Saturday, May 20, 2017

Let's Pay a Visit to "Corman's World"

Attack of The Crab Monsters. Rock 'n' Roll High School. Piranha. If any of these titles sound familiar to you, then you know we’re talking about the work of producer-director Roger Corman, long heralded as the “King of The B’s.” In the excellent documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, we get a comprehensive look at the history of this unique filmmaker. He's the man behind the original Little Shop of Horrors, who helped launch the careers of actors like Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, as well as directors Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and Ron Howard. Corman elevated the B movie to a whole new level with a combination of guts, style, business savvy and an eye for recognizing real talent.
Corman is legendary for completing films in record time and under budget, and always turning a profit. The documentary sketches a brief profile of Roger’s early years, and reveals how he initially produced a couple of profitable low budget films on his own. Then he signed a deal with B movie distributors American International Pictures. While at AIP, Corman found great success with films like Not of This Earth, The Day The World Ended and Rock All Night. These movies would primarily be distributed to drive-ins, where teenage audiences loved them. Focusing on that market, Corman put out one successful film after another, in a variety of genres. He often had actors double-up in roles either in front of or behind the camera. Corman perfected what came to be known as guerrilla filmmaking, shooting quickly, on location, and often without permits. He'd even use the sets from one film to complete another before he took them down!

In the 1960s, Corman cemented his reputation by producing & directing a series of stylish Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, most of which starred Vincent Price, including House of Usher (1960) and The Pit & The Pendulum (1961). These atmospheric movies were filmed in color and had higher budgets than the normal Corman fare. They remain well regarded to this day, and helped start an entire cycle of Poe-inspired films. Corman also branched out into other genres, including the biker movie. He directed The Wild Angels (1966) starring Peter Fonda (three years before Fonda starred in Easy Rider) and Bruce Dern. Fonda was also featured in the LSD drama The Trip (1967), which was written by Jack Nicholson, who had become a member of Corman’s stock company. After a falling out with AIP, Corman decided to form his own production company, New World Pictures, through which he released his films during the 1970s and 80s. New World's output included films such as Grand Theft AutoDeath Race 2000 and Battle Beyond the Stars.

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) features insightful interviews with many of the people who were hired and mentored by Corman, including Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Bruce Dern, Joe Dante, David Carradine, and Pam Grier. There are also some remarks from famous fans like Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth. Of course, we get a few comments from Roger himself, and some clips from his films. And we learn a few other things about Corman, including how he worked to help important foreign films such as Fellini’s Amarcord and Bergman’s Cries & Whispers gain wider release in the US. This is a fun, informative, and at times touching portrait of a true outsider who succeeded in Hollywood despite the odds, and gave a lot of people their first breaks in the business. Everyone who talks about Corman in the film has fond (and often funny) memories of and stories about working with him, and it’s interesting to see Jack Nicholson get genuinely emotional during his interview. Corman received an honorary Oscar in 2009, and there is a clip from that ceremony included in the movie.

Corman’s World was written & directed by Alex Stapleton. The film is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray. Both releases of the movie include “Extended Interviews” and “Special Messages to Roger” as well as the film's theatrical trailer. The extended interviews and special messages are delightful (including some further comments from Ron Howard & Martin Scorsese) and worth watching after viewing the main feature. If you’re a fan of genre filmmaking, you’ll really enjoy this look at the man behind such movies as Frankenstein Unbound, It Conquered The WorldGalaxy of Terror and Boxcar Bertha. Just watch out for The Beast With 1,000,000 Eyes! Here's a link to the film's trailer:

1 comment:

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