Z movie

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Z movies are low-budget films that have qualities lower than B movies.

A low-budget film or low-budget movie is a motion picture shot with little to no funding from a major film studio or private investor. Many independent films are made on low budgets, but films made on the mainstream circuit with inexperienced or unknown filmmakers can also have low budgets. Many young or first time filmmakers shoot low-budget films to prove their talent before doing bigger productions. Many low-budget films that do not gain some form of attention or acclaim are never released in theatres and are often sent straight to retail because of its lack of marketability, look, story, or premise. There is no precise number to define a low budget production, and it is relative to both genre and country. What might be a low-budget film in one country may be a big budget in another. Modern-day young filmmakers rely on film festivals for pre promotion. They use this to gain acclaim and attention for their films, which often leads to a limited release in theatres. Film that acquire a cult following may be given a wide release. Low-budget films can be either professional productions or amateur. They are either shot using professional or consumer equipment.

B movie Low budget commercial film genre

A B movie or B film is a low-budget commercial motion picture that is not an arthouse film. In its original usage, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the term more precisely identified films intended for distribution as the less-publicized bottom half of a double feature. Although the U.S. production of movies intended as second features largely ceased by the end of the 1950s, the term B movie continues to be used in its broader sense to this day. In its post-Golden Age usage, there is ambiguity on both sides of the definition: on the one hand, the primary interest of many inexpensive exploitation films is prurient; on the other, many B movies display a high degree of craft and aesthetic ingenuity.

Contents

History and terminology

The term Z movie (or grade-Z movie) arose in the mid-1960s as an informal description of certain unequivocally non-A films. It was soon adopted to characterize low-budget pictures with quality standards well below those of most B movies and even so-called C movies. While B movies may have mediocre scripts and actors who are relatively unknown or past their prime, they are for the most part competently lit, shot, and edited.

Screenplay written work by screenwriters for a film or television program

A screenplay, or script, is a written work by screenwriters for a film, television program or video game. These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression and dialogues of the characters are also narrated. A screenplay written for television is also known as a teleplay.

The economizing shortcuts of films identified as C movies tend to be evident throughout; nonetheless, films to which the C label is applied are generally the products of relatively stable entities within the commercial film industry and thus still adhere to certain production norms. In contrast, most films referred to as Z movies are made for very little money on the fringes of the organized film industry or entirely outside it. As a result, scripts are often poorly written, continuity errors tend to arise during shooting, and nonprofessional actors are frequently cast. Many Z movies are also poorly lit and edited. The micro-budget "quickies" of 1930s fly-by-night Poverty Row production houses may be thought of as Z movies avant la lettre . [1] Later Zs may not evidence the same degree of technical incompetence; in addition to bargain-basement scripts and acting, they are often characterized by violent, gory, and/or sexual content and a minimum of artistic interest, readily falling into the category of exploitation, or "grindhouse" films. Additionally, with the popularity of Internet media such as YouTube low-budget films are having a resurgence due to the easy access low budget filmmakers have to publish their films. In 2014 Raindance Film Festival published an article naming YouTube as a primary venue for low-budget filmmakers. [2] While the abilities of some of these filmmakers has varied, the average quality of many of these films remains on the z-grade. One of the best examples of this is The Melonheads which was originally released on YouTube, and gained a large following after being featured in an article on cracked.com. [3] [4] The movie shows many of the technical imperfections that were visible on earlier films considered to be grade-Z.

Poverty Row was a slang term used in Hollywood from the late 1920s through the mid-1950s to refer to a variety of small B movie studios. Although many of them were on today's Gower Street in Hollywood, the term did not necessarily refer to any specific physical location, but was rather a figurative catch-all for low-budget films produced by these lower-tier studios.

An exploitation film is a film that attempts to succeed financially by exploiting current trends, niche genres, or lurid content. Exploitation films are generally low-quality "B movies". They sometimes attract critical attention and cult followings. Some of these films, such as Night of the Living Dead (1968), set trends and become historically important.

Grindhouse low-budget movie theater that shows mainly exploitation films

A grindhouse or action house is an American term for a theater that mainly shows exploitation films. According to historian David Church, this theater type was named after the "grind policy", a film-programming strategy dating back to the early 1920s which continuously showed films at cut-rate ticket prices that typically rose over the course of each day. This exhibition practice was markedly different from the era's more common practice of fewer shows per day and graduated pricing for different seating sections in large urban theaters, which were typically studio-owned.

Examples

Ed Wood's ultra-low-budget Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) has become one of the most famous Z movies. Plan 9 Alternative poster.jpg
Ed Wood's ultra-low-budget Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) has become one of the most famous Z movies.

Director Ed Wood is often described as the quintessential maker of Z movies. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) is often labeled the worst film ever made. [5] It features an incoherent plot, bizarre dialogue, inept acting, intrusive narration, the cheapest conceivable special effects, and cardboard sets that the actors occasionally bump into and knock over. Stock footage is used throughout, whole sequences are used multiple times, boom mics are visible, and actors frequently appear to be reading from cue cards. Outdoor sequences contain parts filmed during both day and night in the same scene. The movie stars Maila Nurmi, in her Vampira persona, and Béla Lugosi, who died before it was completed. Test footage of Lugosi shot for a different project is inter-cut with shots of a double with a different physique, height, and hair color, who covers his face with a cape in every scene. The narrator refers to the film by its pre-production name, "Grave Robbers from Outer Space". [6]

Ed Wood American screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author, and film editor

Edward Davis Wood Jr. was an American filmmaker, actor, and author.

