Friday, 15 February 2013

Icon Of The Month: Roger Corman

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That's right, this month the 'Master of Schlock' Roger Corman, is my icon of the month.

Roger Corman was born Roger William Corman in 1926 in Detroit Michigan, the son of Anne and William Corman, an engineer. His brother, Eugene Harold "Gene" Corman, has also produced numerous films, sometimes in collaboration with Roger. Corman and his brother were baptized in their mother's Catholic faith. Corman went to Beverly Hills High School and , Since Corman's father was an engineer, it was expected of young Roger to become the same so he went to Stanford University to study industrial engineering. While at Stanford, Corman enlisted in the V-12 Navy College Training Program. After the end of World War II, Corman returned to Stanford and received a degree in industrial engineering. In 1948, he worked briefly at U.S. Electrical Motors on Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles, but his career in engineering lasted only four days; he began work on Monday and quit on Thursday, telling his boss "I've made a terrible mistake."

Corman's real passion was film - and thus he eventually got a job as messenger at 20th Century Fox and soon rose through the ranks to story analyst, the one property that he liked the most and provided ideas for was filmed as "The Gunfighter" with Gregory Peck. When Corman received no credit at all he left Fox. He figured there was more to the film business than just reading and doctoring other people's scripts, and thus he travelled to England to study a semester of 20th century English literature, then stayed in Paris for a while for inspiration, and eventually went back to the USA with a story called "The House in the Sea" which they managed to sell to Allied Artists, which made a movie out of it in 1954, called "Highway Dragnet". According to his own accounts, Corman was shattered about how Allied Artists treated his vision and he saw his career over before it has actually begun, convinced the movie was nothing but a turkey, "Highway Dragnet" did actually do decent business, and Corman was quick to realize there might be more to low budget film-making than just one man's vision, later in 1954, and using the money he got for "Highway Dragnet", he went on to produce the first low budget movie of his own.




In the 1950's, the film industry was in turmoil: With the overwhelming competition of television, the traditional family night at the movies was a thing of the past, now the family's would by and large stay home and watch TV for free - even if the production values of most early TV-shows did by no means match those of even your low budget movies. Roger Corman had learned this lesson, "Monster From The Ocean Floor" (1954) was a direct reaction to his newfound knowledge: The film dealt with a nuclear monster, had some underwater sequences and cost only $12,000 (some of his own money from the "Highway Dragnet" deal plus dough borrowed from friends and family, mainly). To keep production budget that low, Corman used every trick in the book, cut every corner there was: For one of the film's main props, a one-man-submarine, he contacted the company that built such a thing and promised them a mention in the movie's credits if he could use it for free, to save on drivers and crew, he actually drove equipment to and from the location himself, would carry cameras around and set up scenes, just to not have to pay anybody overtime, and he would keep the special effects as basic as could be. And the whole thing worked out, too, Corman could sell distribution rights for his $12,000 epic to Lippert (where his brother Gene worked at the time) for a whopping $60.000 advance. Actually, Corman had even another offer for the movie from Realart at the time, but they refused to give an advance, which was unacceptable for Corman inasmuch as he wanted to make a second film pretty much right away

Corman's next film after "Monster From The Ocean Floor" was "The Fast And The Furious" (1955), a film about an escaped convict who joins a car race to stay ahead of his captors. The production values in this one were bigger than in "Monster From The Ocean Floor" (reportedly, "The Fast And The Furious" cost $50.000), and with John Ireland and Dorothy Malone, it even featured two established actors in the lead (Ireland actually only agreed to do it for the opportunity to also try his hands on direction, which Corman happily accepted). Still, Corman tried to cut a few corners to make the film look more expensive than it actually was: He persuaded car company Jaguar to lend him the cars for free, as promotion, he shot a considerable amount of footage during official races, and he served as a stunt driver as well, since there was no way he would afford two stunt drivers. The film was the first ever film distributed by the American Releasing Corporation, a company just founded by James Nicholson and Samuel Z.Arkoff that would eventually change its name to A.I.P and become the drive-in fare production house of the 1950's. Corman claims he got distribution offers from pretty much every company there was but decided to go with American Releasing Corporation because they offered him a three picture deal - and one thing was for sure, he wanted to go on making movies, and not only that, he also wanted to move on to the director's chair.



