|Tom Fulton of CJRT-FM's On the Arts|
For a few years, I flogged the proposal to various publishers but many were worried that there were too many people from different backgrounds (i.e. Margaret Atwood sitting alongside Oliver Stone). Another publisher curiously chose to reject it because, to them, it appeared to be a book about me promoting my interviews (as if I was trying to be a low-rent Larry King) rather than seeing it as a commentary on the decade through the eyes of the guests. All told, the book soon faded away and I turned to other projects. However, when recently uncovering the original proposal and sample interviews, I felt that maybe some of them could find a new life on Critics at Large.
|Samuel Z. Arkoff|
kc: When people think of the B-movie they often think cheap in every sense of the word. But you have often said that it only pertains to the budget. How did the B-movie evolve then?
sa: Before the anti-trust decrees had begun in the late forties that separated theatres from distribution and production, it all used to be uniform. The studios used to sell fifty or sixty pictures at one time. They would say when they announced the pictures to the exhibitors who were supposed to buying that they were going to make five A-films and twenty-five B-pictures. These were all referring to budgets. The C-pictures might be westerns, for instance, so it had nothing to do with quality. It had to do with budget. And if you recall correctly, Warner Brothers' best movies – at one point – were its B-pictures. They had the young Cagney, the young Bogart, Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson. Those were the budget pictures in the early days. And they have lasted even longer than their ponderous prestige pictures like The Life of Emile Zola. So I'm quite proud to say that I produced B-movies.
kc: Did you have any particular audience in mind when you started producing these B-movies?
kc: This doesn't sound too different from today when I see Hollywood studios constantly stuffing the theatres with youth movies. How were your intentions any different back then?
kc: But why do you think the studios today are so infatuated with youth pictures?
kc: As opposed to "For Those Who Are Young"?
sa: That's exactly right. And to a degree today it's the same thing. The youth pictures they are making today are not really indigenous to youth.
kc: What inspired you to market your films to a young audience?
sa: Our greatest inspiration – given that we were making pictures inexpensively – was getting away from the concept of parents in our films. You see, before the fifties, the so-called youth film was really not a youth film. It was a child's film. When people talked about family pictures they had glowing in their minds the little kiddies going with their parents to see Disney. There were really no films for teenagers. Basically, the only teen films around were ones with morality lectures. Have you ever seen any of those Andy Hardy movies?
|Mickey Rooney & Lewis Stone|
kc: (laughs) So the films were really civics classes aimed at kids?
sa: Yeah. It was a morality lecture aimed at the kids. What the producers didn't realize, though, was that by the fifties the kids weren't going to take it anymore. Also, it was those kids in the fifties – the dating crowd – that were the only ones going to the theatre. Their parents were at home watching television. So here we come with American International Pictures and we didn't have any dough for big stars, books to option, or big directors, so what are we going to make? We did films for an audience of young people to identify with. This didn't mean doing another remake of Treasure Island, for God's sake! It meant doing films about what was happening to them in their community in their day. And during the late fifties, we did films like Drag Strip Girls and Hot Rod Girl. In the sixties, we invented the beach party pictures with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. And there were never any parents in those pictures. They were just stick people to be mocked. It wasn't a child's world; it was a youth's world. They got into trouble and they got themselves out of trouble. They never had to look up to Lewis Stone, and say, "Judge, you got to get me out of trouble and I'll never get into trouble again." We ended that bullshit.
|Beach Blanket Bingo at the drive-in|
kc: It was carnival time.
sa: Yeah. It was carnival time. It had to be fun to go to because it needed to become an event. Now the drive-in was the perfect locale for those pictures. They were indigenous to the times. The drive-in was perfect because it was a certain kind of event for people who lived in small towns.
kc: Today it seems that the executives running the studios have every kind of instinct except the kind that knows how to make movies. What do you think has gone wrong?
sa: We have a lot of people in the motion picture game who are basically arrogant. They are also snobs. We have quite a few young people – and not the kind who come off the street – who go to Sarah Lawrence and have no concept of what is reality. They've never been to a drive-in and they've become pseudo-intellectual. Basically, they don't understand fundamental drives because of their whole economic status. So your production departments are filled with people who don't understand the people who go to pictures. They're not just the Upper East Side people in New York, or the Westwood people in Los Angeles. I'm talking about the people who go to the movies regularly. They don't have the gut instincts and gut reactions that you need to cater to the public that is really out there.
Inside the Music presents the documentary Dream Times: The Story of Perth County Conspiracy...Does Not Exist, written and hosted by Kevin Courrier with sound design and production by John Corcelli.