Roger William Corman (born April 5 1926), sometimes nicknamed "King of the Bs" for his output of B-movies (though he himself rejects this appellation as inaccurate), is a prolific American producer and director of low-budget movies, many of which are among the most influential movies made. He has apprenticed many now-famous directors, stressing the importance of budgeting and resourcefulness; Corman once joked he could make a film about the Fall of the Roman Empire with two extras and a sage bush.
Corman was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Anne and William Corman, an engineer. He received an Industrial engineering degree from Stanford University. He began his career in 1953 as a producer and screenwriter, and began directing in 1955.
Until his so-called "retirement" as a director in 1971 (he continued to produce films even after this date) he would produce up to seven movies a year. His fastest film was perhaps The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), which was reputedly shot in two days and one night. Supposedly, he had made a bet that he could shoot an entire feature film in less than three days. Another version of the story claims that he had a set rented for a month, and finished using it with three days to spare, thus pushing him to use the set to make a new film. These claims are disputed by others who worked on the film, who have called it part of Corman's own myth-building.
Corman is probably best known for his filmings of various Edgar Allan Poe stories at American International Pictures, mostly in collaboration with Richard Matheson as screenplay writer including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962) The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). All but Premature Burial starred Vincent Price. After the film version of the Raven was completed, he reportedly realized he still had some shooting days left before the sets were torn down and so made another film, The Terror (1963) on the spot with the remaining cast, crew and sets.
He also directed one of William Shatner early films, The Intruder (1962). Based on a novel by Charles Beaumont, the film, made for approximately USD $80,000, has become famous for its treatment of segregation and Civil rights.
In 1970, Corman founded New World Pictures which became a small independently owned production/distribution studio, releasing many cult films such Death Race 2000 and the Joe Dante film Piranha (1978). Corman eventually sold New World to an investment group in 1983, and later formed Concorde Pictures and later New Horizons.
Corman did return to the director's chair once after 1971 with Frankenstein Unbound (1990), although this was poorly received. In all, Roger Corman has produced over 300 movies and directed over 50.
A number of noted film directors have worked with Corman, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, Gale Anne Hurd, Carl Colpaert, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Monte Hellman, Paul Bartel, George Armitage, Jonathan Kaplan, and Jack Hill. Many have said that Corman's influence taught them some of the ins and outs of filmmaking. In the extras for the DVD of The Terminator, director James Cameron refers to his work for Corman as, "I trained at the Roger Corman Film School." The British director Nicolas Roeg served as the Cinematographer on The Masque of the Red Death. Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald (actor), Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, and Robert De Niro.
Many of Corman's proteges have rewarded him with cameos in their works. Hence he had cameo performances in such acclaimed films as The Godfather Part II, The Silence of the Lambs (film), and Apollo 13 (film).
His autobiography, titled How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (ISBN 0-306-80874-9), documents his experiences in the film industry. In 2000, Corman was featured alongside cult filmmakers Harry Novak, Doris Wishman, David F. Friedman and former collaborators, including Sam Arkoff, Dick Miller and Peter Bogdanovich in the documentary SCHLOCK! The Secret History of American Movies, a film about the rise and fall of American exploitation cinema.
Corman was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2005 New York City Horror Film Festival. Corman was the fourth recipient, joining George A. Romero, Tom Savini and Tobe Hooper (who had previously received the award).
"The Corman Film School"Edit
A number of important and influential filmmakers and actors had their first big break with Roger Corman. The following list is limited to Oscar winners.
- Francis Ford Coppola — directed Corman's Dementia 13. Oscar winner for The Godfather Part II
- Jack Nicholson - acted in four Corman-financed movies The Cry Baby Killer, The Little Shop Of Horrors, Ride the Whirlwind and The Shooting. One of his first roles was a bit part in Corman's The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (film). Nicholson also had roles in two other Roger Corman films, The Raven (1963 film) and The Terror (1963 film). Corman allowed Nicholson to direct The Terror on the final two days of filming.
- James Cameron — Oscar winner for Titanic, also made Aliens (film), The Terminator, and Terminator 2
- Jonathan Demme — wrote and directed Corman's Caged Heat (aka Renegade Girls). Oscar winner for The Silence of the Lambs (film)
- Ron Howard — acted in Corman's 1976 film "Eat My Dust", directed Corman's Grand Theft Auto (film). Oscar winner for A Beautiful Mind (film)
- Martin Scorsese — directed Corman's Boxcar Bertha. Oscar winner for The Departed
Other major directors from the Corman school have included Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante, Jonathan Kaplan, and John Sayles.
Partial filmography (as Director)Edit
- Five Guns West (1955)
- Swamp Women (1955)
- It Conquered the World (1956)
- Not of This Earth (1957 film) (1957)
- Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
- The Undead (1957)
- The Wasp Woman (1959)
- A Bucket of Blood (1959)
- House of Usher (film) (1960)
- The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
- The Last Woman on Earth (1960)
- Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)
- The Pit and the Pendulum (1961 film) (1961)
- Premature Burial (1961)
- The Intruder (1962 film) (1962)
- Tales of Terror (1962)
- X (1963) (also known as X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes)
- The Raven (1963 film) (1963)
- The Terror (1963 film) (1963)
- The Masque of the Red Death (film) (1964)
- The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)
- The Wild Angels (1966)
- The Trip (1967)
- Bloody Mama (1970)
- Gas-s-s-s (1971)
- Von Richthofen and Brown (1971)
- Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
- Roger Corman bibliography (via UC Berkeley)
- Roger Corman at Senses of Cinema
- Download: Creatures From The Haunted Sea from Archive.org
- Download: She Gods Of Shark Reef from Archive.org
- Roger Corman 1974 Interview
- New Horizons company website
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