I just caught the brand-spanking new documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood RebelÂ at a press screening at the NYC Film Festival (yes, I am that cool to get in as press). If you are unaware of the movie’s Mr. Corman has produced and/or directed, if you have never heard of Death Race 2000 or Big Bad Mamma, don’t know of the infamous original version of The Little Shop of Horrors, never caught any of Corman’s Poe movies from the early 60’s or his even earlier drive-in B-pictures starring just about every badly built monster suit one could film, then you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with the guy.
With over 400 titles to his name, and having mentored such film luminaries like Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, John Sayles and Peter Bogdanovich (all interviewed in this movie) as well as more or less keeping Jack Nicholson working pre his star turn in Easy Rider (a film everyone acknowledges was inspired by and almost produced by Corman) Corman’s crews worked on lower than low budgets producing hit movies, in turn making him the most profitable filmmaker in his day.
He also produced one of the most startling frank movies about race ever, The Intruder, starring a young William Shatner, also interviewed in this new doc.
Corman worked through American International Pictures churning out his sometimes scary, often sexy, certainly always campy drive-in movies and those Poe films, gaining acclaim and money as he infused his films with some rather radical ideas that prompted a changing America…through it all managing to show explosions and as much bare female flesh as he could get away with. In the 70’s he founded New World Pictures, after AIP continued to wrestle control and finances and not only did this small independent produce and distribute exploitation and cult movies-this is where the title of this column came from as director Joe Dante said of the films of this period-like Women In Cages,Â Rock’n’Roll High-School (starring the Ramones)Â and the super campy Piranha,Â New World also distributed the films of Ingmar Berman, Francois Truffaut and Akira Kurosawa to U.S. audiences, winning more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film than all other studios…combined.
Corman’s World catches the now 80 year-old maverik (a term used too often these days but one that truly fits Corman) working on a new movie for the SciFi Channel and he is so beloved that Jack Nicholson actually tears up over the guy claiming Corman was his “lifeblood” all those years ago.
I love Corman’s Poe’s films with their spooky sets, Vincent Price overacting and bodacious beauties busting out of corsets (thought I’d get through this column without some sex?), his ealry 70’s gangster pictures set in Prohibition times with busty babes bouncing out of flapper dresses while shaking shooting machine guns and his early wacky sci-fi stuff where girls bounced around in bikinis fighting off some Papier-mÃ¢chÃ©Â monster on a beach someplace in LA (do you see a pattern here of what I like?).
Really, Roger Corman is an American original as illustrated by the great new film Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel.