“B” western movies repetitively presented a benevolent sense of life and the view of moral people fighting for their values by overcoming evil. Through their 25 year existence, from 1930-1955, latency age kids feasted on these morality plays at weekly Saturday matinees. “A” westerns seldom presented their dramatizations so clearly or compellingly.
However, as the post World War II era moved along, “A” westerns and not “B” westerns alone reflected the coming, major cultural changes in America. That was because “A” westerns were the only westerns by 1955, when “B” westerns ceased production, and, when shown, were soon replaced on television with 30 minute, micro-western dramas. Television westerns became more and more like Masterpiece Theater pieces; the value of B westerns became fainter and fainter as time passed. Operating alone, “A” westerns became darker and brooding presentations of ever-increasingly conflicted characters with dubious motivations. It was as if psychoanalytic dogma was writing the scripts.
Increasingly malevolent westerns were now the only westerns. By January of 1961, the most malevolent western to date hit the theaters. This was the acclaimed contemporary western The Misfits. That it was acclaimed was, in effect, fair warning that the winds of culture were becoming storms. The Misfits exactly foretold and portrayed the mentalities of the coming “flower children” and their professorial intellectual fathers, all of whom “blossomed” in the 1960s.
Toward the end of the same decade came the supremely malevolent celebration of nihilism and gratuitous violence in the western in The Wild Bunch (1969). Between The Misfits and The Wild Bunch had come a string of increasingly depraved westerns. Still, no one had been fully ready for The Wild Bunch.