on 26 February 2010
Steve Chibnall and Brian McFarlane's The British B Film is essentially a sequel to the pair's 2007 volume, 'Quota Quickies: The Birth of the British B Film'. Taking up the story at the outbreak of the Second World War, this meticulously researched and infectiously written study begins by demonstrating the importance of B pictures to the war effort, With their combination of documentary and dramatic material, the likes of John Baxter's The Shipbuilders and Humphrey Jennings's The Silent Village (both 1943) informed and inspired audiences and provided the vital link between the actualities that had launched the British Documentary Movement in the 1930s and the Free Cinema outings that were to transform it in the 1950s. The B also played its part in the postwar era of austerity and reconstruction, with its brisk, but civilised attempts at British-ising film noir presenting a fascinating snapshot of the social and cultural mores of the times, as well as some of their more pernicious flaws. But funding was always a problem for Poverty Row outfits like Butcher's, Merton Park and Danziger Productions and the writing was on the wall once television started to deplete cinema audiences. Nevertheless, many B journeymen found themselves small-screen niches and several star names went on to bigger and (sometimes) better things in features and soap operas. Packing the pages with titles, credits and trivia, Chibnall and McFarlane have produced an invaluable primer on the neglected featurettes that entertained generations of UK moviegoers. The overviews of the main studios and the more prominent directors, writers, cinematographers and stars are as acute as they're concise. The text tantalisingly refers to countless cult favourites that once used to enliven afternoon and late-night TV schedules, but are now almost entirely inaccessible. Perhaps the BFI could set up its own cable/satellite channel along the lines of Cinemoi to showcase these gems of British cinema before they are forgotten altogether. At the end of the book 15 films which the authors regard highly are covered in detail. But all is not lost - increasing numbers (150 titles to date) of these forgotten films are now being released on DVD and listed on Amazon, and hopefully this book and the DVDs will lead to a renewed interest in these overlooked movies, mainly produced between 1945 and 1965.
As a fan of the British "B" film this book is exactly what I'd hoped for, providing an insight into the production, success and eventual demise of the second feature. There are so many familiar names both behind and in front of the cameras if you are of a certain age and perhaps the nostalgia of the period is what we all long for today. The book is well researched and will be a suitable resource for those who wish to do their own research into film production in the UK. The only minus and it does not detract sufficiently to reduce the overall 5 star rating is the poor print quality (over dark) of some of the illustrations in this paperback edition. Other wise an excellent and most welcome book.
on 4 August 2011
Sitting in the circle of the ABC Golders Green in the early 60s watching the erie picture of a uplit bust of Edgar wallace with the spinechilling "Man Of Mystery" wafting over the soundtrack i could never have imagined that 50 years later i would be reading a book devoted to films of their genre.What an evocative book this is.I remember seeing so many of these films at the aforementioned ABC or the Odeon Temple Fortune.Some times you would come in part the way through the B feature and would stay on after the main feature to watch the first part of the B feature that you had missed.Sure there were some rubbish films but there were some great ones.I recently saw "House Of Mystery" again and found it to be one of the most chilling films ever.The Edgar Wallace series introduced young talent such as Michael Caine and John Thaw as well as showcasing familiar favourites such as Bernard Lee and maurice Denham.This book covers every imaginable aspect of the genre from cast,crew,producing companies and the films themselves.The print is a bit on the small size making for a rather intense read and it is even smaller under the many photos.The captions are very witty.In all one of my best books of 2011.
on 6 May 2011
the names that pop up in this great book are amazing! robert beatty, lee patterson, john bentley, tom conway, naomi chance to name a few. the narrative is excellent and the breakdown of actors, writers, directors, studios etc has been well researced. oh, where are those movies now? the section on american actors working in british films was interesting, makes one wonder what sort of salaries they made. an all round great read.
on 7 July 2015
This truly amazing book this must be the Bible of the British "B" Movie industry the Book takes you back to a time of wonderful films like Shakedown,Jigsaw,Emergency, Cover Girl Killer these movies were much maligned and forgotten today except by companies such as Renown and Network who are releasing many of these forgotten gems onto DVD.
The Book is informative and interesting never dull who can ever forget some of the great actrors and actressess mentioned in the Book who sadly never became huge stars but are hopefully never forgotten actors such as Robert Beatty,Lee Patterson,Terence Morgan, Bernard Lee, Jane Hylton, Susan Shaw to name only a few.
This must be once of the Best ever books about the British Film Industry