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The other major studios also turned out a considerable number of movies now identified as noir during the s. Though many of the best-known film noirs were A-level productions, most s pictures in the mode were either of the ambiguous programmer type or destined straight for the bottom of the bill.
In the decades since, these cheap entertainments, generally dismissed at the time, have become some of the most treasured products of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Three majors beside RKO contributed a total of five more. Along with these eighteen unambiguous B noirs, an additional dozen or so noir programmers came out of Hollywood.
Still, most of the majors' low-budget production remained the sort now largely ignored. Jean Hersholt played Dr. Christian in six films between and Christian was a standard entry: "In the course of an hour or so of screen time, the saintly physician managed to cure an epidemic of spinal meningitis, demonstrate benevolence towards the disenfranchised, set an example for wayward youth, and calm the passions of an amorous old maid.
Down in Poverty Row, low budgets led to less palliative fare. The little studio had its own house auteur : with his own crew and relatively free rein, director Edgar G.
Ulmer was known as "the Capra of PRC". In , a Supreme Court ruling in a federal antitrust suit against the majors outlawed block booking and led to the Big Five divesting their theater chains.
With audiences draining away to television and studios scaling back production schedules, the classic double feature vanished from many American theaters during the s.
The major studios promoted the benefits of recycling, offering former headlining movies as second features in the place of traditional B films.
After barely inching forward in the s, the average U. The first prominent victim of the changing market was Eagle-Lion, which released its last films in By , the old Monogram brand had disappeared, the company having adopted the identity of its higher-end subsidiary, Allied Artists.
The following year, Allied released Hollywood's last B series Westerns. Non-series B Westerns continued to appear for a few more years, but Republic Pictures, long associated with cheap sagebrush sagas, was out of the filmmaking business by decade's end.
Hollywood's A product was getting longer—the top ten box-office releases of had averaged The age of the hour-long feature film was past; 70 minutes was now roughly the minimum.
While the Golden Age-style second feature was dying, B movie was still used to refer to any low-budget genre film featuring relatively unheralded performers sometimes referred to as B actors.
The term retained its earlier suggestion that such movies relied on formulaic plots, "stock" character types, and simplistic action or unsophisticated comedy.
Ida Lupino , a leading actress, established herself as Hollywood's sole female director of the era. Its source is pure pulp , one of Mickey Spillane 's Mike Hammer novels, but Robert Aldrich 's direction is self-consciously aestheticized.
The result is a brutal genre picture that also evokes contemporary anxieties about what was often spoken of simply as the Bomb.
The fear of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, along with less expressible qualms about radioactive fallout from America's own atomic tests, energized many of the era's genre films.
Science fiction, horror, and various hybrids of the two were now of central economic importance to the low-budget end of the business.
Most down-market films of the type—like many of those produced by William Alland at Universal such as Creature from the Black Lagoon and Sam Katzman at Columbia including It Came from Beneath the Sea —provided little more than thrills, though their special effects could be impressive.
But these were genres whose fantastic nature could also be used as cover for mordant cultural observations often difficult to make in mainstream movies.
Director Don Siegel 's Invasion of the Body Snatchers , released by Allied Artists, treats conformist pressures and the evil of banality in haunting, allegorical fashion.
Gordon , is both a monster movie that happens to depict the horrific effects of radiation exposure and "a ferocious cold-war fable [that] spins Korea , the army's obsessive secrecy, and America's post-war growth into one fantastic whole".
The Amazing Colossal Man was released by a new company whose name was much bigger than its budgets. Nicholson and Samuel Z.
David Cook credits AIP with leading the way "in demographic exploitation , target marketing , and saturation booking, all of which became standard procedure for the majors in planning and releasing their mass-market 'event' films" by the late s.
In , a young filmmaker named Roger Corman received his first screen credits as writer and associate producer of Allied Artists' Highway Dragnet.
Corman directed over fifty feature films through As of , he remained active as a producer, with more than movies to his credit.
