Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel
Director: Alex Stapleton
Released: 2011
Staring: Roger Corman, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, William Shatner, David Carradine, Joe Dante, Pam Grier

Plot: Documentary about the legendary producer / director Roger Corman

Review: Wow I can hardly believe that I have written 200 posts here on the blog, which considering the majority of those have been reviews, it’s a huge amount of movies / books I have reviewed and frequently endured as part of this ongoing quest to plum the depths of DVD hell, but if I had made each of these posts solely focused on films either produced or directed by Roger Corman, it would only cover half of his legacy, for at the time of writing the man has churned out over 400 movies and he is still going strong!

Needless to say Roger Corman is one the most influential men in B-Movie history, not only being responsible for the majority of films which us trash cinema critics obsess over, many who first became obsessed with the field after watching his movies, but he is also responsible for launching the careers of some of the biggest actors and directors in Hollywood, many of which pay tribute here, for it goes without saying that without Corman, we would not have the likes of Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, William Shatner, David Carradine, Joe Dante and most memorably James Cameron, who got his start with “Piranha 2: The Spawning” to name but a mere few, as Corman frequently has proven throughout his career like the head of Troma Entertainment Lloyd Kaufman and Larry Clarke, to certainly have an eye for talent, even if he wasn’t frequently giving that talent the biggest of budgets to work with.

Still it’s great that finally someone has taken the time to look at the great man himself, aswell as some of the key films of his career, as the documentary makes a brave attempt to give an overview to what has unquestionably been an astonishing career, starting in the 50’s were he started his career working at 20th Century Fox as a story analyst, slowly working his way into writing scripts to fund his own productions he would make for “American Independent Pictures”, starting with his debut “Monster From The Ocean Floor” and launching his now legendary production output. From here the documentary also looks at the key moments of what would be his golden period from the early 60’s and the founding of “New World Pictures” right through to the late 70’s were the craze for blood drenched slashers and slow death of the drive in would lead him to step away from mainstream movie making and move into DTV territory, before making his return to form with the likes of the self explanatory “Dinoshark” and “Sharktopus”, the later's production featured here and showing Corman with the same passion he started with, while also still making questionable shooting choices, as seen by an attack scene being shot in a lake which bares signs warning about alligators living there, which for some reason hadn't been noticed until shooting had commenced.

Many of the directors / actors who appear here all seem to have happy rose tinted memories of making films for Corman, with most openly stating that their careers would not be were they were if it wasn’t for Corman giving them a start in the industry, with Jack Nicholson openly being reduced to tears at one point towards the end of his interview. Meanwhile Corman doesn’t seem to begrudge any of their success, even though he remained a B-movie producer, while his former protégé’s went onto major success. I suppose in this respect it would have been interesting to see James Cameron’s take on Corman, especially with Corman giving him his break on “Piranha 2: The Spawning” only to have directing duties taken over by Ovidio G. Assonitis after the first week of shooting, yet Cameron’s still received the directors credit for the film, though Cameron has frequently dismissed it as his directorial debut and it’s such controversy like this, which perhaps would have helped break up the documentary slightly from the constant steam of positivity which at times it seems to be, much like the man in question himself who always seems to be both upbeat and positive and whose enthusiasm for the films he seems to be unbounded, if only to continue to prove to the Hollywood studio system, that you don’t need to spend millions of dollars to make a movie.

Director Stapleton doesn’t make any great attempts to get into the mind of Corman, as he instead chooses to focus on his work, rather than his personal life which is really only covered in the parts in which Corman himself chooses to personally provide these insights, while the construction of the film is only made more frustrating through the lack of voice over outside of the semi narration that Corman provides, relying more on how the interviews are edited together to tell the story of Corman and his films, yet for Corman fans or those like myself who watches these kinds of documentaries with notepad in hand, eagerly expecting to come away with the same to watch list that “Not Quite Hollywood” provided, it is slightly frustrating that many of the films are reduced down to brief clips with only a handful given any kind of insight into their construction, making it feel like that there is another documentary waiting to be made focusing purely on the films themselves and with 400 titles to choose from, there is certainly the source material there in which to make this kind of documentary.

Still the handful of films which do get a closer look, provide some fascinating insights with particular attention given to “The Intruder”, which Corman openly admits to being the favorite of his films, even though it was branded a flop, no doubt thanks to drive in audiences not expecting to get a film about racial integration in the south and the decision to highlight it, shows that Corman was not always about schlock and that he was capable to producing a truly thought provoking movie aswell.

Although it might be a little disappointing for those of us, looking for a more complete overview of his work, it still provides a fun insight into the working process and history of Corman, from those who lived it, while also providing a fitting tribute to the man, but perhaps not the pictures which made him such a legend.


  1. Great write-up. Looks like a fun documentary! Looking forward to seeing this.

    Roger Corman is a living legend!

  2. Corman is definitely a living legend, just wished that the trailer hadn't sold it with such a focus on the films, when the documentary is focused on the life of Corman and only takes an in depth look at a handful of films.

  3. Really great review, am bit disappointed that it didn't provide the filmic shopping list that Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens provided. It would have been nice to get to know Corman more rather than the Corman that Corman projects.

  4. I'm not sure there is another side to Corman, than the one we see here, especially as he comes across like such a genuine kind of guy. What is especially frustrating is that certain directors and actors are plugged as appearing, such a Quentin Tarantino, but merely appear for all of five seconds, which is a shame we get Eli Roth doing giving his opinion frequently, but none of the usual rabid Tarantino observations.


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