A Celebration of the B Movie…Finally! – By Brian Morton

If you read Rogue Cinema regularly (and if you don’t, why not?!?) then you know that we here love low budget, or B, movies. So, when we heard that there was a B Movie Celebration going on, next month, the next thing we said was where and what time should we be there? So, I got in contact with Bill Dever, the executive director of the festival to find out what we could expect, what movies we would be able to see and why celebrate the B movie at all.

For those of you who don’t know, the B movie has been around since movies were invented. Originally, they were shorter movies with lower budgets that were sent out as part of double features with bigger ‘A’ movies. But, as time passed, the double feature began to go away from the walk in, or hard top, theatres and the double feature became the norm at drive-ins and grind houses, and it was at about that time that the B movie made the move from playing second fiddle to a bigger picture, to being the main draw in those smaller venues. It was also around this time that the exploitation movie came to be the main movies that played at these venues. But, when you study the history of the B movie, which you can do at the B Movie Celebration web site, you see that some of the movies that are considered classics today are actually B movies! So, I asked Bill why he decided to start a B Movie Celebration?

BD – A group of us really feel that everything in film starts with the B’s . The great directors started there, great actors started there…it was time to celebrate it. Film has become too slick and too polished…so much so that people are having trouble empathizing with film. They can’t see a reflection of themselves in the films that are being produced today. In B’s you get everything!

And it’s true, when you take a look back at the history of film, actors like Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper started their careers in B movies, and directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Brian DePalma started there too! So, looking back on the B movie is like looking at the history of film itself, A and B. For those of us who love B movies, it’s been a rare occasion that we get to see them in a real theatre on a big screen, in fact, most of us cultivated our obsession with these movies on late night TV, usually with a horror host during the commercial breaks, but in Franklin, Indiana in August, you’ll get to see some of your favorite movies on the big screen surrounded by people who love these movies as much as you do. Movies like White Zombie, Terror Of Tiny Town, I Was A Teenaged Werewolf and Hell Comes To Frogtown will be seen on the big screen to the delight of fans. And don’t think that this is a small event, the B Movie Celebration will take place in no less than 4 locations and will feature 50 movies from across the decades! There will even be retrospectives on the works of Jim Wynorski (creator of such movies as Chopping Mall and, the classic Angie Dickinson movie, Big Bad Mama 2), and Lloyd Kaufman (who brought us The Toxic Avenger and will screen his latest movie, Poultrygeist!).

The B Movie Celebration is such a good idea, I wondered how no one had thought to show these great movies in one location before, so I asked Bill how long this had been going on without my knowing it?

BD – This is our first year of celebrating B film in Franklin. We are planning to make this an annual event and hopefully really serve the needs of a B loving public.

Well, now I’m planning my trip, putting comfortable clothes in my bag, getting my extra cushion for my seat ready (50 movies is a lot of sitting, you wouldn’t want your butt to go numb, would you?!), and map questing the route, when I realized that I love these movies, but my wife’s not as big a fan as I am, so I wondered what else there might be going on in Franklin that people could do while us B movie geeks would be mesmerized in darkened theatres.

BD – Well, Franklin is a small town but it is chock full of stuff to do. In the town itself we have a great museum, great recreation facilities. We are fifteen minutes away from an arts colony in Nashville, Indiana. 25 minutes away from downtown Indianapolis and ten minutes away from both a huge indoor mall and an outlet mall. We also have great restaurants and a huge amount of parks if you are bringing children.

What about somewhere to stay in Franklin?

BD – There are several hotels/motels I would recommend in Franklin. Including Choice Hotels, Super 8 (yes its a good one) and the Comfort Inn. That’s nice to know, and since you’re so close to Indianapolis, it wouldn’t be too much to find somewhere nearer to there and commute, if the Franklin options become completely booked. What about the venues for the festival itself?

BD – The ArtCraft is a theatre that was built in 1922 as a vaudeville house. They later began showing movies. It was the center of the small town of Franklin. The Artcraft holds one of the first "air conditioners": cool water from a well in the basement would be pumped past a large fan that would extract the cold from the water and blow it through the theatre. The Lloyd Kaufman and Jim Wynorski retrospectives will be held at the ArtCraft.

The Gala and Educational Seminars will be held at The Johnson County Museum, originally a Masonic Lodge, in July 1988, Johnson County Historical Society and Johnson County Government purchased the building with the intent to relocate the Johnson County Museum of History to the Temple building. In 1989, the museum moved into the grand 30,000 square foot structure. In 1991, the building underwent the first of 2 renovations and was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Franklin College has a very strong film history, being the alma mater of both Robert Wise and Marjorie Main. Today’s Franklin College is a nationally recognized institution, which provides students with a quality liberal arts education. In addition, Franklin encourages students to broaden their horizons and challenge their own self- imposed limits through innovative programs. Franklin College will have eight venues for the Celebration featuring both film screenings and educational seminars.

Canary Creek Cinemas is an eight-screen theater offering a range of high quality entertainment featuring Hollywood’s latest releases. Their two largest screens offer Dolby Digital Sound and all others feature Dolby SR. The Celebration will be utilizing two of these screens.

The Artcraft, The Museum and the College are all within walking distance of each other, The Cinemas are about 1.5 miles away from the other venues.

It sounds like a great weekend! B Movies, guests like Lloyd Kaufman (who will be receiving the Celebration’s first Lifetime Achievement Award), Conrad Brooks and Tom Savini, and seminars for those of you who’d like to get out of the seats and make your own damn movies and, of course movies like Bride Of Frankenstein, Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman and Hell Comes To Frogtown, the B Movie Celebration sounds like it will have it all. I’m looking forward to checking out Franklin and watching B movies until my eyeballs go numb, so, if you happen to see a guy wandering the streets of Franklin, wearing a Rogue Cinema hat and looking mildly confused, that’s just me, either point me to the nearest theatre, or call my wife, either is fine! Hope to see you in Franklin everybody!