We should all be thankful to film-maker and producer Roger Corman. If not only for deliciously camp titles such as Attack of the Crab Monsters and Man with the X-Ray Eyes, but also for kick-starting the careers of some of today’s biggest names in Hollywood. Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Sylvester Stallone, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, James Cameron, Robert De Niro, William Shatner, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese have all honed their skills in the “School of Roger Corman” and offer affectionate contributions to Abrams‘ new release, Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses – Roger Corman: King of the B-Movie.
John Landis starts things off with his introduction, leading onto what becomes an extended interview with all the major players taking us through six decades of Corman’s cut-rate cinema, stopping as we go along to focus on key films. Each contributor brings with them their own unique insight into the various techniques and cost-cutting tricks employed in their making, telling of a riotous time full of creative energy, all under Corman’s work-man like control.
Fans of the films might agree with me that his output peaked during the Edgar Allan Poe period, producing true horror classics (featuring the ever brilliant Vincent Price) such as The House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and Premature Burial. These were followed by a series of solid Hells Angels and drug fueled psychedelic films, and then the increasingly exploitative women in jail/cages/torture chambers/brothels pictures.
Once the major studios came in on the B-movie monster act with films like Jaws, the output looses its edge, resorting to knock-offs of more popular films with titles such as Star Crash and Battle Beyond the Stars cashing in on the success of Star Wars. I’ll save criticism for the latest crop of Dinocroc and Supergator style TV movies, but this book’s message is clear; that whatever the films may have lacked in quality or polish was more than made up for in opportunities for talented film-makers looking to break into the business, and without them the world be short of some the greatest moments in cinema.
The rebellious bikers of Corman’s high concept, low-budget films now wear Armani suits in the latest billion dollar super-mega-blockbusters, and reading this book you might ask where all the fun has gone, but it’s a fascinating read for cinema lovers with the added bonus of some cracking poster artwork from the likes of Reynold Brown for us illustration fans. I’m sure a more enjoyable look into the world of film-making will be hard to find, but if this leaves you hungry for more I heartily recommend the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel.