C is for Roger Corman!
This is another choice for this blogfest where we're only going to be able to scratch the surface - as our subject has been going strong since the 1950's and has had a hand in literally hundreds of motion pictures. He's been the subject of several books - but I'm hoping this post will serve to spark interest in the man - further research will yield bountiful information. I'll recommend the best two books later in the post - there you will find the life story and early years of Roger Corman.
Here today we're going to look at his incredible career in filmmaking...
Roger Corman produced his first movie in 1954. It was a police drama. But his second movie was a creature feature - Monster from the Ocean Floor. After that he started directing as well as producing, most often for American International Pictures. For the next 14 or so years Corman worked for Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson. They were maverick showmen - with one of their tried and true formulas to create a title and poster, then have the script written and the film actually made! Corman proved one of their favorite directors because he could shoot an entire feature film on a 5 day schedule for them and bring it in on time and under budget. Later he convinced Arkoff and Nicholson to combine the shooting schedules and budgets from two of the super-low budget flicks - instead of 5 days and $100,000 - give him 10 days and $200,000 and see what he could turn out for them in color. The result was House of Usher - and it...er...ushered in the Poe cycle - several films made in the early to mid 60's with more production value, color widescreen cinematography - and most usually Vincent Price in the lead. Corman never looked back.
|Roger Corman and frequent star Vincent Price between setups for one of several Edgar Allan Poe movies they made.|
After a falling out with AIP over their interference in the editing of a film he'd directed for them, Roger Corman went independent, and directed a couple of studio pictures. But big studio wastefulness (as he saw it) was not to Corman's liking, so in the early 70's he started his own production and distribution company, New World Pictures and so began the second wave of his career.
|Roger Corman uses the director's talent for gesturing on the set of Von Richthofen and Brown (1971).|
During this period he produced scads of movies like Big Bad Mama, Candy Stripe Nurses, Caged Heat, Death Race 2000, Piranha, Humanoids from the Deep, Rock 'n' Roll High School, and Battle Beyond the Stars. Exploitation at its finest - nudity, violence, monsters, babes - all hewn from a rock solid formula that actually had a nugget of message in its core.
|Sporting a cookie duster as he eyes the scene.|
At the same time that New World movies were burning up drive-in screens all over the country, Corman started importing important foreign films from directors like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Francois Truffault, and Federico Fellini among others. These art house foreign films might not have been easily seen in America without his distribution. It was also during this time that Roger Corman gave lots of young filmmaking hopefuls a shot at making movies - and several of them have gone on to amazing careers themselves. Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, and Francis Ford Coppola are some of the many filmmakers who graduated from "Corman College." Others also started out in Corman movies - Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Sandra Bullock, and William Shatner are some of the actors who have Corman films on their resumes.
|Directing John Hurt on Frankenstein Unbound (1991)|
In the 1980's Corman sold New World Pictures and continued making exploitation movies through a succession of companies (Concorde Pictures, Millenium Pictures, New Horizons, New Concorde). This third wave of production is still going strong - with some Syuh-Fyuh channel monster movies his most recent output. In his 80's Roger Corman has become the Elder Statesman of Exploitation Filmmaking. He's truly a legend, and I'm a huge fan of his career.
If you're not familiar with Roger Corman - two books can fill in a lot of backstory for you - the first was written by a friend of this blog - Beverly Gray worked for Roger Corman off on on from the early 70's to the mid 90's. She wrote her own look at the King of Pop Cinema - here's her book's cover and a link to the Kindle ebook edition on Amazon.
|Purchase the ebook at Amazon HERE.|
And the second is Mr. Corman's own memoir:
Ms. Gray also runs a fantastic website that often touches on her former boss - Beverly in Movieland. She's also participating in this A-Z Blogging Challenge - with a theme of looking at 26 members of the Corman Universe of Filmmaking - so there's TWO reasons to go check out her awesome site!
And that will "C" us clear of this post! Let's do it again in 24 hours or so - until then, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!