I've just received a couple of DVDs I recently ordered from Amazon, (thankfully, they sent them by Royal Mail, rather than HDNL or Yodel, or whatever they're calling themselves this week, so they were delivered promptly), X - The Unknown
and The Abominable Snowman
, both from the days when Hammer were still shooting their films in monochrome. I'm still awaiting the arrival of a double DVD of The Vampire Lovers
and Lust For a Vampire
, from Hammer's lesbian vampire period, and a mid-sixties AIP pulp horror/science fiction concoction filmed in the UK and inspired by an H P Lovecraft story: Die, Monster, Die
. It occurred to me that these titles are fairly typical of my DVD collection - B-Movies, exploitation and the like, predominantly from the 1960s and 1970s. Now, the fact is that I don't mistake these for cinematic high art - I enjoy them for what they are: escapist entertainment. Before you write me off as a cinematic philistine, the fact is that I've watched, and enjoyed, plenty of high brow movies and art house pictures. However, the fact is that, given the choice of watching one of those again, or viewing Quatermass and The Pit
, (the 1967 Hammer feature film version), for the thirty third time, I'm afraid that the good Professor and that crashed Martian spaceship win every time.
But why is this? What is the attraction of these low-rent potboilers? In part, it is their sheer watchability, (if that's a real word). That said, not all low-budget films are watchable - I've seen plenty that aren't due to threadbare production values, non-direction and woefully bad actors. These don't stand repeated viewings. The sort of product I like is the classier end of exploitation, which successfully disguise their lack of budget with good art direction, imaginative cinematography and clever direction. Indeed, it is those aspects which make them fascinating to watch - through necessity, they often show far more ingenuity and imagination in their story-telling than most big budget epics. Moreover, like their pulp-magazine ancestors, they often contain far more genuine 'ideas', (albeit frequently poorly developed), than most serious works. All these things combine to give the best of these films a strange and compelling ambience, a kind of surreal feel - they create their own weird world with its own rules and logic, which all make sense, providing you are prepared to suspend your disbelief for the duration, and just go with the flow. Most of all though, they are designed to be enjoyed, whereas more 'worthy' movies, with their technical brilliance. literate scripts and mannered acting performances, seem designed to be admired, engaging our intellect rather than our emotions. Pulp by-passes the intellect and instead appeals to our basest fears , recognising that film isn't about rationality, rather it is about raw feelings and imagery. So, bring on those lesbian vampires!
Labels: Musings From the Mind of Doc Sleaze