Sunday, November 13, 2011

Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Film: Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel [2011, usa]
Where I saw it: Los Angeles @ LACMA
Who with: SJ
In appearance: Roger Corman, Julie Corman, Alex Stapleton, Elvis Mitchell
Rating: ****

In a few days I write about Blood Beach in a "Los Angeles Cinema" post and will talk about how B films from my youth were so comforting and fun for me to watch. Well, Roger Corman is the undisputed king of the B film in modern cinema [although, he doesn't really want that title]. While Corman has made a long career out of B movies [and you can even go down a letter or two with some of the budgets he's dealt with], he's also been involved in the early development of some of the most important names in film over the past few decades by giving them chances to make movies before anyone else will. Do the names Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, John Sayles and Martin Scorsese mean anything to you? All of them were given film projects of varying budgets very, very early in their careers. Corman's involvement with young filmmakers has been dubbed the "Corman Film School" because so many people have worked with Corman.

Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel is a new documentary that chronicles Corman's career and legacy in his six decades in the movie business. Corman has been involved in so many films it is hard to keep track of the number. It is roughly 400 movies as director and producer with a couple of my favorites, Cockfighter [1974] and Death Race 2000 from 1975. Pretty much everything Corman has ever been involved in has involved sensationalist titles, lurid posters and adult subject matter. Corman films aren't subtle, that's for sure. They are marketed to a particular kind of film fan that wants sex, violence, revenge, murder and monsters--often all in the same film!

The documentary has most of the previously mentioned names as well as Corman fans and friends such as Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Eli Roth and others as they recount what it was like to work on the Corman set. The early portions of Corman's World is pure fun, as we get a crash course in what it was like to make no-budget movies in the 1950s and 1960s. It looked like so much fun. The film moves into the 1970s when Corman's company, New World, unleashed primal exploitation cinema into the grindhouse and drive-in. Wow, a lot of those 1970s films I missed, but really need to watch now. Check out the trailer for 1972's The Hot Box to see what I'm talking about. This film has sex, lots of nudity, violence, shootouts, romance, revenge, torture, rape, and who knows what else, all in the trailer!

What's surprising about Corman is just how nice and professorial he comes across when he's talking about his films and life. He seems like the perfect gentleman, but he did produce some intense stuff over the years, so there must be a darker demon lurking beneath the surface. There's a rawness to the 1970s exploitation films that will never be re-created. Never. These filmmakers pushed the boundaries of the amount of sex, violence and cinematic mayhem they could film. In these years before mass-produced pornography, exploitation films titillated audiences who were interested in entertainment from the margins of society. Corman's New World was one of the key pervaders of this kind of cinema and Corman's World is the extremely entertaining documentary that looks at his career and legacy.

***Left to right: Roger Corman, Alex Stapleton, Julie Corman, Elvis Mitchell; Los Angeles, California @ LACMA; November 2011***

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