Thursday, 8 March 2012

REVIEW - Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Roger Corman, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson
Written by Alex Stapleton & Gregory Locklear
Certification UK 15 US R
Runtime 101 minutes
Directed by Alex Stapleton

Like me, Roger Corman is a name you will probably be familiar with but may not know the full extent of the effect he had on modern cinema making and possibly the film industry as a whole.  I knew he was behind films I grew up with such as Piranha, The Masque of the Red Death, Watchers, Death Race 2000 and the all time classic Munchies (no I didn’t think you’d heard of it) but I did not know he was behind the camera on 56 titles and produced or executive produced 399.  To say the man was prolific is an understatement.

However the films were not of a high quality, even to the point of one being made (The Terror) just because he had a set spare until another film went into production.  The result was a mess to the point even its star, Jack Nicholson, had no idea what was going on.  Corman revels in low budget, exploitation flicks that always seemed to find an audience.  Only one of Corman’s films failed to make its money back, 1962’s The Intruder.  Sadly this was his one attempt at making a meaningful film which touted an anti racism message.  It was a brave film for its time and as such failed to connect with a wider audience, sending Corman back to his schlock.  Who knows what might have happened had this film been box office gold.

The documentary brilliantly takes us through Corman’s body of work with interviews from some of today’s biggest players in Hollywood that got their start thanks to Corman.  Faces such as Nicholson, Scorsese, Ron Howard, William Shatner (star of The Intruder), Joe Dante and, inexplicably, Paul W.S. Anderson (an unwelcome and entirely unrequired addition).  It recounts his stories of the hows and whys he did the pictures he did.  It details how his influence on the 70’s New Wave brought about the likes of Easy Rider, Jaws and Star Wars and also how these films changed the way Corman felt about the industry.  The list of faces you’ll recognise who owe their start to Corman is too long to mention here but it is impressive.

The letdown of this was that it felt a bit too much like a Biography Channel biopic, just much better.  Sadly a few of the talking heads such as Irvin Kershner, Polly Platt and David Carrodine have died since filming their parts and will never get to see this love letter to someone they obviously feel indebted to either directly or indirectly and, as with everyone on show, harbor a vast respect for. 

If you’re interested in the life and times of those that influenced the movies you watch today then this a must see. For anyone else I don’t think this will give too much satisfaction, which is a shame as people should know the name Roger Corman.


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