Corman’s World: Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel Review: Monster Monster!
If you were to ask the average movie-goer who Roger Corman is, you’d more than likely be met with blank-eyed incomprehension. That’s a real shame as not only is he a great risk taker who would do anything to get a film made but he also gave some of Hollywood’s brightest stars their first starts.
Corman’s World is a long-overdue documentary which charts his life from his very first job as a script reader for Fox, to director, producer and eventually the set of his 390th film as producer: Dinoshark. There’s very little here that won’t raise a smile, from his urbanely genial optimism to some excellent footage of early low-budget creature features, teenage biker movies and 1970s exploitation flicks along with some truly impressive talking heads.
Although Corman is frequently derisively called The King Of The B’s and has produced more schlocky crap than most audiences will ever see, people are often mistaken in thinking that he doesn’t care about the films he makes. Through some frank interviews with Corman himself, we learn that that’s not the case with expected clips from Attack Of The Crab Monsters but also his more critically acclaimed films including a whole series of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations and the largely forgotten but brave race-hate drama The Intruder, which gave William Shatner his first starring role.
And curiously, though he was often in the business of cheap thrills, his personal tastes leant towards arthouse – giving US audience’s their first exposure to foreign masters such as Fellini and Bergman.
First-time filmmaker Alex Stapleton has rounded up an impressive array of talking heads, including luminaries like Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, David Carradine, Pam Grier, Peter Fonda, Joe Dante and Bruce Dern – all of whom were given their first starts by Corman.
Scorsese and Nicholson are the most entertaining – the former with his idiosyncratic clipped observations and the latter who recalls with great humour some of the terrible films he made in his early career with Corman. There’s also a particularly moving moment when Nicholson breaks down in tears while trying to express the depth of his emotion for the great man.
But more than his irrepressible enthusiasm and affable temperament, Corman’s World captures his knack for not only recognising new talent but also an uncanny eye for giving an audience what it wants. It also importantly addresses why Corman never quite made it big while the stars he discovered did – the arrival of Star Wars and Jaws in the late 70s meant that for the first time, big budgets were being put into the kinds of films that he’d always made.
It’s a wonderful celebration of his life which is constantly charming, frequently funny and will hopefully shine a spotlight on a frequently overlooked and important film maker.