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When I think 80’s B-Movie I can’t help but think of another, too, John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, from 1986, part of his Hong Kong trilogy. Though I think I would make a distinction between what I would refer to as a ‘postmodern’ (I know, overused and it makes me sound like a poser) B-Movie vs. an actual B-Movie. Meaning both The Pirate Movie & Pulp Fiction fit the former category- whereas a cult classic like The Warriors the latter. Is it self-knowing, consciously generic, self-referential? Is it kitsch, meaning popular mass produced but curated in a new context as art, parody, or something else?

Star Wars was famously meant to be reminiscent of an actual 50’s B-Movie reel (Commander Cody vs. The Moon Men). Its somewhat surprising success (Lucas had a lot of trouble with distribution for American Graffiti), led to Flash Gordon, originally a Hearst publication property, which, over-the-top but big budget (for 1980), was actually homage to the 40’s 12 reel serial, a definite then A-reel picture. You’d get two pics at a matinee for 10 cents each, but could sometimes sneak into the second or B-reel movie (have enough left over for ice cream, two scoops for a dime).

Breathless could have been classified as B-Movie, no script, guerrilla film-making, appropriation of then current technology, shoe string budget, elements of amateurism, but it is the classic of French New Wave Cinema.

The effect of both the mass introduction of the VHS to suburbia, plummeting prices, generic dollar video stores, and the economic downturn chronicled by William Goldman in his essential Adventures in the Screen Trade about the effects of the colossal failure of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate on what got made and why all played into that era being a golden one for low-budget fare.

Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension was the ultimate 80’s B-Movie (though most Blade Runner fanboys agree with you about The Warriors and they’re now the historians, curators, critics, authors and professors) at the time. The screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch was supposed to have tackled William Gibson’s cyberpunk classic Neuromancer next. Instead, we got Johnny Mnemonic (based on a short story by Gibson) in 1995, true to the lotek style it was written in and about, spiritual descendent of The Warriors. And then the big budget rip-off The Matrix. Shame.

So, I don’t know if A Better Tomorrow is now considered high art like Breathless, but to me then, not from a curator’s perspective or whatever, just a consumer, was low budget ultra-violence and pretty much the definition of an 80’s B-Movie.

But. But I don’t speak Millennial. I keep tryin' though.

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