film The Killer Is Loose (1956) was made just before, and has a certain neat style of its own. Joseph Cotten stars as a police detective who accidentally shoots the wife of a bank robber during an arrest. The robber, Poole (Wendell Corey), with his froggy, searching eyes hiding behind huge spectacles, vows revenge. Unfortunately, the detective realizes that it's his own wife Poole is after.
Beyond the Time Barrier (expiring 5/1)
The Austrian-born Edgar G. Ulmer reportedly helped the set design for some of the great German Expressionist films before trying to make a go as a director in Hollywood. He started in "B" movies and never stopped, but created some genuine low-budget masterworks. Beyond the Time Barrier (1960) was one of his last films, and arguably one of his cheapest, shot in about a week at the site of a world's fair in Texas, and shot side-by-side with another cheapie, The Amazing Transparent Man. It concerns a test pilot (Robert Clarke, who also produced) who accidentally cracks the time barrier and winds up in the future, where a plague has turned the world into a living nightmare. Ulmer cast his daughter Arianne as "Captain Markova."
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