Often referred to as the "King of the Bs", Corman has said that "to my way of thinking, I never made a 'B' movie in my life", as the traditional B movie was dying out when he began making pictures.
He prefers to describe his metier as "low-budget exploitation films". In the late s, William Castle became known as the great innovator of the B movie publicity gimmick.
The creature feature The Tingler featured Castle's most famous gimmick, Percepto: at the film's climax, buzzers attached to select theater seats unexpectedly rattled a few audience members, prompting either appropriate screams or even more appropriate laughter.
The postwar drive-in theater boom was vital to the expanding independent B movie industry. In January , there were 96 drive-ins in the United States; a decade later, there were more than 3, The phenomenon of the drive-in movie became one of the defining symbols of American popular culture in the s.
At the same time, many local television stations began showing B genre films in late-night slots, popularizing the notion of the midnight movie.
Increasingly, American-made genre films were joined by foreign movies acquired at low cost and, where necessary, dubbed for the U.
In , distributor Joseph E. Levine financed the shooting of new footage with American actor Raymond Burr that was edited into the Japanese sci-fi horror film Godzilla.
In , Levine's Embassy Pictures bought the worldwide rights to Hercules , a cheaply made Italian movie starring American-born bodybuilder Steve Reeves.
The New York Times was not impressed, claiming that the movie would have drawn "little more than yawns in the film market Just as valuable to the bottom line, it was even more successful overseas.
The AIP-style dual genre package was the new model. In July , the latest Joseph E. Levine sword-and-sandals import, Hercules Unchained , opened at neighborhood theaters in New York.
It was clearly an A film by the standards of both director and studio, with the longest shooting schedule and biggest budget Corman had ever enjoyed.
With the loosening of industry censorship constraints , the s saw a major expansion in the commercial viability of a variety of B movie subgenres that became known collectively as exploitation films.
The combination of intensive and gimmick-laden publicity with movies featuring vulgar subject matter and often outrageous imagery dated back decades—the term had originally defined truly fringe productions, made at the lowest depths of Poverty Row or entirely outside the Hollywood system.
Many graphically depicted the wages of sin in the context of promoting prudent lifestyle choices, particularly " sexual hygiene ". Audiences might see explicit footage of anything from a live birth to a ritual circumcision.
With the majors having exited traditional B production and exploitation-style promotion becoming standard practice at the lower end of the industry, "exploitation" became a way to refer to the entire field of low-budget genre films.
Exploitation movies in the original sense continued to appear: 's Damaged Goods , a cautionary tale about a young lady whose boyfriend's promiscuity leads to venereal disease , comes complete with enormous, grotesque closeups of VD's physical effects.
Best known was Russ Meyer , who released his first successful narrative nudie, the comic Immoral Mr. Teas , in Five years later, Meyer came out with his breakthrough film, Lorna , which combined sex, violence, and a dramatic storyline.
Crafted for constant titillation but containing no nudity, it was aimed at the same "passion pit" drive-in circuit that screened AIP teen movies with wink-wink titles like Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini , starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.
One of the most influential films of the era, on Bs and beyond, was Paramount's Psycho. And, as William Paul notes, this move into the horror genre by respected director Alfred Hitchcock was made, "significantly, with the lowest-budgeted film of his American career and the least glamorous stars.
Lewis's business partner David F. Friedman drummed up publicity by distributing vomit bags to theatergoers—the sort of gimmick Castle had mastered—and arranging for an injunction against the film in Sarasota, Florida—the sort of problem exploitation films had long run up against, except Friedman had planned it.
Imports of Hammer Film's increasingly explicit horror movies and Italian gialli , highly stylized pictures mixing sexploitation and ultraviolence, fueled this trend.
The Production Code was officially scrapped in , to be replaced by the first version of the modern rating system. One was a high-budget Paramount production, directed by the celebrated Roman Polanski.
Produced by B horror veteran William Castle, Rosemary's Baby was the first upscale Hollywood picture in the genre in three decades.
Building on the achievement of B genre predecessors like Invasion of the Body Snatchers in its subtextual exploration of social and political issues, it doubled as a highly effective thriller and an incisive allegory for both the Vietnam War and domestic racial conflicts.
