Roger Corman, long known as "the king of the B's," for hundreds of shlocky movies that he produced and/or directed, and which filled drive-ins and grind houses for decades, was noted for the many people who got their start with him and went on to fame and fortune. Of course, they were young and eager and willing to work for peanuts, so most of the fortune went to Corman.
"Corman's World," opening today, is a gaudy thank-you card from writer-director Alex Stapleton and lots of big-name Hollywood types. It's an okay thing, too, now, since Corman won an honorary Oscar and has been patted on the head by the Hollywood establishment.
In truth, Corman gave opportunity to dozens of actors, writers and directors, and they remember him fondly. Among the many who express gratitude to Corman are Jack Nicholson, who breaks down at one point, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Pam Grier, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern, Vincent Price, Peter Fonda, George Hickenlooper and Ron Howard. And a young William Shatner. They are unanimous in their memories of how Corman left them alone to make mistakes, but also to grow.
Corman's early films, many based on poems and stories by Edgar Allen Poe or Edfgar ice Burroughs, used gallons of fake blood, its foamy streams covering the terrible construction flaws and limited believability of his props. Screaming, barely clad, bosomy young women were front and center in almost every shot, and his films show the change in what -- and how much -- skin could be seen on screen. Movies like "Cry Baby Killer," "The Trip" and "Wild Angels," which were box office hits for Corman and his company, AIP (American International Pictures), were remade a few years later by major studios with major stars. They became box office hits for another generation of studios and producers.
Corman began in 1954 with "Monster From the Ocean Floor," which presaged "Jaws," and his version of "Little Shop of Horrors" was a two-day shoot. "Wild Angels" set the stage for "The Wild Bunch." Corman also made movies that tackled sensitive subhjects, like "The Intruder," which dealt with racial segregation in schools.
But Disney and Pixar, Spielberg and Lucas brought forth a new generation of films in which special effects were huge, as were casts. People liked them when Corman was the producer. They liked them better when the big studios, and lots of cash, got behind them.
Stapleton obviously is a fan, but so are lots of other people, and the tribute to Corman is an excellent film, and a fine history lesson, too.
Corman's World plays tonight through Sunday, at 7:30, in the Winifred Moore Auditorium of Webster University as part of the Webster University Film Series