The first film Corman produced/directed for Nicholson and Arkoff was "Five Guns West" (1955), which was actually shot in colour, followed by "Apache Woman" (1955) and "The Day The World Ended" (1955). Of the three films, "The Day The World Ended" was the most important one because this post-doomsday drama was Corman's first brush (as a director that is) with science fiction - and the post-doomsday topic is one premise that Corman would return to every now and again for the rest of his directing career, from "Last Woman On Earth" (1960) to "Gas-s-s-s! Or It Became Necessary To Destroy The World In Order To Save It" (1971) as well as in his subsequent career as a producer. Nicholson and Arkoff loved the stuff Corman had made for them, and they loved his approach to film-making, he was a craftsman who was keen on finishing his films on budget and on time (if not even below) and whom Nicholson and Arkoff could give little more than a title or the poster art for the next movie, and he would come up with something they could distribute and make a profit of. For Nicholson and Arkoff at least, Roger Corman was the ideal drive-in director.

Of all the films Corman made in the 1950's, he is nowadays most closely associated with his science fiction flicks, and it's true, science fiction, in its various guises, was a genre Roger Corman would return to several times during the 1950's and early 60's, directing films like the alien invasion flicks "It Conquered The World" (1956) starring Peter Graves and Lee Van Cleef, "Not Of This Earth" (1957) and "War Of The Satellites" (1958), the monster movie "Attack Of The Crab Monsters" (1957) and the science shocker "The Wasp Woman" (1959). Besides those, Corman also had his hands into production of such sci-fi-schlock classics like "The Beast With A Million Eyes" (1955), "Night Of The Blood Beast" (1958), "The Brain Eaters" (1958), "Beast From Haunted Cave (1959) and "Attack Of The Giant Leeches" (1959). Especially as director, Roger Corman was responsible for what we perceive today as the inherent style of 1950's drive-in science fiction - which was of course also dictated by the low budget of these films -, including its very plain, no-nonsense, sharp directorial style, its not always convincing special effects smuggled by the audience by expert editing, its many outdoor-scenes (to save on studio costs), plus a returning stock of character actors, including Dick Miller, Jonathan Haze, Susan Cabot, Barboura Morris, Beverly Garland and Betsy Jones-Moreland - but to reduce Corman's 1950's output on science fiction alone would be dead wrong, Corman proved to be able to handle pretty much every popular genre thrown at him, and with his personal style.



Corman's weirdest film of the 1950's is without a doubt "The Undead" (1957), a film that combines horror, witchcraft and time travel motives to a story that starts in the now and ends in the Dark Ages, and that weaves sci-fi mainstays and esoteric elements into the plot. As solid and stylistically unique Roger Corman's film work was quite from the start, the 1950's can best be described as his formative years, he perfected the art of working on a budget (with tactics like shooting films back-to-back, on confined sets, with a small cast and with a skeletal crew), making movies out of poster art, titles or even headlines, and he even learned how to handle actors - something nobody felt was terribly important in 1950's drive-in cinema, but Corman took evening classes nevertheless, where he met a guy called Jack Nicholson, whom he later gave his first lead in one of his productions, Cry Baby Killer (1958). By the end of the 1950's Corman had grown tired of directing your usual drive-in fare, around the turn of the decade he shot three films that perfectly spoofed the various horror and sci fi-themes he had taken so seriously for quite some time. The first of these films was "A Bucket of Blood" (1959), a film in which a lamebrained wannabe-artist suddenly becomes a big sculptor after he has accidently covered his cat in plaster - which leads him to cover other things, especially corpses, in plaster as well. Even cheaper than "A Bucket Of Blood" was "Little Shop Of Horrors" (1960), shot back-to-back with the former on an extremely hasty schedule: Allegedly the film was shot in two days and a night, a world record for a feature film. Just like "A Bucket Of Blood", this release was comedic and macabre. In supporting roles, Dick Miller as plant-eater and Jack Nicholson as masochistic dentist's patient give memorable performances. Both "A Bucket Of Blood" and "Little Shop Of Horrors" were very well-received by the audiences, "Little Shop Of Horrors" has since become a huge cult film. 

