Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies is a documentary about, as its title suggests, the history of American movies, but not your Hollywood blockbusters, oh no, this is about the history of American exploitation movies.
The documentary begins with the end of World War II, the baby boom, televisions and quite probably the first ‘scream queen’, Vampira, who introduced the viewers to low budget movies on TV. The mid 50’s brought many headaches to Hollywood, not just people watching TV rather than going to the movies, but a law came in to force breaking up the monopoly that the studios had. The ‘theatre divorcement’ as it was nicknamed.
Around this time AIP started up producing low budget movies that put teens in the limelight with rebellion at the forefront. Then Roger Corman appears…
Corman could turn out films within days on a low budget yet still make a profit, something that AIP quite liked, and so a partnership was formed. Next thing you know we’re getting colour, Corman and Vincent Price. All in one film!
The 30min mark is where it heats up and moves in to sinema. It’s here that exploitation movies came in to their own. Hollywood movies were forbidden to show certain things in movies, but low-budget studios didn’t have the same constraints as Hollywood so they churned out the nudist, nudie-cuties, and then you have Russ Meyer.
Boredom set in and now in the early 60’s the exploiteers were looking for a new niche. Enter, Blood Feast.
Prior to Blood Feast (as one man puts it) ‘no one had ever filmed blood before, or saw anyone die with their eyes open.’ After that came the ‘roughies’ which were the ‘torture-porn’ of their day with men beating women black and blue (in black and white). But when the restrictions on Hollywood are lifted, there’s no niches left for the cunning exploiteers and low-budget independent movies effectively died.
Schlock! is really interesting documentary, there’s plenty of good titbits of info and trivia in here and it’s amazing to see how much of Hollywood is built upon the shoulders of Corman. His films may suck at times, but without him there’d be no Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Joe Dante, James Cameron… the list goes on. They all worked with Corman, many getting their big break (or starring role) thanks to Corman.
It’s kinda like watching a documentary on the Titanic, you know the sad end is coming, but at least with exploitation films you know it’s not THE end… as one interviewee commented ‘exploitation films are still alive, everything out of Hollywood now is exploitation.’