With a name like Not Another B Movie, one would expect the film to be a lowbrow spoof of B horror films. And it is, sort of. But it is also (or at least, tries to be) a thoughtful dramatic meditation on the seamier side of exploitation horror production, and the people who are involved in it. These two themes, literally jammed together by the film's unique presentation, don't mesh very well, and leave us with two disparate halves that don't work as well as they should.
Byron (Byron Thames) is a talented screenwriter who has been forced by circumstance to write horribly clichéd exploitive dreck. He is joined in a restaurant to do some brainstorming on his latest feature by director Larry (Larry Thomas, most famous for playing the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld) and producer James (James Vallo). The film proper is just these three sitting at their table discussing the new project, and interacting with the waitress and aspiring actress Holly (Lindsay Gareth).
But inserted into these scenes are scenes from the movie they are working on, a real exploitation masterpiece that involves a mad umpire who goes on a killing spree, mostly of young women who are often in the shower at the moment of their death, but also involves a couple of hard boiled cops on a stakeout, and international espionage or something. Most of the entertainment value of Not Another B Movie derives from these scenes, which spoof the genre with their over the top violence and extra helpings of hackneyed cliché. David Faustino and Joe Estevez play the two cops, and clearly relish their roles, exuberantly indulging all the police brutality and stereotypes their little hearts can stand.
Pretty much every aspect of low budget film making is skewered, from the casting couch to product placement to misogynistic violence to the cynicism of the people involved. There are a lot of cameos, as well, with Lloyd Kaufman and even Ed Asner taking a turn. The problem is that these bits of exploitation silliness clash quite severely with the dramatic piece of the film, specifically Byron's existential struggle to do something meaningful with his talent and Holly's desire to do almost anything (including sleep with an exec for a part) to succeed in Hollywood. Holly's pathetic come on to Byron, and her brutal honesty with him when he rejects her seem to be part of a different film entirely. It doesn't seem consistent with the scene earlier in the film of a women being strangled to death with a jockstrap, or the fellow with the unfortunate erection giving advice to Byron from a bathroom stall.
The producers of Not Another B Movie seem to want it both ways. They want to make an outrageous, silly exploitation film, but at the same time point out the degrading and dehumanizing nature of the genre. As a result, they hold back and hesitate with the satire, and don't spend enough time and resources with the drama, leaving both a mediocre mish mash. I would happily have watched either half of this film, had it been developed as a separate project, but together they are less than the sum of the parts.
This is not to say that the film is without merit. There is some genuine humor to be found, though admittedly mixed in with a large portion of dross. And there are a lot of good performances. Byron Thames, Larry Thomas and James Vallo are quite convincing as the cynical filmmakers and Lindsay Gareth is able to reach emotional levels that are genuinely moving. On the other end, Faustino and Estevez are quite fun as the mismatched partners beating up informers and swaggering through the city.
But the filmmakers would have been better served to make either an exuberant, self aware B movie, or a sharp and insightful dramatic satire of the business. Mixing them together diluted both, and came up wanting. Rent this one.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and aside from some grain and occasional muddiness, looks fine, though not stellar.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and is serviceable. Dialogue is always clearly audible, and no hiss or other problem can be heard. No subtitles or alternate audio tracks are included.
There are a couple of extras included on the disc, along with the normal Troma related material. They are:
James Vallo and Lloyd Kaufman on Independent Filmmaking
About twenty five minutes long, this features interviews with James Vallo, Larry Thomas, Lloyd Kaufman and lots of others about low budget, independent filmmaking, and all the obstacles involved in it. This is very conversational and often interesting.
Not Another B Movie Premiere Night
Clocking in at 16:50, this is exactly what it sounds like, video and interviews from the premiere. There is actually some interesting stuff here, for example that the restaurant scenes, sixty pages of them, were filmed in one day due to scheduling problems. That's an insane amount of filming. This is mostly fluff, but often intriguing.
Not Another B Movie is trying to do too much, and as a consequence doesn't do anything as well as it wants to. The biggest problem is that it shifts tone too much, careening from sharp satire to lowbrow campy exploitation and back again. The film should have decided on one tack to take and stuck with it. As it is, things are a bit muddled, and the real qualities of the film are obscured. There are things to like here, but not enough.