Friday, August 12, 2011

I could swear I've seen that B movie before

So I was reading Kurt Loder's review of the new movie 30 Minutes or Less last night. The opening two lines really struck me:

Okay, this is a dopey film, one you can imagine being cooked up over the course of a beery Hollywood weekend. Basically—and believe me, it’s a very basic movie, running just 83 minutes—the story concerns two idiots who shanghai a not-much-brighter pizza delivery guy, strap him with a vest full of explosives, and force him to rob a bank for them or they’ll use their vest-bomb remote to turn him into a drifting red mist.

The first thing I thought is that I could swear I've seen something very similar in a B movie from the 1930s or 1940s. Now, there are other, not quite so similar, films out there, such as 1974's For Pete's Sake. In that one, the criminals force the lead (Barbra Streisand) to do all sorts of illegal things to try to get money for them, but the big difference is that here, Streisand got herself into the predicament by borrowing money from loan sharks, who want their money back.

There are also movies in which would-be criminals kidnap somebody, who winds up showing them how to be criminals. One excellent example of this is Too Many Crooks, which I blogged about back in March, 2009. Another similar idea can be seen in The Happening, in which Anthony Quinn gets kidnapped by hippies on a lark, and then teaches them how to be real kidnappers when he discovers that his wife and friends don't care enough about him to pay the ransom. Alas, it doesn't seem to be available on DVD, and I think it's only aired on TCM once.

A second point in Loder's review is something I didn't notice until this morning: the comment about the movie being "very basic" because it runs "just" 83 minutes. Ha! Anybody who's a fan of old movies knows that not only did all the B movies run 70 minutes or so, but there are quite a few A pictures that have running times of under 83 minutes. But with today's bloated CGI production values, and "directors' cuts" leading to movies that routinely clock in at a good 150 minutes or more, 83 minutes does seem amazingly short.

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