Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel
Roger Corman is a force of nature. In a career spanning almost sixty years as producer and director, he has somehow endured while many more respected Hollywood figures have crashed and burned. He has done it, of course, by providing the drive-in and third-rate-theater-going public the schlock they have always craved. Hell, I saw most of his output from the fifties and early sixties, many of them at the dusk-to-dawn five-feature weekends at the Don drive-in theater in Port Arthur, Texas. We’d fill up the car with four of us, bring our own popcorn, and laugh ourselves sick at the Edgar Allen Poe movies, and the beach blanket stuff.
Corman from time to time tried to make a “quality” movie, and pretty much fell on his face. Exception: Little Shop of Horrors, which was made in two days with a budget of around $1.98. His real value to the movies, though, was as an informal apprenticeship program for some of the best actors and directors and writers working to this day. So many people worked for him, for very little money, that it’s no use trying to list them all, but Jack Nicholson is the one who really comes to mind. For ten years, he says (Jack is one of a few dozen people interviewed here, and every one of them loves him) Corman gave him steady work, kept him from starving, until his star rose with Easy Rider. Nicholson actually breaks down in tears when he talks about this.
This movie never pretends that Corman was anything but a schlock-meister, and loves him because of that, not in spite of it. As do I. The climax of his story, which covers pretty much everything he did (and the man has been involved in well over three hundred movies) is the presentation in 2010 of the Life Achievement Award by the Academy, which finally seems to have realized that Hollywood would be a very different place without him. Thanks for all the wonderful drive-in nights with my homeboys, Roger, and may you continue to grind out direct-to-DVD features for many more years.