Like movies today, cinema in the 1950's was dominated by one thing: sex. Just not onscreen.
Sure, (tit)illation was as good then as now for getting butts on seats, even if it was heavily regulated by the same censorship that at the same time held down comics, TV, and books (the Hays Code in this case), the sex in this case didn't occur on-screen.
The sex happened when American soldiers returned home from World War II, bonked their (soon to be) wives, and popped out babies at a rate previously unknown. The kids were known as baby boomers, and they were the first generation of teenagers. Ever. Sure, people existed previously from the ages of 13 to 18, but for the first time they weren't scooted into the shop to take over Daddy's trade. In 1950, more Americans lived in the suburbs than elsewhere, and they were Bored. As. Fuck. America was for the first time the undisputed economic world champ, so the kids had cash around, too.
Hollywood popped out out movies for the first time aimed at these people too old to be kids, too young to be adults. It's important to remember that even cartoon before this time were aimed at adults. Check out this creepy shit:
So anyway, Hollywood, knowing teenagers aren't the most discerning of creatures, knowing they are horny and want fodder (him, her, him, her, etc.), knowing they basically just wanted shit to play while they waited on (or acted upon) their hormones, started shitting out films with little regard for... anything.
Kids would spend all day at the movies: you'd pay for one ticket and see a short Superman flick, a Dick Tracy, and the latest feature from the original Dracula, Bela Lugosi, who was literally strung out during filming and who cared? He looked and talked funny.
Lugosi you might know from the Oscar winning performance of Martin Landau, who portrayed him in the Tim Burton film Ed Wood.
Ed Wood was the exemplifier of the teenage exploitation aspect of 50's shit cinema, and the other: it was way easier to make a film than ever before.
Way easier. As I said, Americans now had more money, so that helped. Also, people making films had had grown up in the age of film, meaning they had watched them for their entire lives, not like earlier innovators like this guy who had to have a certain sort of genius/crazy to make quality films based on....nothing in their medium. The technology was also cheaper, meaning you didn't necessarily need a big studio backing you. It was still expensive as fuck – they would kill their mother for a Flip Cam – but it was now possible to make a film without kissing a big ass.
Plan 9 from Outer Space
So Ed Wood had an audience, teenagers, and a means. And he wasn't alone.
Jerry Warren was another. As I just read in this cool little bio: “To claim Jerry Warren was a good director wouldn't be just an overstatement, it would essentially be wrong.” Still, he got it done. The movies are there. I know, I've seen them. What have you gotten done lately?
Want to join my club? Good. At this weekend's Rock-A-Bop, join Nao Chao, Shanghai247, and me in watching Teenage Zombies. It's the classic tale of teenagers who want to go skiing and end up on a creepy island with communists, apes suits, some of the most horrendous fight scenes put on print, and of course, zombies.
Youtube trailer, so throw on your VPN
Taking cinematography and music to the next level are Death to Cinema, who will also be playing at the upcoming Rockabilly Carnival. Here is a breakdown of the band:
The two-piece band Death to Giants features Ivan Belcic on drums (uniform: trousers) and beau Dennis “Schwing” Nichols (uniform: shirts) on trombone. They’re all about improvisation and constantly looking to new mediums for experimentation. For Death to Cinema, local it-girl guy and author of the enlightening lines about 50’s cinema above, Brian Offenther aka DJ B.O, will curate a series of film clips, introducing them in their historical context and giving hints as to what will be shown on the screen. The band will then perform and play an alternative, better soundtrack to the clips, possibly even make up dialogues. The videos are usually taken from silent films, as B.O is a sucker for those, and they’re more suitable for accompanying improvisational music.
The clips for Rock-A-Bop are going to be taken from the 1950's, and we have been promised that there will be boobs! As for the musical style, it’s going to be genre-hopping, depending on whatever is happening on the screen, but definitely sexy and you can expect some tooting, smashing, singing and screaming.