Directed by Alex Stapleton, this documentary celebrates the career and legacy of Roger Corman. It features clips from various Corman films, interviews with major Hollywood players whose careers he launched, and interviews with Corman and his associates. The documentary is now available for purchase on Blue Ray and DVD and for rental on Netflix.
Roger Corman’s film career was astoundingly productive. Credited for producing 385 films, Corman began his film career working as a story analyst for 20th Century Fox. He left when Fox used some of his ideas without crediting him and began producing films on his own, creating his first film Monster from the Ocean Floor in 1954. He then joined Nicholson and Arkoff of American International Pictures, where he continued to direct and produce films. Having never gone to film school, Corman learned the art of film-making through direct experience.
In the 1960′s, Corman produced and directed his critically acclaimed Poe Movies, a series of 6 films based on Edgar Allen Poe’s horror stories. Having successfully diverged from his more lighthearted films, Corman experimented with daring social commentary in his film The Intruder, which deals with integration in the South. Though a great artistic achievement, The Intruder was a commercial failure whose polarizing portrayal of racism alienated many movie goers.
Corman’s experience with The Intruder reinforced his intuition that “the public really is the ultimate arbiter of your film.” He learned to choose topics with commercial appeal, and went on to make a series of hugely successful films that featured popular topics while dealing with deeper social issues in the subtext.
Corman developed a distinctive style that was action-packed, rebellious, and humorous, all within the constraints of the low budget film. Indeed, he embraced the limitations of working on a low budget, which allowed for the spontaneity and camp his audiences have grown to love and expect.
With the release of higher budget films like Jaws and Star Wars that borrowed from Corman’s style, the public began to expect a different kind of movie, one that cost up to $40 million to produce. As the heyday of the low budget drive-in film drew to a close, Corman changed with the times, producing films directly for television or purchase.
This documentary poignantly chronicles the dwindling of Corman’s place in Hollywood while celebrating his continued impact not only through his current productions but through the careers of his proteges and his enduring influence on Hollywood’s cinematic style. Stapleton features interviews from several of the writers, directors, and actors Corman mentored, most notably Martin Scorcese, Ron Howard, and Jack Nicholson. In a particularly touching scene, Jack Nicholson tearfully expresses his gratitude for the instrumental role Roger Corman played in launching his career.
The film closes with footage of Roger Corman accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Oscar Governor’s Awards. He ends his acceptance speech with an encapsulation of the secret behind his cinematic success: “Keep gambling. Keep taking chances.”