A few years ago Steven Chibnall published his examination of the pre-war quota films, now we have the follow up in which he and Brian McFarlane take a look at the post-war B films that helped fill the bottom half of the bill in many a programme.
In over 300 pages they provide a comprehensive survey of what may be the most neglected part of British cinema history. It's all here - everything from travelogues and naturist films to the Edgar Wallace Mysteries. After an overview of the distribution and exhibition history of second features, the book moves on to discussing individual studios and production companies. Then there is a chapter each on the film makers and the actors who made a mark in second features, followed by a chapter devoted to the dominant genre of the period: crime. The penultimate chapter looks at what the films tell us of the social attitudes of the times, sometimes more clearly than in the A films. Finally 15 of the best films are enthused about in detail.
If you can't tell Fabian of the Yard from Stryker of the Yard or Butcher's from Merton Park, this is the book for you. In a book this detailed there's bound to be the odd glitch - we have a still from a controversial episode of Fabian of the Yard, but nowhere in the text is it mentioned why it was controversial, and we're twice told why one film whodunit cheats - but these are minor matters next to the thoroughness of the bulk of the work.
If you've never been interested in the seemingly endless stream of low budget 50s crime dramas, this might be the book to change your mind.
Pub: Palgrave Macmillan
Price: £16.99 (UK), $30.00 (US)The British B Film: Available at Amazon UK