In this transformed commercial context, work like Russ Meyer's gained a new legitimacy. In May , the most important exploitation movie of the era premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
The project was first taken by one of its cocreators, Peter Fonda , to American International. The idea Fonda pitched combined those two proven themes.
AIP was intrigued but balked at giving his collaborator, Dennis Hopper , also a studio alumnus, free directorial rein.
In the late s and early s, a new generation of low-budget film companies emerged that drew from all the different lines of exploitation as well as the sci-fi and teen themes that had been a mainstay since the s.
The major studios' top product was continuing to inflate in running time—in , the ten biggest earners averaged In , Corman had a producorial hand in five movies averaging He played a similar part in five films originally released in , two for AIP and three for his own New World: the average length was The biggest studio in the low-budget field remained a leader in exploitation's growth.
Reviewing Sisters , Pauline Kael observed that its "limp technique doesn't seem to matter to the people who want their gratuitous gore.
One of blaxploitation's biggest stars was Pam Grier , who began her film career with a bit part in Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Blaxploitation was the first exploitation genre in which the major studios were central.
Indeed, the United Artists release Cotton Comes to Harlem , directed by Ossie Davis , is seen as the first significant film of the type.
The days of six quickies for a nickel were gone, but a continuity of spirit was evident. The crime-based plot and often seedy settings would have suited a straightforward exploitation film or an old-school B noir.
The first three features directed by Larry Cohen , Bone , Black Caesar , and Hell Up in Harlem , were all nominally blaxploitation movies, but Cohen used them as vehicles for a satirical examination of race relations and the wages of dog-eat-dog capitalism.
In the early s, the growing practice of screening nonmainstream motion pictures as late shows, with the goal of building a cult film audience, brought the midnight movie concept home to the cinema, now in a countercultural setting—something like a drive-in movie for the hip.
The midnight movie success of low-budget pictures made entirely outside the studio system, like John Waters ' Pink Flamingos , with its campy spin on exploitation, spurred the development of the independent film movement.
Even as Rocky Horror generated its own subcultural phenomenon, it contributed to the mainstreaming of the theatrical midnight movie.
Asian martial arts films began appearing as imports regularly during the s. These " kung fu " films as they were often called, whatever martial art they featured, were popularized in the United States by the Hong Kong—produced movies of Bruce Lee and marketed to the same audience targeted by AIP and New World.
As Roger Ebert explained in one review, "Horror and exploitation films almost always turn a profit if they're brought in at the right price.
So they provide a good starting place for ambitious would-be filmmakers who can't get more conventional projects off the ground.
Just as Hooper had learned from Romero's work, Halloween , in turn, largely followed the model of Black Christmas , directed by Deathdream ' s Bob Clark.
On television, the parallels between the weekly series that became the mainstay of prime-time programming and the Hollywood series films of an earlier day had long been clear.
As production of TV movies expanded with the introduction of the ABC Movie of the Week in , soon followed by the dedication of other network slots to original features, time and financial factors shifted the medium progressively into B picture territory.
Television films inspired by recent scandals—such as The Ordeal of Patty Hearst , which premiered a month after her release from prison in —harkened all the way back to the s and such movies as Human Wreckage and When Love Grows Cold , FBO pictures made swiftly in the wake of celebrity misfortunes.
Nightmare in Badham County headed straight into the realm of road-tripping-girls-in-redneck-bondage exploitation.
The reverberations of Easy Rider could be felt in such pictures, as well as in a host of theatrical exploitation films.
But its greatest influence on the fate of the B movie was less direct—by , the major studios were catching on to the commercial potential of genres once largely consigned to the bargain basement.
Rosemary's Baby had been a big hit, but it had little in common with the exploitation style. Warner Bros.
In William Paul's description, it is also "the film that really established gross-out as a mode of expression for mainstream cinema. The Exorcist made cruelty respectable.
By the end of the decade, the exploitation booking strategy of opening films simultaneously in hundreds to thousands of theaters became standard industry practice.