Corman carried on his drive-in spoof films with "Creature From The Haunted Sea" (1961), a film that goes wild in spoofing everything from the "Creature From The Black Lagoon" series and "To Have And Have Not" (1944) the film was a hit in its day but it failed to catch on with the cult crowd the same way "Little Shop Of Horrors" did, and now, despite its ready availability on DVD, the film has some sort of an obscurity status. In 1959, Roger Corman, along with his brother Gene, also set up their own production company, Filmgroup, as a direct competitor to Roger's mother-company A.I.P, and starting with "The Wasp Woman" (1959) Roger Corman started to direct/produce for his own company besides continuing working for A.I.P and even occasionally fulfilling assignments for other production houses. Under such circumstances, Filmgroup was unable to flourish, so after only a handful or so films, including "Beast From Haunted Cave" (1959), "Ski Troop Attack" (1960), Corman's Puerto Rico-trilogy "Last Woman On Earth", "Creature From The Haunted Sea" and "Battle Of Blood Island" (1960), shot back-to-back in Puerto Rico, "Atlas" and the "The Intruder" (1961), Filmgroup just vanished into obscurity again. The brand remained intact, and would every now and again pop up on a Corman-produced vehicle, but as a company, Filmgroup would never get off the ground.


By the turn of the decade, Roger Corman grown tired of making the same film for the same crowd over and over again, and even though he didn't see himself as a director with a message or even an arthouse director, he did have some higher aspirations and would in the early 1960's gradually move away from doing the typical drive-in fare he has become known for. Corman's aspiration to make a meaningful movie is most clearly apparent in "The Intruder" (1961), his most overtly political picture ever about a slick, ultra right small fry politician who tries to create racial tensions in a sleepy rural village to exploit them to his own ends. William Shatner stars in the lead role, playing the role as a charming yet sleazy politician trying to hide an inferiority complex behind a phony facade. The film was so provocative in topic and solid in direction it was even invited to a few film festivals and met with critical acclaim, upon its initial release though the film completely failed to catch on with American audiences and was the first of Corman's films that didn't make its money back. In the decades that have passed since the initial release of "The Intruder" it is regarded as one of Corman's most important as well as best films and is the one Corman-film serious film fans can agree on. However, even before "The Intruder", Roger Corman launched another project of his that took him away from traditional drive-in fare, an Edgar Allan Poe adaptation, shot in colour and scope and on a comparatively large budget (an estimated $270,000 compared to the $100,000-flicks Corman had made so far, still cheap compared to major studio releases of the time). At first, A.I.P producers Arkoff and Nicholson were not too keen on making such a big picture, but they had no reason not to trust Corman, so they went with it and wouldn't come to regret it, as the resulting movie, "The House Of Usher" (1960), would turn out to be one of the production house's biggest successes so far.

Of course, the success of "House Of Usher" wasn't all that surprising, British production house Hammer had had the American market for colour gothics for itself for three years and had been phenomenally successful with their remakes of horror classics. Still, Corman did not want to merely rip off the Hammer-gothics and tried to bring his own style to it and in Vincent Price, the biggest star he had worked with so far and that his limited budget could afford, he found a perfect charismatic leading man/villain who would put his own brand to "House Of Usher" as well. The film was reasonably faithful to Edgar Allan Poe's short story, but that didn't matter in the least since it did provide its audience with a creepy atmosphere throughout and chills in all the right places, and it was even taken seriously by the critics - something new to Corman, whose drive-in fare usually tended to alienate critics. But what mattered the most, "House Of Usher" became a runaway success for its production company A.I.P, so much so that they soon commissioned more of the same and Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe-cycle was born. 1960's "House Of Usher" was followed in 1961 by "Pit And The Pendulum", a very free adaptation of Poe's incredibly skeletal short story, but still, the film was well-directed and again Price gives a wonderful performance, supported by Barbara Steele, then a fresh face in horror cinema.



"The Premature Burial" from 1962 was originally intended to not be made for A.I.P but for Pathé (which ram A.I.P's processing lab), which is why the film doesn't star Vincent Price (Corman's only Poe-adaptation without Price) but Ray Milland. However, during production, the production of the film was acquired by A.I.P after all, since Pathé did not want to risk upsetting (and probably losing) an important customer, and thus the film became an A.I.P-film after all. If anything though, "The Premature Burial" proves that Corman's Poe-movies also function without the imposing presence of Vincent Price (and Milland's acting style differs vastly from Price's) and gives credit to Roger Corman as a director. this film also stars Hazel Court, who had previously found fame in Hammer's "Curse Of Frankenstein" (1957).