<i>Plan 9 from Outer Space</i> 1959 US science fiction film directed by Ed Wood

Plan 9 from Outer Space is a 1959 American independent black-and-white science fiction horror film written, produced, directed and edited by Ed Wood, starring Gregory Walcott, Mona McKinnon, Tor Johnson, and "Vampira", and is narrated by Criswell. The film also posthumously bills Bela Lugosi as a guest star. Other guest stars are Hollywood veterans Lyle Talbot and former cowboy star Tom Keene. Plan 9 from Outer Space was released theatrically in 1959 by Distributors Corporation of America.

Boom operator (media) profession for microphone pole placement

A boom operator is an assistant of the production sound mixer. The principal responsibility of the boom operator is microphone placement, usually using a boom pole with a microphone attached to the end, their aim being to hold the microphone as close to the actors or action as possible without allowing the microphone or boom pole to enter the camera's frame.

The Creeping Terror (1964), directed by Vic Savage (under the pseudonym A. J. Nelson), uses some memorable bargain-basement effects: Stock footage of a rocket launch is played in reverse to depict the landing of an alien spacecraft. What appears to be shag carpet is draped over several actors shambling about at a snail's pace, thus bringing the monstrous "creeping terror" to the screen. The movie also employs a technique that has come to be synonymous with Z-movie horror: voiceover narration that paraphrases dialogue being silently enacted onscreen. [7]

<i>The Creeping Terror</i> 1964 film by Vic Savage

The Creeping Terror is a 1964 horror-science fiction film directed and produced by, and starring, Vic Savage. The plot is centered upon an extraterrestrial, slug-like creature that attacks and devours people in a small American town. Widely considered to be one of the worst films of all time, The Creeping Terror has attained a cult status.

Harold P. Warren, a fertilizer and insurance salesman who never worked in film before or since, wrote and directed Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) after making a bet with a professional screenwriter that he could make a movie on his own. The film is famous for its incompetent production, which included the use of a camera that could not record sound, disjointed dialogue, and seemingly random editing. The entire soundtrack was recorded by just three people, who provide the voices for every character. The film features a character named Torgo, who is intended to be a satyr. The actor wore his prosthetics incorrectly, making it look like he simply has very large knees. In one scene, the clapboard is clearly visible. Like Plan 9, it frequently tops lists of the worst movies ever made. However, while Plan 9 is renowned for its poor production, Manos remained very obscure until being featured on a 1993 episode of the movie-mocking series Mystery Science Theater 3000 , giving it cult status. [8]

<i>Manos: The Hands of Fate</i> 1966 film by Harold P. Warren

Manos: The Hands of Fate is a 1966 American independent horror film. It was written, directed, and produced by Harold P. Warren who also starred in the film. It is widely recognized as one of the worst films ever made. In 1993, the television comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), a show based on the premise of comedically mocking B movies, featured Manos: The Hands of Fate, helping the film develop a cult status.

Satyr bawdy male nature spirits in Greek mythology with horse-like tails and ears and permanent erections

In Greek mythology, a satyr, also known as a silenos, is a male nature spirit with ears and a tail resembling those of a horse, as well as a permanent, exaggerated erection. Early artistic representations sometimes include horse-like legs, but, by the sixth century BC, they were more often represented with human legs. Comically hideous, they have mane-like hair, bestial faces, and snub noses and are always shown naked. Satyrs were characterized by their ribaldry and were known as lovers of wine, music, dancing, and women. They were companions of the god Dionysus and were believed to inhabit remote locales, such as woodlands, mountains, and pastures. They often attempted to seduce or rape nymphs and mortal women alike, usually with little success. They are sometimes shown masturbating or engaging in bestiality.

Clapperboard device used to synchronize video and sound recordings

A clapperboard is a device used in filmmaking and video production to assist in synchronizing of picture and sound, and to designate and mark the various scenes and takes as they are filmed and audio-recorded.

The latter-day Z movie is typified by such pictures as Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995) and Bikini Cavegirl (2004), both directed by Fred Olen Ray, that combine traditional genre themes with extensive nudity or softcore pornography. [9] Such pictures, often after going straight to video, are fodder for late-night airing on subscription TV services such as HBO Zone or Cinemax.

The Ugandan action-comedy movie Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010), became notable worldwide for being produced under a $200 USD budget.

Etymology

The earliest usage of the term (as grade-Z movie, and without the full derogatory meaning now usually intended) so far located is in a January 1965 newspaper review by critic Kevin Thomas of The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), an American International Pictures film directed by Roger Corman. [10] The earliest clear use of Z movie so far located in its now prevalent sense is by Todd McCarthy in the introduction to the 1975 book Kings of the Bs . [11] Though Z movie is most commonly used to describe films of the overtly low-grade sort described above, some critics use the term more broadly to describe any inexpensively produced movie that defies the norms of mainstream filmmaking in some significant way. [12]

See also

Notes

  1. See, e.g., Taves (1995), p. 323.
  2. "Top 13 Sites For Independent Filmmakers - Raindance". 25 July 2017. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  3. "5 Monster Movie Ideas Hollywood Should Be Making Next". Cracked.com. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  4. "The Melonheads". 16 September 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2018 via www.imdb.com.
  5. See, e.g., Sarkhosh and Menninghaus (2016), doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2016.04.002.
  6. For more on Wood in this industrial context, see Schaefer (1999), p. 212.
  7. Conner (2002), pp. 221–22.
  8. Conner (2002), p. 221.
  9. See, e.g., Quarles (2001), pp. 79–84.
  10. Thomas (1965). See also a short story by George P. Elliott, "Into the Cone of Cold," in Elliott, An Hour of Last Things and Other Stories (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), 7–55; p. 27.
  11. McCarthy and Flynn (1975), p. xii.
  12. See, e.g., David James (Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties), quoted in Heffernan (2004), p. 224.

Sources

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