Some B films are loved because they're just so bad, but some are loved because they're just so good -- a palpable talent resting beneath the haze of badness.
I'm not talking about the guys who spend years honing their technique and then head back to the world of B to make a flashy feature (Grindhouse), but those who are born out of that wonderfully bad wasteland -- the men and women who kickstart their career with blood, chills, and pulp, and then grow into high-buzz filmmakers and talent. Not everyone can start with a critical masterpiece, so what can be better than a little silly fun? It certainly beats a crappy first movie that no one wants to see.
Read on to learn of seven big Hollywood names who kicked off their careers with the wonder of B-movie filmmaking. These directors have talent, awards, and a healthy serving of critical success, but it all came out of began with our beloved B's. Maybe they knew how to start their careers, or maybe Roger Corman simply has the best eye for killer talent. Whatever the case, their first films didn't define their careers, and in fact, set them on their way to success.
Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead
After starting off with a few horror shorts, Sam Raimi made his indelible mark on cinema with The Evil Dead, introducing the world to the wonders of Bruce Campbell and producing one of the biggest cult horror franchises. Where Sayles existed behind the scenes, Raimi's notoriety came from his cult status, as he slowly tried to work his way towards mainstream success. Once he helmed A Simple Plan, nothing was the same and soon the guy behind Army of Darkness was the man who reintroduced us to Spider-Man.
John Sayles, Piranha
His first directorial effort might not have been a B film, but there probably wouldn't be any John Sayles films if he hadn't got his start penning wonderfully tacky scripts for Roger Corman. He'd write these screenplays, save his money, and then make his own films -- Return of the Secaucus 7 was made with the $30,000 Sayles made from working for Corman. While starting his career, Sayles penned Piranha, Alligator, Battle Beyond the Stars, The Howling, The Challenge, and even The Clan of the Cave Bear.
Kathryn Bigelow, Near Dark
Point Break and Strange Days are the first films that got Kathryn Bigelow recognition, but her work stretches all the way back to the late '70s. After her student film, The Set-Up, the director grabbed Willem Dafoe for some motorcycle gang action in The Loveless, and followed it up with a true blood-fest -- 1987's horror western and cult classic Near Dark. (It was set to get a remake, but plans were ultimately scrapped.) She also happened to be married to a man a few names down...
Francis Ford Coppola, Dementia 13
When we think of Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather always comes to mind, but that was far from his first feature. Before he became a mobster-obsessed icon, Coppola was all over the pulp. The 1960s were rife with his work. It kicked off with Nebo Zovyot, and continued with The Bellboy and the Playgirls, Tonight for Sure, The Terror, and ultimately -- Dementia 13 (which is, of course, a Corman feature).
James Cameron, Piranha 2
James Cameron (Bigelow's ex) jumped pretty quickly from B movies to blockbusters, pulling his sci-fi interests squarely into the mainstream with films like The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss. But did you ever find yourself seeing his first two films and thinking: This is the guy who will break the bank with epic features and fancy special effects? Before Arnie's machine, or the record-breaking Titanic, Cameron directed both Xenogenesis and, following the path of Sayles, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning.
Jonathan Demme, Caged Heat
Long before Rachel got married, or the likes of Philadelphia and The Silence of the Lambs, Jonathan Demme was cooking up a classic B movie. The bloodlust of Hannibal Lecter might suggest that he went the horror route like most of his fellow filmmakers, but Demme took a different path. His first feature was the classic women-in-prison exploitation film Caged Heat. It's a far cry from the work that followed, but it's also quite easy to see how Demme got his own agenda into Corman's nude-bent mindset.
Jodie Foster - "Do Not Open This Box," Tales from the Darkside
This one is cheating just a little bit, but it's notable nonetheless. She started off as an actress, known for her light (Freaky Friday) and dark (Taxi Driver) roles. But before she turned to directing her two feature films, Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays, or scheming up Flora Plum for that matter, Foster directed an episode from Tales from the Darkside, which you can see right here.
Maybe the key to success isn't throwing your life into an amazing first feature that you have to live up to, but starting off goofy, in an arena that allows you to play while honing your craft. It definitely did wonders for these directors, while giving us some truly classic and enjoyable terrible films.
Who is your favorite B-movie filmmaker turned Hollywood icon? Perhaps another Corman cohort like Martin Scorsese or Joe Dante? Weigh in below!