With "Tales Of Terror", also from 1962, Corman made an anthology film, turning four of Poe's short stories into three featurettes, all with Vincent Price in the lead. Corman was quick to realize that the Price-Lorre segment of "Tales Of Terror" caught on with the audience the most, so he turned his next Poe-adaptation into a comedy - "The Raven" (1963) - which had very little to do with Poe's poem of the same name, instead it tells an over-the-top tale of two sorcerers dueling one another, parodying clichées of Corman's Poe-series every step along the way. The film features Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Hazel Court in comical roles. After this excursion into comedy, it was back to serious business with "The Haunted Palace" (1963). But while "The Haunted Palace" was marketed as a film of Corman's Poe-cycle and bears the name of one of the author's stories, it actually has nothing to do with Poe but is an adaptation of H.P.Lovecraft's "The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward". Still, on a stylistic level, the film is totally in the tradition of Corman's other Poe-films, and of course Vincent Price stars, supported by Debra Paget and Lon Chaney JR.




Corman carried on the Poe series with "The Masque Of The Red Death" (1964) a faithful adaptation of Poe's story of the same name plus a totally unrelated story called Hop-Frog, peppered with sequences inspired by Ingmar Bergman's "Det Sjunde Inseglet/The Seventh Seal" (1957). The film tells the story of a decadent nobleman (Vincent Price), who tries to shut the plague out of his castle, once again, Hazel Court co-starred. Like "The Masque Of The Red Death" before it, the "Tomb Of Ligeia" (1964), the last of Corman's Poe adaptations, was shot in Great Britain, mainly to make use of the UK's generous tax incentives that lured many an American production company in the 1960's. After "Tomb Of Ligeia", Corman realized it was time to let go of Edgar Allan Poe, but not A.I.P who carried on the Poe run.

Roger Corman might have moved up a few notches as a director thanks to the Poe-series, but even then, Roger Corman could not and refused to deny his drive-in low budget roots: The reason that the Poe-films look so polished is that he was able to use the sets more than once, actually most of the props and even costumes of these films show up in several movies of the series, and Corman always knew where to get props and costumes cheap so as to not having to start from scratch. Also, Corman continued shooting films back-to back, like when he realized he still had a few days of shooting left with Boris Karloff after finishing "The Raven", he was quick to cook up a story starring him and Jack Nicholson called "The Terror" (1963), which Corman directed on the existing sets in tandem with several of his protegées including Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman and Jack Hill. Years later Corman realized that Karloff still owed him two shooting days from "The Raven", so he handed the veteran actor over to young director Peter Bogdanovich together with material from "The Terror" and told him to make a movie out of this. The result is "Targets" (1968).



However, even besides the Poe-cycle, Corman remained pretty productive during the first half of the 1960's, making films like "Tower Of London" (1962) for small time producer Edward Small, starring Vincent Price, most possibly to cash in on the Poe-series as it was. But that film was cheap even by Corman standards: First and foremost, the film was shot in black-and-white - which produceer Small didn't care to tell Corman until the very last moment. Then whole action sequences were lifted from Universal's "Tower Of London" from 1939, an earlier version of the same story starring Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff - with Price in a supporting role, actually. For "The Young Racers" (1963) he got two actual race drivers, Jimmy Clark and Bruce McLaren, to do some driving on his film. This way, Corman not only got an impressive film, he also got extensive holidays in Europe for himself (Formula 1 races traditionally take place only every other weekend, so there's plenty of spare time between them), and he quite correctly figured actors would work for him on reduced wages if he threw an European vacation into the mix. On top of that, Corman's light man, young Francis Ford Coppola, persuaded Corman to let him shoot a movie in Ireland in the spare time using "The Young Racers" actors William Campbell, Luana Anders and Patrick Magee - a film that Corman ultimately got for pretty much next to nothing. The film in question is of course "Dementia 13" (1963), widely considered Coppola's first feature film (actually, he made the nudie Tonight for Sure (1962) before that).

Next up was "X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes" (1963) a genuine sci-fi maserpiece, the story of a man (Ray Milland) blessed with X-ray vision, whose blessing soon becomes a course that leads him to a drastic measure. The film shows a great central performance by Milland (who was previously in Corman's "Premature Burial"). Corman tried his hand at war cinema again with "The Secret Invasion" (1964), which he filmed in Yugoslavia starring Stewart Granger, Edd Byrnes, Raf Vallone, Mickey Rooney and Henry Silva. Because the film was backed by a major studio, United Artists, Corman suddenly found himself with a considerable budget ($600,000) twice as much as any of his Poe-adaptations with a comfortable shooting schedule of 36 days but with a major studio in charge, Corman had to give up quite a bit of creative control. After the conclusion of the Poe-series, Corman thought it was the right time to move on as a director, and he left his employer A.I.P to try and work for a major studio - after all, he was by now an acclaimed director who could produce hits. It wasn't long before Corman was approached by Columbia, who initially promised he could direct whatever he wanted - but for whatever reason, when he suggested to adapt Franz Kafka's "The Penal Colony" for the big screen, they first dragged on with pre-production for way too long and finally backed out. Corman's next project for Columbia was a Civil War Western, but after only a few days of shooting, he and Robert Towne left the project over artistic differences. The film was ultimately finished by Phil Karlson and released as "A Time For Killing" (1967).



