For the love of blood, breasts and beasts, Joe Bob Briggs champions B movies
At the Fargo Theatre, movie host Joe Bob Briggs praises the importance of rednecks, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Burt Reynolds and more.
FARGO — Joe Bob Briggs is a man of simple tastes when it comes to what he’s looking for in a film, so much so that fans of the B movie devotee can recite his three Bs: blood, beasts and breasts, though not always in that order.
He’ll talk about them in his stage show, “How Rednecks Saved Hollywood” at the Fargo Theatre Thursday night, Sept. 29. In about 250 clips over 2 hours, the B movie buff will take the audience on a rapid-fire tour of the South in film, from the first depictions of hillbillies and moonshiners to Forrest Gump and the lasting, bloody legacy of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
His appearance kicks off ValleyCon, a weekend-long festival for sci-fi, fantasy, horror and anime fans at the Holiday Inn, though Thursday’s show at the Fargo Theatre requires a separate ticket.
Born in Texas, raised in Arkansas and an alumnus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Briggs — the stage name of John Bloom — takes rednecks and Southern culture seriously, but also tongue-in-cheek. Want to identify a bad guy in a movie? Listen for the Southern accent.
“It’s like the old Lenny Bruce line. ‘If the Pope spoke in a Southern accent, people wouldn’t listen,'” he says.
In his talk, he points to the first depiction of hillbillies in cinema and sarcastic explanations of the most popular Southern locale to shoot and the real reason West Virginia exists. If the talk sounds academic or preachy, it isn’t. He looks at the importance of a movie like “Deliverance,” the significance of “The Andy Griffith Show” and even the legacy of Burt Reynolds.
“'Smokey and the Bandit’ is the most Southern film ever made,” he says, referring to its focus on cars, semis, an epic beer run and a healthy disrespect for crooked authority figures.
He’ll also talk about his favorite B movie, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
“It has everything. It’s a complex movie, very scary and funny,” he says. “For its first 30 years it was condemned as the worst part of our culture. It was the favorite title of congressmen who talked about the degradation of our culture. Then it was remade in the 2000s and became a box office hit.”
Which is a point he often makes.
“B movies are not all bad movies,” he says. “They’re popular, populist movies.”
Since 1986, Briggs has hosted campy classics on shows like TMC’s “Joe Bob’s Drive-in Theater,” TNT’s “MonsterVision” and now Shudder’s “The Last Drive-in with Joe Bob Briggs.”
For him, drive-ins are somewhat synonymous with B movies.
“That’s always been the rap on drive-ins, they were always the naughty movies, the movies your mother didn’t want you to see,” he says on the phone, hours before an appearance in Florida.
He points out that the first film shown at an American drive-in was the 1932 British comedy “Wives Beware,” about a married man who has grown bored with his wife and fakes amnesia to have affairs.
“What is sex and violence in a B movie is romance and action in a mainstream Hollywood,” he says.
His love affair with horror movies is also complex. While he loves the thrills and chills, he also loves the laughably absurd ones. Like 1990’s “Demon Wind.”
“I couldn’t explain the plot to you, but you can’t stop watching it,” he says.
Actually, he gave enough of a description when he screened it on “The Last Drive-in,” calling it, “The only haunted house, time-travel, vomit-spewing, demon zombie apocalypse, multi-generational Satan worship martial arts film.”
One film he doesn’t like, but often talks about — or is maybe often prompted to talk about — is “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” the only offering in the franchise not to follow the storyline of Michael Myers, the mask-wearing, knife-wielding killer. Briggs may not be a fan, but his sidekick, Darcy the Mail Girl — who will also be at Thursday's event and ValleyCon — is and she has campaigned for him to show the movie.
In July he invited the director and actors from the film to share the stage at Joe Bob’s Jamboree, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the film.
“I talked about it for years about what an awful movie it was,” Briggs explains. “It’s one of Darcy’s favorite movies and she challenged me to show it. So we had the cast and director onstage and they attacked me. It was not loved when it came out, but it developed a cult following over the years and now it’s revered.”
The next “Halloween” movie comes out on Oct. 14 and Briggs says the current field of horror films by creators like Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and Ti West (“The Sacrament”) is “a golden age” for the genre, even if some of it is derivative.
“On one hand we’re in a period where horror films are a tremendous success,” he says. “On the other hand they’re taking stories from a different generation and giving them big budgets … The B movies of one generation become the A movies of another generation.”
He points to del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” which won Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards. The drama is essentially a creature feature romance that drew comparisons to 1954’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon” when it was released.
“A lot of A movies are just B movies with a budget. I’d put ‘Silence of the Lambs’ in that category.”
If you go
WHAT: Joe Bob Briggs “How Rednecks Saved Hollywood”
WHEN: 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29
WHERE: Fargo Theatre
INFO: Tickets are available for $25 by visiting valleycon.com
WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 27 to Sunday, Oct. 2
WHERE: Fargo Theatre and Holiday Inn
INFO: Tickets range from $5 to $48, valleycon.com