out of Five
Running time: 95
Thoroughly entertaining documentary that takes a comprehensive look at the extraordinary career of legendary writer-director-producer Roger Corman, told through the contributions of a dazzling array of talking heads.
What's it all about?
Directed by first-time filmmaker Alex Stapleton, Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel puts writer, director and producer Roger Corman under the lens, examining his life from his first job as a script reader for Fox, to the set of DinoShark, his current monster movie for the Sci-Fi channel and his 390th film as producer.
Corman's career is endlessly fascinating, whether it's churning out cheapo creature features, teenage rebel flicks, biker pics and druggie dramas in the 50s and 60s, or embracing the ratings system to make proper full-on exploitation features in the 70s (usually women-in-prison movies and schlocky horror pics). There are also his more critically acclaimed works such as the Edgar Allen Poe horror movies he made with Vincent Price or the little-seen race hatred masterpiece The Intruder, which gave William Shatner his first starring role. On top of that, Corman also moved into distribution of acclaimed arthouse films, giving wide US releases to films by the likes of Bergman and Fellini.
As well as frequent contributions from Corman himself, the film is narrated by a dazzling array of talking heads that includes Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern, Pam Grier, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme and Ron Howard, all of whom began their careers on one of Corman's films. Nicholson is particularly entertaining as he recalls that no-one else would give him a job back then and chuckles when he recalls the sheer awfulness of some of his early films; he also provides a genuinely moving moment towards the end of the film when he bursts into affectionate tears while trying to articulate his love for Corman.
The talking head segments are interspersed with an array of extremely entertaining clips, expertly edited to illustrate on-screen comments and often with tongue firmly in cheek, such as when Joe Dante notes that scripts would often come back with notes saying “Opportunity for nudity here?” and Stapleton cuts to a montage of boob shots.
One of the things that emerges from the various anecdotes is Corman's extraordinary ability to read and understand the marketplace (e.g. spotting the appetite for teenage/biker pictures). However, this ability also meant that Corman immediately realised that the success of films like Jaws and Star Wars in the 1970s would have a detrimental effect on his big screen career, because it meant that studios were throwing bigger budgets at the sort of films he'd always specialised in.
Corman’s World: The Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel is a hugely enjoyable a frequently funny documentary that will hopefully have you seeking out Corman's back catalogue. Highly recommended.
Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (15)