Working for Columbia, Corman quickly grew restless about the lack of speed the big company put into making movies so he produced two Monte Hellman-Westerns starring Jack Nicholson out of wedlock (he was employed as a director at the studio, not a producer), "The Shooting" (1965) which was also written by Nicholson and "Ride The Whirlwind" (1967) which helped elevate Hellman from drive-in to art-house director status. When things continued to move way too slowly at Columbia, Corman took an absence of leave from the company to return to A.I.P to make another low budget feature, "The Wild Angels" (1966). Corman, who was by now 40 years old, had always made an effort to keep in touch with youth culture, so the stories about the Hell's Angels and similar biker gangs that made the rounds in the latter half of the 1960's had not escaped his attention and thus he decided to shoot a non-judgemental film about the Hells Angels, with Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern in the leads (Ladd and Dern, then a couple, actually conceived their daughter Laura Dern during the shoot of this film), and lots of real Angels in the cast who could be used as authentic extras and would even provide their own bikes to add production value and ride those bikes themselves, too. The filming of "The Wild Angels" went relatively smoothly, because Corman found some common ground with them. After the release of the film though, the Angels allegedly tried to sue Corman for defamation, feeling they were presented wrongly. "The Wild Angels" turned out to be A.I.P's biggest grosser so far, the genre really took off and for the next few years, drive-ins around the nation were literally flooded with biker movies.

Roger Corman's made a sort-of follow up to "The Wild Angels", "The Trip" (1967), together with Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, while Jack Nicholson provided the script. Other than the pretty straightforward Wild Angels though, "The Trip" is a pretty 'trippy' experience as the title suggests. It has to be credited to Roger Corman though that before making the film about a man (Peter Fonda) going on an LSD trip to forget his problems, he went on a trip himself, as an experiment to get the film's mood right. In between "The Wild Angels" and "The Trip", Roger Corman finally got a major studio film made. It wasn't for Columbia though (the split over artistic differences was final) but for 20th Century Fox, the film took Corman back to the 1920's to make another period gangster flick, "The St.Valentine's Day Massacre" (1967). A rather detailed account of top mobster Al Capone who had several of his competitors shot while conveniently vacationing in Florida. Jason Robards played Al Capone (20th Century Fox insisted in him playing Capone while Corman wanted Orson Welles as the lead and Robards as Bugs Moran). Just like his collaborations with other big studios, the time with 20th Century Fox was less to Corman's liking, and he returned once again to A.I.P, only to find out that the studio's bosses Samuel Z.Arkoff and James Nicholson were less and less interested in his increasingly liberal-minded flims and with the company's growing success they had become part of the Hollywood establishment, which is why Corman didn't direct another film for them for the rest of the 1960's, though he did help out on films like the "The Wild Racers" (1968) and the erotic "De Sade" (1969) without taking any credit for it.




During these days, Corman was more involved with the production side of A.I.P's operations. Corman's most interesting titles from that era include "Voyage To The Prehistoric Planet" (1965) and "Voyage To The Planet Of Prehistoric Women" (1968), two films that used large chunks of footage from the sci-fi-film "Planeta Bur" (1962), for which Corman had bought the American rights and added some footage starring American actors (Basil Rathbone in the former, Mamie Van Doren in the latter), the shocker "Blood Bath" (1966), the science fiction film "Queen Of Blood" (1966) - starring John Saxon, Basil Rathbone and Dennis Hopper and the biker movies "Devil's Angels" (1967) and "Naked Angels" (1969). There was one film Corman wanted to produce which was to some extent a combination of his own films "The Wild Angels" and "The Trip", that film was "Easy Rider" "1969". In fact, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda pitched the idea to him and wanted Bruce Dern for the role of the straight lawyer. Corman was quite interested in producing the film with Dennis Hopper in the director's chair, and he figured it could be made for as little as $360,000, but when he tried to sell the concept to A.I.P, they were less than impressed by the film's counter-culture statement, and were opposed to Dennis Hopper as director. When it became more and more clear that A.I.P would not make the film, at least not on Hopper's and Fonda's terms, Jack Nicholson took the project and successfully pitched it to Columbia and as you might know, the film got made without the involvement of either Corman or A.I.P and Dern's role ultimately went to Nicholson who thanked Dern by giving him a role in his directorial debut "Drive, He Said" (1971) and as we all know "Easy Rider" became a phenomenal success and is considered one of the cult flicks of the 1960's.

