Clark Collis
March 23, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

How do you know if you’re watching a true B movie? One which, in another age, you might have viewed from the hygienically dubious comfort of a grindhouse cinema seat? Here’s a test. Is it cheaply made? Does it feature jailed women, Italian cannibals, or black vampires? Has it got an eye-grabbing title (Satan’s Sadists, say, or The Beast With 1,000,000 Eyes) that’s infinitely more memorable than its plot? If you answered ”yes” to any two questions, then congratulations, you’re watching a B movie, otherwise known as an ”exploitation film.” The genre’s heyday came in the ’60s and ’70s, when Roger Corman and others released innumerable movies designed to attract young boomers ill-served by the studio system. Modern cinema has adopted the gimmickry and shock tactics of the exploitation movie (300, Crank, and Snakes on a Plane). And as a Universal studio exec once put it, ”What was Jaws but an old Corman monster-from-the-deep flick, plus about $12 million more for production and advertising?”

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