Director: Alex Stapleton
Written by: Alex Stapleton
Starring: Peter Bogdanovich, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, Jack Nicholson, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, William Shatner, Peter Fonda, Pam Grier
Producers: Mickey Barold, Stone Douglass, Izabela Frank, Jeff Frey & Alex Stapleton
Running Time: 95 min
BBFC Certificate: 15
Taking the lead from recent B-movie documentaries Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed, Corman’s World takes a look at the grandaddy of American B-movies, Roger Corman. The film looks at his work (largely through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s), and discusses the inspiration and career launches he gave to countless actors and filmmakers.
Say what you will of the films he made, but Roger Corman was truly a master producer. If this documentary is correct, the man never (other than on one occasion) lost any money on a film and (according to the IMDB) he has produced over 400 of them. He made genre films that he knew people wanted to see and he made them as cheaply as humanly possible. Starting off his career making monster movies in the 50’s, then moving on to teenage rebellion as the rock and roll era took over, spearheading the exploitation boom in the 70’s and making the most of the ‘direct-to-video/DVD’ market that began in the 80’s, Corman was always clued up as to what the average Joe would want to see. From watching the documentary and gaining more of an insight into his actual taste in films (he played a vital role in distributing the work of Bergman, Fellini and other major overseas directors to America), you get the impression that Corman was ever the businessman and rarely the ‘artist’ in terms of the work he produced himself.
Nonetheless, this documentary quite clearly demonstrates how valuable an asset Corman was to American cinema, despite his tendency towards making low-grade genre films. Yes he was responsible for a handful of cult-favourites such as the Edgar Allen Poe adaptations he directed in the 60’s and he developed a knack for adding subtext to films that appeared dumb on the surface, but these are traits many writers and directors can lay claim to.
To realise Corman’s importance, you only need to look at the list of people appearing in the film as interviewees. To name a few: Peter Bogdanovich, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, Jack Nicholson, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, John Sayles, Dick Miller, William Shatner, Peter Fonda, Pam Grier, Quentin Tarantino. And no, these aren’t just celebs who have been bribed to kiss the arse of somebody they’ve barely heard of. With the exception of Quentin Tarantino (who is just there to kiss arse), all of those listed (and many more) got their big breaks starring in or making films for Corman. It’s insane how many heavy hitters first cut their teeth in his B-Movies in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s a tribute to the man just how many of them openly came forward to praise him in the documentary. Nicholson, usually full of quips and snide remarks, actually breaks down into tears towards the end which is genuinely touching to see. He and Dick Miller are the most valuable assets to the documentary as both starred in dozens of Corman’s films back in the early days. He basically pay-rolled them for years as they found their footing in the industry and they are clearly grateful for it.
These enjoyably anecdotal and occasionally heartfelt interviews from such distinguished filmmakers, when mixed with plenty of wonderfully silly clips from the man’s films make Corman’s World an absolute pleasure to watch, especially to a B-movie lover such as myself. Adding to the talking heads and clips are welcome segments looking at Corman at work on Dinoshark back in 2010 (he’s still busy on project after project) and his final acceptance by the Hollywood mainstream with his honorary Oscar in 2009. This gives the film a nice climax (after ignoring his work from the 80’s and 90’s, which is probably for the best) and adds an extra air of poignancy to proceedings.
It’s not an especially groundbreaking work – it’s mainly just talking heads and clips, and is pretty much a big love-in rather than an analysis of Corman’s work. There’s nothing deep or heavy on show, but it’s snappy, highly entertaining and illuminating enough to be well worth recommending.
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel is released on Blu-Ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment on 26th March. I reviewed the DVD version and the picture quality and audio was solid, not that this is the sort of thing you need a crystal clear image or ground shaking sound setup for, but the old clips are fairly well presented and the interviews come through nice and clear. There were no special features on my screener and I can’t see any advertised although I’ve seen another review of the film that describes some deleted scenes that are supposed to be a welcome bonus.