Described by Paul as "essentially an American-International teenybopper pic with a lot more spit and polish", it was 's third-biggest film and, likewise, by far the highest-earning teen-themed movie yet made.
Most of the B-movie production houses founded during the exploitation era collapsed or were subsumed by larger companies as the field's financial situation changed in the early s.
Even a comparatively cheap, efficiently made genre picture intended for theatrical release began to cost millions of dollars, as the major movie studios steadily moved into the production of expensive genre movies, raising audience expectations for spectacular action sequences and realistic special effects.
Their disaster plots and dialogue were B-grade at best; from an industry perspective, however, these were pictures firmly rooted in a tradition of star-stuffed extravaganzas.
The Exorcist had demonstrated the drawing power of big-budget, effects-laden horror. But the tidal shift in the majors' focus owed largely to the enormous success of three films: Steven Spielberg 's creature feature Jaws and George Lucas's space opera Star Wars had each, in turn, become the highest-grossing film in motion picture history.
Even as the U. Double features were now literally history—almost impossible to find except at revival houses.
One of the first leading casualties of the new economic regime was venerable B studio Allied Artists, which declared bankruptcy in April The studio was sold off and dissolved as a moviemaking concern by the end of Despite the mounting financial pressures, distribution obstacles, and overall risk, many genre movies from small studios and independent filmmakers were still reaching theaters.
Horror was the strongest low-budget genre of the time, particularly in the slasher mode as with The Slumber Party Massacre , written by feminist author Rita Mae Brown.
In , New Horizons released a critically applauded movie set amid the punk scene written and directed by Penelope Spheeris. The New York Times review concluded: " Suburbia is a good genre film.
Larry Cohen continued to twist genre conventions in pictures such as Q a. Q: The Winged Serpent ; , described by critic Chris Petit as "the kind of movie that used to be indispensable to the market: an imaginative, popular, low-budget picture that makes the most of its limited resources, and in which people get on with the job instead of standing around talking about it".
In the words of one newspaper critic, it was a "shoestring tour de force ". One of the most successful s B studios was a survivor from the heyday of the exploitation era, Troma Pictures , founded in Troma's best-known production is The Toxic Avenger ; its hideous hero, affectionately known as Toxie, was featured in several sequels and a TV cartoon series.
The video rental market was becoming central to B film economics: Empire's financial model relied on seeing a profit not from theatrical rentals, but only later, at the video store.
The growth of the cable television industry also helped support the low-budget film industry, as many B movies quickly wound up as "filler" material for hour cable channels or were made expressly for that purpose.
By , the cost of the average U. Three more—the science-fiction thriller Total Recall , the action-filled detective thriller Die Hard 2 , and the year's biggest hit, the slapstick kiddie comedy Home Alone —were also far closer to the traditional arena of the Bs than to classic A-list subject matter.
Surviving B movie operations adapted in different ways. Releases from Troma now frequently went straight to video.
New Line, in its first decade, had been almost exclusively a distributor of low-budget independent and foreign genre pictures.
In , New Line was sold to the Turner Broadcasting System ; it was soon being run as a midsized studio with a broad range of product alongside Warner Bros.
A New York Times reviewer found that the initial installment qualified as "vintage Corman At the same time as exhibition venues for B films vanished, the independent film movement was burgeoning; among the results were various crossovers between the low-budget genre movie and the "sophisticated" arthouse picture.
The film's imagery was another matter: "On its scandalizing surface, David Cronenberg's Crash suggests exploitation at its most disturbingly sick", wrote critic Janet Maslin.
This result mirrored the film's scrambling of definitions: Fine Line was a subsidiary of New Line, recently merged into the Time Warner empire—specifically, it was the old exploitation distributor's arthouse division.
New York Times critic A. Brooke was also a foil in Abbott and Costello films. Cabot also starred in a number of westerns during her career.
Sensational Joan Collins has been acting in films since age 17 and has starred in costume dramas, comedies, and horror films throughout her lengthy career.
