Swimming In B-Movies

​The moment has arrived! After almost four months of me talking up You Don’t Know Jack on social media, on other podcasts, to anyone who would listen, the first episode has now made its debut. I think when most people think of Jack Nicholson, they think of Batman, or The Shining, A Few Good Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…. They think of a big budget blockbuster with memorable quotes that you can fire off at a moment’s notice. Or they think of Jack’s classic look — the cool guy with the slicked back hair and the dark shades sitting front row at the Oscars, or courtside at a Lakers game. That wasn’t always who Jack was. At one time he was just a young kid trying to make it in Hollywood, taking any job he could get. He wasn’t just in a few low-budget B-movies. He was in a LOT of them. Eleven years worth, to be exact, before his breakthrough role came with Easy Rider in 1969. Now that I’m officially into this undertaking of watching, analyzing and reviewing every one of the man’s movies, I kind of feel like I’m experiencing a different Jack. By which I mean, different from the image that we, his fans, all know and love.

​Jack’s early work, as a 20-something kid taking acting classes and working as a gopher in the MGM animation department, has dare I say, a wholesomeness to it? Like no matter what persona he has cultivated over the decades, he was not immune to once being young, and determined, and unsure of what the future held for him.

​All these early black and white films that I’m currently navigating my way through, I have to say, I am pleasantly surprised with some of the storytelling! Not to say that they are all great. As you might expect, some of them do drag in spots. I’m not here just to fangirl over Jack. If I’m going to give you reviews, I intend to be thorough, and fair. But I WILL say, as I started watching more this week in preparation for next week’s episode, we’ve got some real hidden gems here. The acting in some of them is very impressive, so much so that it surprises me that more of these actors didn’t end up becoming huge names. And not to give anything away for Episode 2, but some of the subject matter is genuinely ahead of its time. Like not something you would see in big budget movies of that era, and things that TV would not dare to go for another 20 years, at least. A lot of us grew up watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000, so when we think “B-movie,” we think “Okay, let’s get ready to roll our eyes and make smartass quips…” Well, you will be surprised. I was! And I think you’ll understand what I mean when I tell you about Too Soon To Love (1960) next week…

Podcast: You Don’t Know Jack

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