A Definition Of Terms:
As depression era theaters introduced double features to attract cost conscious audiences in the 1930s, the most important features -- and typically, the newest -- ran first as the A-movie while the B-movie was either an older (and thus more affordable) main feature or a low budget movie. As double features became more and more popular, especially with the rise of drive-in theaters -- which on rare occasions might run a triple or quadruple bill with C and D-movies -- both independent producers and major studios made shorter, less expensive “programmers” i.e., movies tailored to fit the B-movie slot. Because of this, “B-movie” came to mean cheap and exploitive fare.
The Motion Picture Association of America classified a feature film as one that ran 65 minutes or longer, but this was frequently honored more in the breach than the observance, and many a B-Western ran 55 minutes or less. As such, they were the perfect length for an afternoon movie slot, all of which is a long winded way of saying little Buzzy Boy watched a lot of B-Westerns as a child.
Somewhere I read an essay (I want to say in a British Film Institute publication but may be wrong) that called B-Westerner programmers the equivalent of American kabuki drama, relying heavily on stock characters and situations, varying only in their arrangement and the skill with which the tropes and clichés and stereotypes were executed.
And, yeah, for all of us remaining who still love B-Westerns, that familiarity is indeed a big hunk of their appeal.
(Ironically, I think this is the same thing that keeps Dungeons & Dragons and related role-playing games popular: Their reliance on universally known clichés and stereotypes that do not have a corresponding real life equivalent which players can easily absorb and enjoy. The hardest part of D&D for a newcomer is figuring our the character chart; once you do that everything else flows instinctively.)
© Buzz Dixon