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Film Festival Today

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King Of The B Movies

Written by: FFT Webmaster | December 22nd, 2011

Legendary producer/director Roger Corman always bristled at his nickname as “king of the b movies”. He commented many times that it denigrated the films themselves and his own personal contribution to film history. The truth is, the low budget action, horror and “hippie films” with which he made his reputation in the 1960s and 1970s were not only important film expressions of their genre forms, but also could always be counted on to make a profit. Corman, a true mix of film artist and canny businessman, was one of the first film people to realize the changing youth market of the 1960s and to see how film fed the anti-establishment sentiment that would characterize the decade and, in the process, forever change Hollywood. A new documentary CORMAN’S WORLD: Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel, directed with finesse by Alex Stapleton, offers a 360 degree of the iconic filmmaker, his knack for spotting up and coming talents and to cash in on the youth craze.

It is not an exaggeration to say that such actors as Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper and James Caan would not have had long movie careers were it not for their association in their early careers with Roger Corman. The same can be said of such filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Ron Howard and Peter Bogdonavich, all of whom made their first films under the watchful (and penny pinching) eye of the low budget king. Almost all of the names listed above appear on camera in this entertaining documentary to honor and reflect on the man who gave them their start. A startling moment comes in the latter half of the film when Jack Nicholson becomes positively teary-eyed when recalling that Corman cast him continually when no one in Hollywood would return his phone calls. The recollections of the names and of Corman himself, his wife Julie and his brother Gene, takes the audience on a journey from his early days as a nonconformist in the Army and an unfortunate brief stint at a major studio before striking out on his own. The film is a worthy document that chronicles the drive-in days with the first truly independent studio American International Pictures, his transition from black-and-white cheapies to the more elaborate color Edgar Allan Poe pictures, and the discovery of new talents along the way (hungry film artists willing to work way below scale to get their first chance).

A rebel he may have been, but Corman’s world, as the filmmaker happily admits, was one wide open to seizing on newsworthy trends, as he did with the biker and drug movies of the 1960s. He also directed many of the films himself, creating an impressive resume that stands on its own and is constantly being revived and revisited by contemporary film critics and audiences. Corman literally changed the rules for Hollywood, which by the last 1970s was producing its own (albeit bigger budget) genre pictures, including such blockbusters as JAWS and STAR WARS (a trend that continues with the bloated 3D shlock pics of today). The five years director Stapleton spent on the project allowed her to not only catch up with so many famous faces, but to capture both sides of Corman himself. She’s on the scene when Corman receives his long-overdue honorary Oscar and also travels to Puerto Vallarta to show us Corman the still-working consummate producer, on the set of his Syfy original movie DINOSHARK. The films he was associated may be called shlock or “b pictures”, but there is nothing second-rate about Roger Corman. For more information on the film, visit: http://www.cormansworld.com/

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