Cinema #26: B-Movies on Theater Marquees

Back when movies came and went within a single weekend.  Back when theaters showed films that violated every conceivable line of good taste.  Back when theaters routinely showed films that cost less than $200,000 to make.  Back when censors were asleep at the wheel.  Back when movies cost a buck and popcorn a couple quarters.  Back, back, back...

It's easy to get lost in the nostalgia of it all, since it was such a wonderful experience - and so foreign to today.  Now, if I'm paying big bucks to see a film, it damn well better be good - a lot of money and valuable time is at stake.  The theater better have high tech sound and stadium seating and no one, and I mean NO ONE, better utter a peep, or I'm going to be pissed.  I just invested fifty bucks on tickets and snacks, and another fifty on a babysitter - so this better be goddamn good, or I will blow a gasket!

Sounds like fun, eh?

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get my point.  Movies could afford to be schlocky and lame back then.  Every once and a while you'd land on a B-movie gem (like Halloween for instance), but for the most part, as long as it had a car chase and some full frontal nudity, you were satisfied.

So, in honor of those days, here's some images of theaters showing movies that would likely never make it to a typical theater these days. Apologies if some of the pictures are low quality (like the movies themselves); there's still plenty here to appreciate. I'd be interested to hear if if any of you caught these films in the theater.

Okay, I know - Invasion of the Body Snatchers wasn't exactly a low budget film.  Let's not over-analyze this, folks.

I've seen Trader Hornee.  It's like Trader Horn (1931) but with lots of naked red-heads.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is a great gialo film. It Won't Rub Off Baby, probably not so great.

Kung Fu Zombie has to be the coolest title for a movie ever.


  1. Geezus, all the marquees--awesome! Sometime in the mid-70s when I was around 13, my big brother and a couple of his friends took me along to one of these movies, the only thing I remember about the film was that it starred Connie Stevens & her name was 'Scorchy'--she played a detective or undercover cop & at some point in the story she tells her boss "What you need is a good blowjob!"

    I remember sitting there in honest shock, while my brother and his pals whooped it up :)

    1. That movie is actually called SCORCHY from Crown International

  2. I've seen "It Won't Rub Off, Baby", it stars Dick Gregory as a jazz musician. I thought it was very good!

  3. A great mixture of adult theatres/drive-ins, grindhouses, and chain theatres. Let's see. That triple bill of The In Laws, Love At First Bite and Dawn Of The Dead is from 1978 or 79. Dawn Of The Dead was x rated for violence, I believe. Middle Age Crazy is a comedy with Ann Margret and Bruce Dern. Maraschino Cherry is a porno movie by the great Radley Metzger. HOTS and Student Teachers are classic teen sex comedies, the former with Danny Bonaduce in a singing cameo. Grizzly is a bad bear disaster picture. Convoy is Sam Peckinpah's comedy/action CB movie also with Kris Kristofferson. Some of the titles (Swinging Wives, Sweet 16) are late 60s or very early 70s non X-rated sex themed movies. People today forget how ubiquitous pornographic drive-ins were in the 70s. I believe Quentin Tarantino has probably seen every title on this post. I've seen many of them. It reminds me of Carlo Ginzburg's quip that the proper role of the historian is to "disrupt our false sense of continuity with the past since people in the past lived in a different mental universe". It is a foreign country.

  4. My god, I've been in the Moulin when I was a lot younger. It was before the 3D Emmanuelle film too. And £2.50 was a lot in those days.

    Another picture of it here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/stagedoor/1082695790/

  5. That was when Times Square was Times Square, dammit!

  6. Another interesting thing about many of these theaters showing these grindhouse films is that they used to show the finest films Hollywood had to offer. By the 70s, the physical condition of these once grand palace-style theaters was about the same as the B-movies they showcased.

  7. Nice to see the Starlight in Atlanta, back when it had only two screens. Course, now they have to pay to have SIX of them converted to digital projection...

  8. I'll only go to the theater once a year. Movies aren't worth the price. My home system looks and sounds better, the furniture is a lot more comfortable, and the food is cheaper and a lot better. Plus we can be noisy if we want and get out iPads to look up stuff on IMDb.

    "Every once IN a while".

    1. J. Bevington TaliaferroMarch 05, 2013

      That's exactly what we do. We watch a movie, we pause it, we look up somebody on IMDb. And if we decide we hate the movie we shuffle the deck and try again.