During the last few years of the 1960's, Roger Corman had not totally forgotten his true vocation directing and he made a movie (away from A.I.P) for American TV-channel ABC, "Target: Harry" (1969). The film failed to impress. ABC and they kicked the film out of its schedule, which meant it was released theatrically after all. In 1970, Corman finally agreed to do another A.I.P-movie, "Bloody Mama", starring Shelley Winters as Kate 'Ma' Barker, a notorious gangster of the 1920's and 30's whose gang was made up mainly of her own sons (played in the film by a pre-star Robert De Niro, Don Stroud, Bobby Walden and Clint Kimbrough) and who spread terror across the nation. Corman's next film, "Gas-s-s-s! Or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It" (1971), was an incredibly wacky post-doomsday comedy that pokes fun at pretty much everything while delivering a decidedly anti-authoritarian, left-leaning message. Due to scheduling conflicts, Corman had to start filming without a finished script and he and writer George Armitage never quite managed to have the writing catch up with the filming. Needless to say, A.I.P was less then pleased, and while Corman was out of the country filming his next movie, the company did a little bit of re-editing, enough to make Corman mad and part ways with Samuel Z.Arkoff and James Nicholson for good. After "Gas-s-s-s" and his split with A.I.P, Corman hooked up with a major studio once more, this time United Artists, to make a World War I epic full of aerial stunts in period biplanes: "Von Richthofen and Brown/The Red Baron" (1971).



After "Von Richthofen and Brown", Roger Corman quit directing films in favour of producing. According to him, it wasn't even so much a conscious decision, but since he had just started his own production (and distribution) company, New World, in 1970, he just didn't have sufficient time anymore to make movies of his own, especially after his experiences with his earlier company, Filmgroup, which went bust because he was too tangled up in film projects for other people/companies. Corman had started the company originally because he did feel the partnership with A.I.P had come to the end of the line, the split was amicable though and he didn't feel himself too much in line with the way major studios ran their operations. The first movie ever produced by New World was "The Student Nurses" (1970) by Stephanie Rothman, whose "Blood Bath" he had produced back in 1966 and with whom he would collaborate again. "The Student Nurses" was a typical drive-in flick that mixed R-rated sex scenes with a bit of comedy and a bit of action but Corman also saw to it that some liberal political ideas were subtly woven into the plotline, more to please himself and to justify his split from A.I.P, which Stephanie Rothman quickly agreed to. The film was made for $150,000 and just like Corman had predicted, easily made its money back and then some. "The Student Nurses" actually proved to be successful enough for Corman to produce a handful of similarly themed films, "Private Duty Nurses" (1971), "Night Call Nurses" (1972) and "Candy Stripe Nurses" (1974). Stephanie Rothman in the meantime was assigned to do another film for New World, the highly erotic vampire movie "Velvet Vampire" (1971). Actually, Rothman had the intention to become an art-house filmmaker but after only a few more films (for other producers) she quit the business somewhat disillusioned.

In 1971, Roger Corman figured out another way to save a few bucks on production of his films and at the same time give them a somewhat exotic look: Move production of at least a few movies to the Philippines which back in the early 1970's was only beginning to be discovered by the international film community, and which Corman himself stumbled upon thanks to actor/friend John Ashley, who invited him to one of his Filipino sets back then and Corman was quick to notice the cost-effectiveness of filming in the Philippines. The first films Corman produced in the Philippines were female prison camp movies, which was an ideal genre to be shot in the Philippines as it would combine the exotic locations with plenty of action and nudity to appeal to the drive-in crowd. The first of these movies was "Big Doll House" (1971), New World's only second film as a matter of fact, which pretty much set the formula for all future films, a bit of politics wrapped into much sex and crime to keep the audience happy. Pam Grier was only at the beginning of her career back in 1971, in fact "Big Doll House" provided her with her first bigger role, but Corman was quick to notice the effect the statuesque black actress had on the audience, thus in future women in prison films, "Women In Cages" (1971) and "Big Bird Cage" (1972), she got bigger and bigger roles, before she even caught A.I.P's attention, who cast her in their Filipino women in prison flick "Black Mama, White Mama" (1972), a film incredibly similar to New World's genre fare, before shooting her to fame with blaxploitation classics like "Coffy" (1973), "Foxy Brown" (1974) and "Friday Foster" (1975). In 1973, Corman took his women in prison formula (complete with Pam Grier) that worked so well in the Philippines and moved it to Italy (and to ancient Rome on a story level) with "The Arena/Naked Warriors".




