Ah, B-movies. Can anything rival the joy of encountering something so utterly enjoyable but so monumentally inept? This contradiction fuels midnight cinema, B-grade cinema, the less reputable productions from Syfy Channel and the direct-to-video schlockmeisters of The Asylum. Quality is usually in short supply. But, as long as they entertain, no one (aside from buzzkills or the joyless) has much room to complain.
I’ve always loved B-movies, even though I equally hate them. Of course, there are the miracle films, Troll 2 and The Room, for example, are films so inept that they transcend their badness. In a way, the lack of quality is in direct proportion to their level of fun. Better put: they’re golden, so-bad-they’re-good.
Alas, those are rare films. Most B-movies fall somewhere between boring copycats, cynical cash grabs, and ill-fated “foreign” efforts at entering the American market. Yet, there’s usually something there, a something resulting from a film’s flaws, rather than its flawlessness. Mill Creek Entertainment’s Attack of the Killer B’s, a three-disc, ten-movie collection, clocking over 13 hours of content, demonstrates this quite well.
Comprised of such titles as Attack of the Giant Leeches, Teenagers From Outer Space, The Killer Shrews, and the wonderfully titled Eegah!, the disc set is imperfect and uneven. By and large, these films from the late ’50s to the early ’70s are forgettable, and nowhere near the lost treasures of films like Samurai Cop, for instance. These are films that are dredged up and shared on YouTube.
Mill Creek is no stranger to releasing large sets of cheaply made films packaged with equal cheapness. However, what’s compelling about the disc set is that it replicates the ethos of B-films so effectively. More often than not, movies of this caliber were turned out with clockwork regularity, sent out to cinemas across the country, replacing films of a similar stripe, only to be in turn swapped out a few months later by the newest product.
What’s redeeming about that? Well, with this set of ten films, entertainment is never far from one’s finger tips. Should 1962’s The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, an adorably made mad scientist flick that feels a decade too late to compensate for the obvious basement lair sets and the fact that the severed living head is clearly the actress sitting inside a box, not entertain, then 1959’s The Giant Gila Monster is already at hand. As in the heyday of B-cinema, with this set one never needs to wait long for the next feature.
The set hosts obvious rip-offs of classic horror films, such as The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues, along with Night Fright, but Attack of the Killer B’s is cheekier beyond that. Consider that the set also contains Invasion of the Bee Girls and The Wasp Woman and you get the sense that Mill Creek isn’t just repackaging trash but repackaging it with a sense of humor.
It’s a small gesture, but a meaningful one.
This is all the more important when one factors in the lack of any special features or commentary, though this is expected of such a densely loaded three-disc set. The lack of any additional features is also forgivable, given how remarkably unremarkable these films are and how long ago they were produced. I doubt any of the cast and crew are still around. Those that are likely have consigned their memories to the rubbish bin.
So, yes, Attack of the Killer B’s, on a film by film level, is mostly garbage. This is confirmed with the inclusions of rip-offs that exist only to confuse audiences in spending their money unwisely. Only viewed in conjunction with the aid of a quick remote finger is the set redeemed. Watching these films is more like an experience than anything else. You don’t so much watch these bad movies as you feel them, and feel for the people both in front of and behind the camera.
Still, for those with a very special taste or with a very open heart, Attack of the Killer B’s is a window into an era of American filmmaking that has largely vanished. Movies like this still appear, but nowhere near the theater. Instead, they dwell on cable channels or are streamed online by aspiring filmmakers or horror enthusiasts. Certainly those economics make sense in today’s media landscape. However, there was a time when trash had aspirations to be treasure and tried to shoulder its way next to genuine films. Attack of the Killer B’s is a reminder of that history, with all of its associated stink.