The B List

 

Bob talks with film critic David Sterritt about his book The B List: The National Society of Film Critics on the Low-Budget Beauties, Genre-Bending Mavericks, and Cult Classics We Love. They cover the criteria Sterritt used to determine if a movie had "that B movie spirit" and the historic definition of a B movie. They discussed films that most people would not consider B movies, like Oliver Stone's Vietnam epic Platoon - Quentin Tarantino's gritty debut Reservoir Dogs - and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, which he shot in between Godfather's 1 and 2.

Then there's Peeping Tom, which ruined British director Michael Powell's career and which Sterritt says HAD to be included in the book. While it shared some taboo themes with Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and was even released around the same time, Peeping Tom was not accepted by fans or critics.

Four "Film Noirs" are mentioned -- Out of the Past starring Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas, Detour which was made for $20,000, the Mickey Spillane early atomic thriller Kiss Me Deadly and the Bonnie-and-Clyde-like Gun Crazy, which elicited a world-class performance by John Dall, who Sterritt calls "the worst actor in the history of the cosmos...except here."

Horror and science-fiction stories lend themselves very well to the B Movie formula. I Walked with a Zombie is a particular favorite of Sterritt's and he notes that Invasion of the Body Snatchers works both as a cautionary tale against American consumerism and as an allegory for the Red Scare. Though the original filmmakers swear they had no political message to deliver, just a thrilling movie.

David Sterritt is the chairman of the National Society of Film Critics and The B List is the group's third release. The others are The A List about essential classics and The X List about "the movies that turn us on."

-Chad