Back in the USA, New World had its hands pretty much in every drive-in or exploitation genre there was, including of course biker movies - "Angels Hard As They Come" (1971) , blaxploitation - "The Final Comedown" (1973), science fiction - "The Cremators" (1972), horror "Night Of The Cobra Woman" (1972), even a roller-derby-drama - "Unholy Rollers" (1972) and the like. Corman also continued to produce period gangster films, like "Big Bad Mama" (1974), a rip-off of his own "Bloody Mama" with Angie Dickinson taking over the Shelley Winters role, and William Shatner in one of his few great post Star Trek-roles. In 1975, Corman also took another shot at Al Capone with the tellingly titled "Capone", with Ben Gazzara in the title role and a pre-superstar Sylvester Stallone as Frank Nitti. "Capone" incorporated portions of Corman's earlier self-directed "St.Valentine's Day Massacre" into its footage - a cost-cutting measure, quite obviously. However, New World's best gangster film of the early 1970's was "Boxcar Bertha" (1972) by a young Martin Scorsese starring Barbara Hershey in the title role, her real-life boyfriend David Carradine as her boyfriend and Carradine's father John as their nemesis. Perhaps of all of New World's productions, "Boxcar Bertha" was best at delivering Corman's self-imposed liberal, left-leaning message in an entertaining piece of film - and it has since become a classic not only because of being an early Martin Scorsese-directing-credit.

Another New World-production with a slightly left-leaning message was 1975's "Death Race 2000", a film starring David Carradine fresh from TV's "Kung Fu" as ace race driver and Sylvester Stallone as his nemesis in a futuristic world in which car races are everything and human roadkill is a good thing. The film is pretty much action and science fiction spectacle and sharp media satire all rolled into one. "Death Race 2000" became a phenomenal success for New World, it even topped the box office for a week, an incredible feat for an independent production even back then, so it was only a question of time until the company put out more car-chase flicks, like Pau Bartel's "Cannonball" (1976) starring David Carradine, the Ron Howard "Eat My Dust (1976) and Grand Theft Auto (1977). Also "Thunder And Lighting" (1977), again starring David Carradine. Quite a bit of the footage of "Death Race 2000" and some of the props (cars especially) on the other hand were reused in "Hollywood Boulevard" (1976) directed by a young Joe Dante and Allan Arkush. Be that as it may, the film did kickstart the directing careers of both Dante (formerly New World's resident editor) and Arkush, who would go on to more films for Corman which were upon New World's more memorable output, e.g. "Piranha" (1978, Joe Dante) and "Rock 'n' Roll High School" (1979, Alan Arkush) featuring the Ramones.



Through the distribution arm of New World, Roger Corman started to look for respectability in the 1970's and started to distribute international art-house films in the USA, beginning with "Viskningar och Rop/Cries and Whispers" (1972), soon to be followed by Federico Fellini's "Amarcord" (1973), the animated sci-fi "La Planète Sauvage/The Fantastic Planet" (1973), Francois Truffaut's "L'Histoire d'Adèle H./The Story of Adele H." (1973), Akira Kurosawa's "Dersu Uzala" (1975) and the like. This part of his business did not only prove to be a financial success, Corman also proved himself to have a lucky hand in picking future foreign language film Oscar winners. By the early 1980's, the air got increasingly thinner for an independent producer like Roger Corman: the major studios were taking over more and more of the market by buying up drive-in and theatre chains, by spending more and more money on advertising to make sure ad campaigns for smaller films weren't even heard and they were starting to make essentially the same genre movies little studios made (and the majors wouldn't have touched with a stick even 10 years ago), but pumping millions upon millions into special effects so little productions couldn't compete with films of the majors on that level. Corman knew it was no longer possible to beat the majors like he did with "Death Race 2000", but he tried to stay with the game by ripping off successful blockbusters like "Alien" (1979), "Conan The Barbarian (1982) and "Halloween" (1978). Many of Corman's rip-offs didn't amount to much at the time with releases like "Galaxy of Terror" (1981), "Slumber Party Massacre" (1982), "Forbidden World/Mutant" (1982), "Deathstalker" (1983). At times, the New World films did show a spark of originality, like "Battle Beyond The Stars" (1980), "Magnificent Seven" (1960) in outer space starring Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, John Saxon and Sybil Danning, or "Android" (1982), a highly original character study featuring an android set in outer space starring Klaus Kinski. However, towards the middle of the 1980's, Corman realized that New World, the way he ran it, was no longer viable, and he figured he had to at least shed the distribution arm of the company but he got an offer that seemed way better.

