God bless Roger Corman. A legend in Hollywood among producers, he’s supposedly never lost money on a movie. But his reputation goes beyond not being a loser. He’s also known as a giver of opportunity and mentorship to notable filmmakers. Scorsese, Bogdanovich, Coppola, and even Ron Howard cut their teeth as directors working for Corman – who’s been producing low-budget pictures since the 50’s. And is still making movies to this day.
Indeed, Roger Corman has been giving people plenty to talk about for decades – and not just after catching one of his productions at the drive-in or on late night TV. Ask anyone in the movie industry about Corman and you’re sure to get a reaction – one that will be in the context of awe, admiration, and respect almost every time. Because in a business in which you get work in proportion to your prestige and success, Corman has been making B movies non-stop ever since he got started over 5 decades ago. They’re not blockbusters. They’re not artsy. There are no big studios behind them. They’re cheap movies in almost every sense of the word, but Corman gets them made. And in Hollywood, believe it or not, that is truly a remarkable achievement for any producer, big time or not.
Fittingly, a new documentary – opening December 16 in selected markets – looks back and celebrates Roger Corman’s ouvre through the decades: Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, featuring interviews with many well known moviemakers and stars who got their start with Mr. Corman.
And because one cinematic tribute to B-movies isn’t enough, next year we can expect Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films. If you were renting VHS titles in the 80’s you probably saw a good bunch of Cannon productions. Or you might have even seen them in the theater: Missing In Action, Delta Force, and Breaking are only some of the dozens of movies Corman apprentice Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus released through their Cannon Films shingle in the early 80’s.
Life is too short to watch bad movies, but growing up we all go through that stage in which our tastes are – shall we say – not as refined as they will eventually become. It is those young audiences for the most part who paid for tickets at the drive-in and the grindhouse to see Corman movies; who lined up at the multiplex outside the mall to see a Cannon picture – or rented it at the video store. As such, these less prestigious titles fill a role in our culture, whether we like it or not. A role that – sadly – the big Hollywood studio movies often fill today, with their constant focus on big-budget exploitation pictures. There was a time when it took a Corman or a Golan to make those bubblegum movies. Sadly, those days are gone. The two documentaries above are not merely film buff fare; but reminders of a glory the mainstream movie industry once possessed and should seek to recapture.
UPDATE: Speaking of…