September 19, 2012


(2011, USA)

Who's Roger Corman? You're kidding me...

The name Roger Corman no longer ignites the interest of young moviegoers that it used to. His name can now easily draw a blank expression. Casual film fans remember directors' names rather than producers, and Roger Corman hasn't directed since 1990 (an adaption of Brian Aldiss' Frankenstein Unbound). His recent regular producing credits are on such products as Sharktopus, which probably wouldn't inspire anyone to even read the credits...

Roger Corman, shooting on the run
But his legacy includes the Death Race and Piranha franchises. He produced the original templates in the 1970s. His direction hasn't an auteur's style, he's more dedicated to the script and the players. His Edgar Allen Poe adaptions are still highly regarded enough to stay in circulation, but these hits are just snapshots from his fifty years of movie-making.

Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) - not as simple as it sounds
This documentary takes us through his life story using a fantastic roll-call of interviewees and choice clips. Starting young in a big studio, he soon had his work taken away from him and he quit, instead making his own films independently. Not easy, back in the 1950s, but he hasn't looked back.

The hugely popular Edgar Allen Poe cycle, directed by Corman (1961)
Most of his films are entertaining exploitation, honing a formula that have kept him working far longer than so many others in the industry, and always profitable (with one noble exception, The Intruder, which has surely made its money back by now). Once again always making a profit. In this business! His films, even their titles and posters, may be scoffed at, but his finely-honed formula has taken him through every shift in taste and technology.

Roger Corman directs, William Shatner stars (1962)
He keeps budgets down by not having big stars, but by recognising new talent. Or by using names that used to be big. If there are good-looking sets somewhere, write a script around them. Can't afford a camera truck for road shoots? Just find a car with a big boot! Not sure if the audience is interested? Choose the name and have a poster painted before you make the movie!

Directed by Corman in 1967, written by Jack Nicholson
He gets his ideas from current events and trends, but gets productions into action within months, before Hollywood has time to react. Like Asylum Studios do now, but with far more panache. Well at least he used to have panache - I can't say I've seen too much of his recent work.

Jack Nicholson in The Terror (1963)
But even if you don't like his low budgets and sensationalist concepts, his story is still astonishing as he became an extraordinary springboard for so many major Hollywood players. A place for young filmmakers and artists to get a start in an old man's industry. Hence the extensive interviews with Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme... A pity that Francis Ford Coppola isn't in there too.

Jack Nicholson bares all in Corman's World
This short documentary is a great introduction to Corman's world and could have been twice as long for my money. For established Corman fans, some of the stories are very familiar, but given a boost by the impressive interviewees who tell them.

Sylvester Stallone in Death Race 2000 (1975)
Currently on blu-ray and DVD in the US and UK. My only complaint is that I'd have loved a trailer reel, in order to revel in his back catalogue...

More Roger Corman in Black Hole Reviews...

The Haunted Palace (1963)

Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Death Race 2000 (1975)

Dinocroc (2005) 


  1. Have you seen Machete Maidens Unleashed? While its primary focus is the Filipino exploitation flicks of the 70s and 80s, it's also a backdoor documentary on New World Pictures, and covers some ground that Corman's World doesn't. (Though it does gets overly fascinated with Corman's domestic product at times, seemingly forgetting that it's supposed to be about movies shot in the Philippines.)

  2. No I've not seen it. But now I will!