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I was in Paris a week ago, and unfortunately did not have time to visit their great film museum. However, I did have some time in Frankfurt and dropped by the German Film Museum. While unfortunately it didn’t stress German films enough and was a bit small, the place was well worth seeing.
The entrance opens to the gift shop and the small cafe. The man working the counter at the cafe was very friendly and the beer selection was excellent…as was my soup. I particularly loved these chairs next to the cafe–you can feel free to sit in them.
The first floor (actually, to us Americans, we call it the second floor) is about the history of inventions that led to what we call movies. Various devices such as stereoscopes, photography, Zoetropes and the early cameras of the Lumiere Brothers and pictures of Edison’s studio fill this very interesting portion. Kids, in particular, will enjoy this section.
The second floor is mostly movie memorabilia as well as a four-screen viewing area. As for the memorabilia, it was great but not really a lot to see. In particular, the great German films are not nearly as well represented as I’d hoped (apart from a script by one of Murnau’s American films, I didn’t see much)–and they should be more prominently represented. The viewing area is nice but the little one with one screen on the first floor I preferred–mostly because I adore the early silents. Below you see the multi-screen one on the 2nd and the single screen of a GREAT little silent (“The Japanese Acrobats”) from the 1st floor.
So, is this a place to rush to see? Probably not if you aren’t in the area. However, a trip to Frankfurt should include this–especially since it’s only a 15 minute walk from the rebuilt old town square (which includes the Cathedral, a modern art gallery, a cartoon museum and quite a few other minor sites).
My recommendation of “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil” is hardly surprising, This little cult film has been noticed by other reviewers and I remember reading Leonard Maltin’s column on the film. It manages to make a slasher film interesting–something I never thought possible. While many folks love the “Friday 13th”, “Halloween” films and the like, I cannot stand them–mostly because they are poorly written and teat the audience like they are idiots. But, with “Tucker & Dale”, anyone can enjoy the film….well, anyone who is old enough to handle the gore. Yes, there is gore but it manages, believe it or not, to be FUN and you will be ashamed to admit that it’s FUNNY gore. Don’t be surprised if you laugh as you see horrible things occur! In addition, the film works because the characters (particularly Dale) are so likable.
While I would never recommend it as strongly as I recommend “Tucker & Dale”, you might also try watching “Zombieland” and “Shaun of the Dead”–two films that are intelligent–something sorely lacking in most films in the genre.
Before I talk about why I love B-movies, I should explain exactly what they are and why they were called Bs. Back in the 192os and 30s, theaters were having difficulty attracting audiences. Much of this was due to the depression. People had a hard time plunking down their nickel when times were bad, so to draw in crowds, the theaters began offering incentives–making films a lot better value for the money. So, they introduced the double-feature. But, it wasn’t cost-effective to offer two expensive top films–and so the Bs were a way to bring a much cheaper to produce second feature film to the public. Many were made by tiny so-called “poverty row” studios like Monogram, PRC and Grand National–which made nothing but Bs. These production companies actually often rented space from the big studios and filmed at night when the sets and costumes would otherwise be unused. However, this does not mean the major studios didn’t make their share of Bs. MGM, Warner and Twentieth Century-Fox, in fact, made many Bs–though theirs often had slightly higher quality stars and writers. As for the in-between studios, like Republic,RKO, Universal and Columbia, they made mostly Bs but managed a few top-budget pictures as well.
Unfortunately, over the years, a ‘B’ has taken on a new meaning. It was often thought of as a cheap and schlocky film–which simply was not often the case. Sure, the budgets were low and the stars often second or third tier in Bs, but a better way of looking at them is not BAD films but sort of like the minor leagues of movies. Sometimes, actors who would never have had a chance to star in a film now went from supporting actors and actresses in A-pictures (the higher budget first features) to leads in Bs. Sometimes, actors down on their luck made a living in the Bs (Bela Lugosi is a great example). And, occasionally, these folks would eventually move up to be leading ladies and leading men after a stint in the Bs. In addition, a few Bs became classics despite the low budgets and second-string production team. Above is a poster from one of the most famous Bs like this…”Cat People” (1942). After its release, folks started coming to the theaters more to see this B than the picture that preceded it! As a result, this RKO surprise hit was moved from second-billing to first–a rare case of a B becoming an A picture.
So why do I say that I love B-movies? Well, the biggest reason is that I truly admire a tight, well made film. It is wonderful proof that you don’t need megabucks to make a good picture, as a good story and decent acting are all you really need to make a good film. An excellent B is a work of art–a shining example of how you can cram a good story into a time slot of only about 60 minutes (give or take a few minutes). The other reason I love Bs is that they are often just mindless fun. So, while I enjoy a beautifully produced ‘big’ film like “Gone With the Wind” or “Goodbye Mr. Chips” (both 1939), I can also enjoy some escapist fun like “Charlie Chan at the Olympics” (1937), “Torchy Blane in Chinatown” (1939), “My Pal Trigger” (1946) or “Son of Dracula” (1943).
So what are some of your favorite Bs? I’d love to hear from you.