Having started out making films for (what would become) American International Pictures in the Fities, Roger Corman went on to produce around 400 pictures, kick-starting many a superstar career, and creating some of the most enduring ‘cult’ favourites, along the way. And he isn’t finished yet.
Let’s start with just a few of the films themselves. Corman is the man responsible for movies such as Little Shop of Horrors, filmed non-stop in just two days and a night, as well as the fantastic Edgar Allan Poe series of features starring Vincent Price; William Shatner’s star turn in The Stranger, the very bonkers Stallone vehicle Deathrace 2000, Piranha my personal favourite, the Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, House, a great little creepy movie starring George Wendt aka Norm from Cheers, Deathrace (a sort-of remake) starring Jason Statham, and a whole slew of crazy creature crossovers such as Dinocroc vs Supergator.
While that may be a tiny fraction of the films Roger Corman’s been involved with, it’s a list any producer could be proud of. Even if they’re not to your taste, as Corman himself says: he’s never lost money on a picture.
On top of this, he founded his own production company, New World Pictures, which, along with his own movies, has distributed the films of Fellini, Bergman, Truffaut, Kurasowa and more. So much of this has happened, if not outside of, then at least on the very edges of the Hollywood system, and this is what makes Corman, and this very enjoyable documentary, so interesting.
For while the film is littered with great talking heads from some of the stars who received an early break thanks to Corman, including Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, William Shatner and more, all of whom speak eloquently and with great affection for Roger Corman and his work, almost all of these people have moved on to work within the Hollywood system whilst Corman himself continues to strike out his own path. This theme of almost being left behind, in a sense, is one which the film investigates throughout, and which a number of interviewees are only too happy to expound on.
Not that Corman’s World plays out like a tragedy. Corman is still making (profitable) films and in 2009 received an honorary Academy Award for ‘his rich engendering of films and filmmakers’, which says to me that while they couldn’t give him an award for anything in particular, he really is a jolly good fellow. Which, based on the evidence given here, seems like the least anyone could say of Roger.
So it’s a big yes from me for Corman’s World, my only qualms being that maybe the ending is a bit of a fizzle out, as though the Oscar makes up for years of mainstream slighting, and that the DVD seems to come with zero special features. Otherwise this is a very engaging and entertaining documentary, made with great admiration for its subject and for film-making as a whole.
Even if some of Roger Corman’s films are not to your taste, he really, really is a jolly good fellow.