Corman's World - Ode to the Cor-MAN !
For those of you who do not know who Roger Corman is and are vivid fans of monster movies, action sci-fi and all around pop-corn entertainment, I have three words: Shame on you! He has been the producer that has launched a million careers and continues to do so at the ripe age of 86!
This documentary is way more interesting that I thought it would be and although it barely reached the theaters (like many of Corman’s productions these days) I got it through my Netflix cue. This movie also hits home for me right now because I’m involved in my first production as a writer/producer and the story still rings true today on all the crazy things you have to do to get a movie done.
Any kind of movie.
Roger Corman like many producers started out as an actor and of course wasn’t that good but somehow he was fun, charming and a great talker and he managed to get people to do crazy stuff, so he got some money together got a movie crew and did his first monster movie. He sold it to a small outfit that rented movies to drive-in chains and the rest is history. Being crafty and not spending anything extra was one of Corman’s chief assets.
One actor remembers that he was probably the only actor in history to have killed HIMSELF in a movie… TWO TIMES in the same film! Corman was the first person to give Jack Nicholson his first roles (and also refused to pay him $125 extra for script writing), as also Peter Fonda, William Shatner,Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper and Robert De Niro. Directors he gave them their first reel were: Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdonovich , Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, as also Ron Howard and James Cameron. If you look at most people of who’s who in Hollywood many are graduates of the Corman University of filmmaking, where it’s alma matter is: Dirty, Fast and save the monster suit for the next movie!
In the early 1950’s monster movies were bad, cheap and genre no reputable studio would touch. They had the most horrible stories, actors and props ever used but they were fun and entertaining and put the scares where teens loved them. And this audience of young people were at the core of Corman’s legions of fans. They didn’t care if the main character’s arc was not that great or that the monster/creature or thing from outer space had a reason to attack the people in the story. They just wanted some fun or a reason to make out with their girlfriends at the drive-in. Specials effects? What’s that?... Realistic creatures? Go read a science book!... Corman movies were the product of mad genius of a producer who just needed a new movie EVERY WEEK for the kids at the drive in.
During an interview with one the early monster creators, he mentioned that him and Corman made a movie in 3 days! And that included all the creature creation!… Of course it was the cheesiest thing you can find this side of a Wisconsin farm. The monster was a disguised lamp shade with some bad tentacles attached to it and it floated around (with fish wire) and attacked people in the face (now you know were the FACE SUCKERS form Aliens REALLY came from!)… Everything thing was done to make a buck and entertain if possible… Art? If you wanted that go to a museum. Corman had a rule, if it moves it had to be crashed, and when it crashed it had to explode! Throw some nice breast in the air and you got yourself a teen hit! Roger Corman has made over 600 movies and says he never lost a dime on any of them. Of course when your budgets are less than a used car and your audience didn’t really care about content you have a gold mine.
One of the interesting points of the movie is when “big studio” Hollywood understands the genre of teen/ action thrillers that Corman was after and starts doing it with incredible budgets. JAWS was the first salvo in that war, a very “Cormanesk” concept.. A Shark eating people… But throw in some heavy weight money and acting, then you have a fun movie. When STAR WARS came out, Corman new the game was over. Hollywood had discovered action sci-fi and was throwing the “money hose” at it. He knew he couldn’t compete with them anymore, so as an eternal survivor, he jumped into the exploitation genre that was being ignored by the major studios and made over 30 films in the Philippines, from CAGED HEAT to CRAZY JUNGLE WOMEN ON FIRE (yeah that’s a real title) and those crazy PAM GRIER guerilla in the jungle movies, If it had breasts, guns and explosions Corman was the man!
The movie business right now is going through one of it’s many re-inventions. The bad economy has made it a proving ground for mini and micro budget movies that with some interesting content are making their way out to audiences. Of course they will never see a theater but DVDs and the internet are growing markets that voraciously needs content every day. There is a thirst for movies like always. If not look at the corner REDBOX every week, after only ONE O.K. studio movie is there you see TONS of B movies available for rent… Why? because nobody is making anything else! And Kids want to be entertained or have an excuse to invite their little girlfriends over. People will be people and there will always be a market for your movie, remember don’t worry if your first movie is bad, you can always make a better one the next time… Just follow this one golden rule: NEVER LOOSE YOUR INVESTORS MONEY and you’ll have a long happy run.
You don’t believe me? Here’s a little trivia question… Who directed the SHLOCK FEST of a movie called PIRANHA 2 ???... Anyone? Anyone?... It was James Cameron, and he’s not doing so bad these days.