Corman's World - Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel: BD Review
by Jim M. Howard, Jr.
Mar 12th, 2012
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Hollywood's ultimate B-movie mogul gets his own star-studded career retrospective documentary....
Anchor Bay / 95 Minutes / 2011 / Rated R / Street Date: March 27, 2012
Witness a star-studded tribute to Roger Corman, Hollywood's long-time writer-director producer, and seminal influencing force in modern moviemaking over the last 60 years. Featuring interviews with Hollywood icons and cinematic luminaries, some who launched their careers within Corman's unforgettable world of filmmaking, including, Paul W.S. Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert De Niro, Peter Fonda, Pam Grier, Ron Howard, Eli Roth, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, William Shatner and many others, this documentary chronicles how Corman created his cult film empire, one low-budget success at a time, capitalizing on undiscovered talent, and pushing the boundaries of independent and gorilla filmmaking.
Corman’s exploitation movies hearken back to Attack of the Crab Monsters, Rock All Night, and The Undead, as well as more memorable offerings like The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, The Wild Angels (his 100th film - made before Easy Rider),The Trip, 1978’s Piranha. And more recently, a producer of Jason Statham’s 2008’s Deathrace, and more schlocktastic fare like 2010’s Dinoshark.
With over 260 film credits to his name, about twenty minutes into watching this documentary, it’s very clear that Corman loves the game of making films from start to finish; his wife even mentions this later. And the primary, but not perfect, prize of the game is to have a film net some type profit. How the hell that happens is secondary.
Nevertheless, Corman won’t deny that criticism hurts his feelings, and he would certainly like recognition and respect. But film as art….well, for the most part (save for The Intruder, etc), art takes a backseat to profit. No matter what anyone says, film profit legitimizes Corman - some may argue my point, but that was certainly my understanding of Corman’s perspective. Fair enough. But don’t forget, Corman adores his modus operandi.
Corman knows the beginning, middle and end of production and distribution – and it’s all just exciting to the man. He loves the process, the newness of another project, launching careers, being involved in the movie industry. Generously mentoring creative people balanced with staying on task – in his interviews, one can clearly see that it electrifies him and drives him on. And Corman is actually well-poised, well-spoken and he enjoys the attention in his interviews. But keen ambition remains in his eyes.
However, Corman notes that these days, the filming and production of films is far easier with digital gear (no surprise there). But theatrical distribution is much more difficult for independents to penetrate vs. the grip of high profile studios such as Paramount, Warner Brothers, Universal, etc. This may be why many of his recent films go directly to TV.
Among his addiction to making films, Corman has indelibly helped other filmmakers and actors in Hollywood, many of whom remain endearingly thankful. Corman is also famous for launching Jack Nicholson’s acting career. And in fact, recent interviews (near the end) show Nicholson break down and cry about how Corman was his “lifeblood” as a struggling actor.
Young and rather beautiful (Pam Grier-like) Alex Stapleton directs this tribute. Interviews and film footage from different years are spliced into the proceedings. Within this understandable structure, perhaps my biggest complaint would be that I happen to be a guy who likes to know the dates, especially in regards to the 60 years' worth of interview material here. Oh well.
Stapleton often likes to interview people in wacky-tacky décor. A bizarre plant, an obnoxious painting or crazy-stupid art behind the subject at their own home or office makes you scratch your head. And Stapleton sometimes forgoes flattering compositions to make sure she includes all the oddball-ness of the subject’s décor within frame – it’s great!
Corman’s activities in the 1980s and 1990s are nearly ignored here, but I gather that Stapleton found the first decades of Corman rise in films to be the most important. Otherwise, this could have easily been a three-hour documentary. An arduous five years in the making doc (mostly to coordinate the A-list interviews), I also appreciated how Stapleton ended her film with a poignant recognition segment for Corman, not to be missed. Likewise, and especially for anyone interested in filmmaking, this terrific documentary is not to be missed.