Directed by: Alex Stapleton
Interviews with: Peter Bogdanovich, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda, Ron Howard, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese and many more
Roger Corman is known as King of the B’s. He’s built a reputation producing an unbelievable number of extremely low budget films that always make money. Along the way almost by accident, or as Jack Nicholson put it “by mistake he actually made a good picture once in a while”, he’s managed to make a few cult classics. But Corman’s World is not about the movies, its about the legacy.
While you can’t make a doc about Roger Corman without delving into movies like Intruder, The Wild Angels, The Trip, Death Race 2000 or Rock ‘n’ Roll High School that’s not the focus of this doc. Corman’s World concentrates on Roger’s immense impact on Hollywood. Along the way he has given half of Hollywood their start in the business. Francis Ford Coppola , Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, John Sayles and Joe Dante, to name just a few, all got their start with Corman. . If the sheer number of careers he’s started isn’t amazing what is astounding is that they all like him and thank him while in the same breath fondly remember the man pushing them to their limits. Perhaps even more important than who he worked with is how he worked. Corman has nearly always done it on his own. Corman’s World makes it plain that the few times Corman was tempted into working with bigger production companies there has always been something that drives him back out to just working for himself.
The doc is roughly chronological. It starts with the beginning of Corman’s career and culminates with him accepting a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. Corman stared at the bottom, in the mail room at 20th Century Fox he worked his way up to reader and after plowing through mountains of sub mediocre material he finally found a script that he thought deserved attention. So he forwarded the script along with his notes up the chain and Fox eventually came out with The Gunfighter. Corman became upset that he received no recognition for his contributions so he left. He decided he was going to make his own movies and amazingly enough he did.
Since he was financing the first films with his own money or what ever he could borrow from friends and family the budget was low. On top of this Corman had never directed, but he got the hang fast. His second film The Fast and the Furious is entirely watchable and he got better. Corman knew the trick to making low budget films was in the cash flow so he arranged his deals so that he got paid for a film as soon as he finished it. This left him free to immediately roll anything left over into a new film. So Corman cut his teeth producing and directing low low budget movies. With these movies it wasn’t about the quality but the quantity. But then Corman found a book with a message that was particularly important to him. The name of the book was Intruder. It was a story about a northern agitator coming into a southern town and riling the populace up to defy court ordered integration of the local high school. This was a subject that no body wanted to finance so Corman and his brother did it themselves. Corman at one point had even morgatged his home. The film might be Corman’s best. It features a searing performance by a pre Star Trek William Shatner but like no one wanted to finance it nobody wanted to see it. Corman proudly claims it as his one financial flop.
Corman was one of the first to recognize teenagers as a distinct market and he made movies for them. Movies that showcased rebellion, independence and distrust of authority. This wave culminated in movies like The Wild Angels and The Trip which paved the way for what became known now as New Hollywood. Without Corman there likely would never have been an Easy Rider, Mean Streets, or Chinatown. Corman’s World continues discussing Corman’s career and addresses how he adapted to the birth of the summer blockbuster in the late seventies when essentially the studios started making big budget B movies and going after his audience. You hear how Corman distributed Bergman, Truffant, Fellini and Kurosawa films in the States just because he though they should reach a larger audience. The doc itself is put together pretty well, maybe it’s a little to dependent on interviews but when you’ve got this many fantastic potential interviewees how do you not take advantage of that. The composition of the interview shots are usually interesting and the old tv talkshow footage used really drives home just how long Corman has been doing his thing. This is a better than average doc and the subject matter puts it over the top.
The video is presented in widescreen, a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p. The detail is amazing, possibly too detailed. The color in some of the interviews is a little flat, but its never bad. I never noticed any aliasing or moire of any other sort of digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with English and Spanish subtitles. The audio is fine, the dialog is always clear no mean feat for a documentary assembled from a bunch of interviews filmed at different times. The doc is also blessed with a driving score that never over steps its bounds.
The Packaging and Bonus Features:
The disc comes in the standard blue tinted Blu-Ray case. The insert art is a striking collage of Corman characters and creatures and the theme is continued through to the disc menu which is a real treat, a kinetic montage of images and clips from the films that make Corman an icon. The only extra material are some extended interviews and special messages to Corman along with the ubiquitous trailer or two. The extended interviews are worth a watch but make sure you watch the special messages, they range from amusing to touching and are a great compliment to the doc.
Overall (not and average)
There are many Corman movies that I really enjoy, but even if I hated every one of them I would still find the man fascinating. Anybody that can have such a long and successful career playing on the outside and on their own is worth a little admiration and imitation.
The Movie: 8/10
The Video: 8/10
The Audio: 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (not an average) 8/10