In a book I am currently reading, The Early Film Criticism of François Truffaut by Wheeler Dixon (Indiana University 1993), there is an interesting section that deals with the obvious influence on Truffaut of Hollywood b-movies, particularly film noir.
According to Dixon, Truffaut and even his mentor, Jean Renoir, preferred b-features over a-productions. In a 1954 interview, Renoir was quite emphatic:
I’ll say a few words about Val Lewton, because he was an extremely interesting person; unfortunately he died, it’s already been a few years. He was one of the first, maybe the first, who had the idea to make films that weren’t expensive, with ‘B’ picture budgets, but with certain ambitions, with quality screenplays, telling more refined stories than usual. Don’t go thinking that I despise “B” pictures; in general I like them better than big, pretentious psychological films they’re much more fun. When I happen to go to the movies in America, I go see “B” pictures. First of all, they are an expression of the great technical quality of Hollywood. Because, to make a good western in a week, the way they do at Monogram, starting Monday and finishing Saturday, believe me, that requires extraordinary technical ability; and detective stories are done with the same speed. I also think that “B” pictures are often better than important films because they are made so fast that the filmmaker obviously has total freedom; they don’t have time to watch over him.
So all you b-movie fans you are in hallowed company!
[Cross-posted at Another Cinema Blog]