Gorgeous Mara Corday made a big splash in horror and science fiction films in the s. She retired from the screen upon her marriage to actor Richard Long.
British beauty Hazel Court starred in numerous horror films in the s and s, such as Dr. Blood's Coffin and Devil Girl from Mars.
Kildare series. In the s, she switched to television and was a frequent fixture on panel shows. Glamorous Tamara Dobson made a big splash in the blaxploitation film Cleopatra Jones.
She made just a few more films before leaving show business in the early s. Scream queen Faith Domergue was discovered by Howard Hughes but went on to star in some of the best-known science fiction and horror films in the s, including This Island Earth.
Bad-girl bombshell Diana Dors livened up many films from the s through the early s, including Berzerk and I Married a Woman.
The golden girl from Goldfinger , Shirley Eaton starred in a number of comedies and dramas in the s and s, including Eight on the Lam and Nearly a Nasty Accident.
Beautiful redhead Rhonda Fleming showed off her acting prowess in such films as Inferno and Slightly Scarlet.
Stage and screen actress Constance Ford turned in great performances in House of Women and A Summer Place before becoming a star with daytime audiences on Another World.
Perky Sally Forrest was a dancer turned actress who starred in dramas and film noir thrillers, including Mystery Street and While the City Sleeps.
Beautiful Anne Francis appeared in numerous films and a number of TV series during her long career. She's best known for her series Honey West.
Best known as being Ed Wood's leading lady and one-time girlfriend, Dolores Fuller starred in a string of low-budget films in the s.
Beautiful Annette Funicello appeared in all but one of American International Pictures beach party films in the s.
Beautiful Lisa Gaye is the sister of actress Debra Paget. She acted in numerous television programs and films from the s until the late s.
Lovely Frances Gifford is best known for her role in the Republic adventure serial Jungle Girl and also acted in film noir, dramas, and musicals during the s and s.
Sultry Virginia Grey acted in many 'A' and 'B' pictures throughout her lengthy career but is best known for starring in film noir thrillers, such as Highway and The Naked Kiss.
Gorgeous Pam Grier practically invented the early s film genres 'chicks in chains' and blaxploitation with such films as The Big Doll House , Coffy , and Foxy Brown.
Her car-washing scene in Cool Hand Luke nearly steals the movie. Beautiful Allison Hayes was the star of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman , but she also appeared in a string of now-classic films from the s, such as The Unearthly and The Disembodied.
Sophisticated Tippi Hedren made a big splash in her first film, The Birds. B-Movies gab es seit der Wirtschaftskrise der er Jahre, als verstärkt günstige Unterhaltung nachgefragt wurde.
Doppelvorstellungen von B-Filmen erfüllten diesen Zweck. Regisseure wie Edgar G. Lange Verträge mit Schauspielern und Regisseuren wurden seltener, dafür kamen neue, unabhängige Produktionen auf.
Im Zentrum stand dennoch immer der kommerzielle Erfolg. Ein weiterer bekannter Regisseur war hier Jack Arnold. Ebenfalls zu nennen sind die nach ihrer britischen Produktionsfirma benannten Hammer-Filme.
Oft waren die B-Movies aber eher letzte Chancen für Darsteller, die sich im Hauptgeschäft nicht mehr halten konnten hier seien exemplarisch die Auftritte von Bela Lugosi in den Filmen von Trashregisseur Ed Wood genannt.
Inzwischen wird der Begriff B-Movie allgemeiner verwendet für Filme mit niedrigem Budget und weniger respektabler Genres, wie zum Beispiel Horrorfilme.
Allerdings sind heute die Grenzen zwischen B-Movies und anderen Formen des Spielfilms weitaus durchlässiger geworden, was sich unter anderem daran ablesen lässt, dass klassische B-Movie-Stoffe wie Godzilla heute Teil des Mainstreamkinos sind.
B-Movies sind auf breiten Publikumserfolg ausgerichtete Filme, die ihr Ziel mit möglichst geringem Produktionsaufwand erreichen sollen.