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07 May, 2012



Year of Release—Film:  2012

Our story begins in 1954.  A young script-reader for Fox Studios, tired of reading and rejecting bad script after bad script, quit.  Cobbling together $28,000 from friends and relatives, he produced (and appeared in) a science fiction movie titled MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR.  Picked up for distribution by Lippert Pictures, it grossed $117,000.  By the end of the decade, that man directed or produced 30 more movies without losing a dime.  That man is Roger Corman.  His life and career is now examined in a new documentary from director Alex Stapleton, CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL.

CORMAN’S WORLD is a love letter.  A love letter signed by most of the directors and actors whose careers Corman jump-started throughout those early years, including Ron Howard, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Fonda, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Robert De Niro and David Carradine, Dick Miller, William Shatner, Quentin Tarantino, among others.  From his humble beginnings to present, Roger, with almost 400 films under his producer-director belt, is fondly lauded by his friends, fellow industry workers and family members.  Now, in his 86th year of life, Roger shows no sign of tiring, still working very much hands-on as a producer.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, on April 5, 1926, Roger William Corman at first followed in his father’s footsteps, studying engineering at Stanford College but, tiring of his chosen profession, he began to develop a budding interest in filmmaking.  He took a job as a messenger at Fox Studios, then became a story analyst and, in 1953, wrote a script titled “The House in the Sea” which was eventually filmed and released as HIGHWAY DRAGNET (1954).  Taking his pay for selling the script, he borrowed some more cash and made MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR (1954).  His next picture was THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (1955).  For this picture, shot for American Releasing, (which would soon become American International Pictures, or AIP), Corman convinced James Nicholson and Sam Arkoff to give him a three-picture deal.  He would go on to become it’s major talent behind the camera and make AIP the most profitable independent studio in cinema history!  Over the next 15 years, Roger made 53 pictures, mostly for AIP, and proved himself the godfather of quick, cheaply made productions.

CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL is an entertaining time capsule of a Hollywood outsider who went from the short shooting schedules and cheap special effects of the 1950’s Drive-in creature features through the Cold War days and man’s first steps into outer space through the so-called “Poe years” to biker movies.  He even had a brief foray into soft-corn porn movies.  The documentary includes film clips of him happily accepting his long-overdue 2009 lifetime achievement Academy Award and then on to his role as executive producer of DINOSHARK (2010).  CORMAN’S WORLD director Stapleton’s structure is fairly by the numbers but provides plenty of archival footage of now-deceased actor David Carradine, director George Hickenlooper and producer Polly Platt.

However, some of the interviews are odd.  Scorsese sits in his Manhattan screening room; Jack Nicholson reminisces on a sofa; Bruce Dern chats while getting a haircut; John Sayles relaxes on a stoop and Demme is shot sitting in the back seat of a car staring out a window.  Long-time actor and friend, Dick Miller, tells of the two-day shoot that was LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) while his wife, seated near, is more interested in the antics of her little dog.  And why is Ron Howard filmed walking down a street headed for a cemetery?  Also, Stapleton does not give the dates on any of the interviews, leaving the viewer to estimate a time frame.  However, this is fitting.  A movie about Roger Corman should look like a Roger Corman film.  Fast, cheap and a little rough around the edges.  This clip-crammed documentary is filled with Hollywood luminaries, all who seem to genuinely love this quiet, cardigan-wearing gentleman who gave them a chance when no others would.

CORMAN’S WORLD is insightful, informative and entertaining.  I wish there had been more bonus material added and they should have cleaned up some of the movie clips.  (The clip from APACHE WOMAN (1955), for example, looked like it was yanked straight off of Youtube!)  However, it was a fitting introduction to this great man who still reigns as the King of the quickie movie!  If watching CORMAN’S WORLD leaves you yearning for more of Corman’s world, may I suggest How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime by Roger Corman and Jim Jerome.  An excellent read that delves deeper into the life and times of Roger Corman, King of the B’s!

Both available from Amazon.com.


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