Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)
Corman’s World (USA) (doc) Directed by Alex Stapleton
There has never been anyone quite like writer/director/producer Roger Corman. The sheer number of people who worked for him and went on to enjoy historic Hollywood careers is enough to solidify his legacy in an industry/town that historically had little to no use for his talents. The list of those employed by Corman at one point, and in one capacity, or another, includes Francis Ford Coppola; Peter Bogdonavich; David Carradine; Martin Scorcese; Joe Dante; James Cameron; Dennis Hopper; Talia Shire; Ray Milland; Basil Rathbone; Nicholas Roeg; Barbara Hershey; Peter Lorre; Vincent Price; Curtis Hanson; John Sayles; Robert Towne; Bruce Dern; Monte Hellman; Polly Platt; Pam Grier; Peter Fonda; Jonathan Demme; Ron Howard; and Jack Nicholson. Many of these same people appear in the film, giving testimony to Corman’s legendary iconographic status; his proper demeanor (he was educated at Stanford and Oxford); business savvy; and extreme frugality. What is perhaps the most illuminating aspect of the film is the way in which it makes a case for how Corman’s B films and philosophy of feeding the masses eventually translated into movies like Jaws and Star Wars and an entirely new era of blockbusters originating from low grade sources. Corman actually had a golden opportunity to begin doing bigger and better films in the late sixties when he brought Easy Rider to his longtime partners, American International Pictures, but an insult levied at Dennis Hopper led to the film being set up elsewhere, and Corman and partners subsequently lost millions. Corman the man is an interesting study because his persona is so unlike what one might expect from the pre-eminent schlock-meister of the past fifty plus years. Even people who obviously have great affection for him talk about how they were essentially exploited for little to no pay, though for the most part they also concede to entering into the bargain knowingly, attending what is referred to as “the school of Corman.” Jack Nicholson is perhaps the most eloquent and candid of the interview subjects in discussing his longtime friend, detailing how Corman was basically the only one who would hire him for a decade. Although Corman made but a few select films that stand up today quality-wise, he did distribute some excellent foreigns from some of the greatest directors in history, an interesting footnote in a legacy as layered with irony as the man himself.