Back in the early 1970s, in my monthly Esquire column, I did a piece on B-Movies, focusing mainly on the low-budget but personal films directed by Samuel Fuller, Don Siegel, and Budd Boetticher. I said that TV had become a disappointing replacement for the small-cost, provocative, under-the-radar kind of strikingly individual films these picturemakers were doing. This, however, was long before The Sopranos, The Wire, or Mad Men changed everything, and cable-TV actually became more adult and more adventurous than network television, or indeed most current Hollywood movies. A whole new world opened up, and it was enormously exciting. Certainly, while The Sopranos reigned for six seasons, everyone was watching, and no movies supplied the kind of adult, brilliantly written, acted and directed fare that was coming over cable every Sunday.
So my old piece is dated, and is meant to be read with that in mind. Author-critic Clive James has uploaded this article onto his website, and we herewith supply the link. (It has also appeared in my 1973-l985 collections, Pieces of Time. See Publications section above.) Because while the jabs at TV are ancient history, the comments on the individual directors are still valid and worth noting. They made personal films in the guise of genre material. Today we’re just getting the genre; those kind of movies now being mostly expensive, computer-generated B-movie material without the guiding, sometimes subversive viewpoints expressed by guys like Boetticher, Siegel, Fuller, and several others including Joseph H. Lewis, Allan Dwan (in his sound period; see my Who the Devil Made It), Andre De Toth or Gerd Oswald or even Anthony Mann. These little-known lone wolves still deserve our attention. Always remember, if you haven’t seen the picture, it’s not old, because it’s new to you. Which is what counts, after all, more than the date of its initial release.