  9. I wonder if that kid on the bike enjoyed Caligula.

  10. The Wicked Lady stars Faye Dunaway as a female 'Scarlet Pimpernel' type. It's silly but it's climactic scene features an eventually topless battle with bullwhips between Dunaway and Marina Sirtis (Of Star Trek:TNG fame)
    http://images.celebritymoviearchive.com/members/thumbs/m/[email protected]_lady_01.jpg
    http://images.celebritymoviearchive.com/members/thumbs/m/[email protected]_lady_02.jpg
    http://images.celebritymoviearchive.com/members/thumbs/m/[email protected]_lady_03.jpg

  11. What surprises me is the number of these films I have actually seen.
    Like the "Bel-Air Drive-in" (22 from the top) I have been to both sides of the theater and I am astonished at how many of these are familiar (slightly embarrassed also).

    The other thing that is interesting is the number of pictures you have. I understand the individual theaters, pride of ownership, records, etc. But all the street shots of the rows of theaters. This is not the digital age where you pointed your cell phone and clicked. Each of these shots cost money. Who paid for these and why so many?

    Great post as usual

  12. They used to change the marquee here, then got lazy. It just has a link to their website now. :p

  13. This wouldn't be a complete retrospective without Cleveland's famous Scrumpy Dump cinema: http://americanclassicimages.com/Default.aspx?tabid=123&CategoryID=3281&Category2ID=57&List=1&SortField=ProductName%2cProductName&catpageindex=88&Level=2&ProductID=31877

  14. My first real job was as an usher at the local multiplex. Having to fill 6 screens with entertainment meant we showed a lot of B (even B-) movies and in summer was the infamous midnite movies. Midnite showings of Monty Python, Cheech and Chong, the Emmanuelle movies (although I missed Emanuelle 4 in 3D, that would have been a real barnburner).
    So I saw many of this movies, multiple times.

  15. GREAT PHOTOS!! I remember seeing many of those films on the big screen,but one in particular,The Born Losers,the first Billy Jack flick.I was 11 years old when I saw that one,of course a year before that,when I was 10,I saw The Wild Angels(at a kiddee matinee!!).After seeing both those films,I was a biker film lover.What stood out about those films was,for that time,the violence,the women,the drinking and smoking,the bikes,the music,etc. But the girl in Born Losers was so pretty and the ending with the gunshot between the eyes,man,thats something an 11 year old does not forget.Thanks to the guy who ran the theater,he let us in to see the stuff.On a side note,but still relevant to this,at age 12,he let us in to see Vinnie Price,at a kiddee matinee(again!),in The Conquerer Worm! This upbringing didnt damage me,it made me a film lover

  16. The 1970s was a great decade for movies, but audiences had to be lucky. A film would usually premier in New York or LA. If it did well there, it would branch out to other major cities and, maybe a month or two later, dribble down to my hometown in Pennsylvania. If it bombed in NY or LA, it was usually pulled and the rest of the country never saw it until it turned up on TV sometime.

    And if most of these flicks really came and went within a single weekend ... props to the people who had to get up on ladders and redo the signs two or three times a week.

  17. J. Bevington TaliaferroMarch 05, 2013

    When I was 13 my associates and I began to seriously smoke reefer and drink malt liquor every possible chance we got. It was all surprisingly easy to get. One day we were at one of the more run down strip malls near the apartments where a man named "Zolley Tabb" sold reefer. To anyone.

    After visiting Zolley, we torched a big tator in the alley behind the mall. On our way back out to the street we saw that In the mall was a theater. On the marquee it said, "SUPERVIXENS."

    I said, "What is that?"

    My pal said, "It's this movie. There's naked chicks with big tits. Ha ha."

    I said, "Bullshit." (I didn't think it was that kind of neighborhood.)

    My pal, "Seriously. My brother told me. Let's go in."

    Under the title of course was a line of XXXXXXXXXXX. We figured we'd never get in. They didn't even blink an eye. We might as well have been 40-year-old bricklayers as far as the people running the place were concerned.

    And it was a great movie. A lot of the acting was just like some really bad, stupid people we knew. And there were naked chicks with big tits for real. And I had never seen naked tits on grown women moving around and on a movie screen. I had only seen little still pics in Playboy and stuff. It was an awesome day.

    Anyway, Supervixens was a Russ Meyer movie. Fast forward to the late 80s and my girlfriend and I are attending a screening of Russ Meyer's classic "Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill" starring Tura Satana. We yucked it up of course. It was great.

    But the best part was that the master himself, RUSS MEYER, came out on stage after the screening to answer questions from the audience.

    One tool asked him, "Mr. Meyer, sir, what was your motivation in making this film?"

    Russ looked at the guy for a minute with a sort of blank stare; a kind of Frank Booth look. Then he smiled brightly and said, "My motivation was to bank some big bucks and see some big tits my friend."