In 1983, a trio of Hollywood lawyers got interested in Corman's New World, and after much negotiations, Corman got what he thought to be a dream deal for the company: He sold the company name, offices and distribution staff to the lawyers, but kept New World's entire film library and the new owners of the company were contractually committed to distribute Corman's productions for at least 6 more years for a smaller-than-usual margin - but unfortunately, that deal did not live up to its promise when the new New World didn't distribute Corman-production the way he thought they deserved to be and didn't pay him the promised percentage and ultimately it all ended in court. Only eventually did both sides agree to settle the whole thing out of court (in Corman's favour by the way), but that left Corman as a movie producer with no distribution arm for his operations - so he saw no other way out than to form another company that is known as Concorde and New Horizon and sometimes even as Concorde-New Horizons or New Concorde in 1985. When the theatrical market for independent productions was really thinning out in the mid-1980's, Corman was clever enough to look for other sources of income that could keep his company going, like pay TV and the booming home video market and he has kept his company going since 1985, while New World, which had had soon gone to the stock exchange and grown into a media conglomerate in the late 1980's/early 90's and had even owned Marvel Comics for a while, has since gone out of business, with only a few of its television stations now owned by the News Corporation still carrying the company name. Sure, Corman's Concorde and New Horizon do not carry the same influence as New World had during its prime, and all artistic aspirations Corman once had were also gone due to the changed marketplace, but production has gone on like a powerhouse, with an output of about ten to twenty films per year, with Corman still involved in all major artistic decision of at least most movies, just like he was at New World.


Some of the better known films of the company are "Barbarian Queen" (1985) which marked the first lead role of Lana Clarkson (Clarkson enjoyed a brief career as one of the very few female American action stars in the 1980's, sadly in 2003 she was found shot dead in music producer Phil Spector's house), "Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back" (1989), a film not at all connected to the first one. The horror comedy "House" (1986) starring William Katt was successful enough to spawn a series of its own, "Not Of This Earth" (1987) a remake of Corman's 1957 film of the same name, was allegedly only produced because director Jim Wynorski bet Corman he could make the film in less time than Corman did in '57 (it's unclear who won the bet though). Also, "Not Of This Earth" is the first mainstream film of former underage porn starlet Traci Lords - and the only non-porn flick she does topless nudity. In 1987, Corman produced "Big Bad Mama II", a film that saw Angie Dickinson reprising her role from "Big Bad Mama" from 13 years earlier. With Bloodfist (1989), Corman helped kickboxing champ Don 'The Dragon' Wilson to film stardom, the film is about a man wanting to avenge his brother in a martial arts tournament. The film was successful enough to spawn a number of sequels. "Masque Of The Red Death" (1989) starring Patrick Macnee, a remake of his own film from 1964, it was an attempt to cash in on the Edgar Allan Poe boom that seemed to come out of nowhere in the late 1980's/early 90's "The Haunting Of Morella" (1990) was another Poe-cash-in. Warlock (1989) starring Julian Sands, Lori Singer, Richard E.Grant and Mary Woronov which proved to be quite a success around the world and over the years has become a minor genre classic and it spawned numerous sequels, though the series was taken over by Trimark from film two onwards.

With films like "Munchie" (1992) starring Loni Anderson, Dom De Luise and a young Jennifer Love Hewitt in a small role and with "The Skateboard Kid" (1993), Corman tried to break into the kids market. "Carnosaur" (1993) was an attempt to cash in on Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" (1993), it even had Jurassic Park's Laura Dern's mother Diane Ladd in the lead, it was released 3 weeks earlier than Jurassic Park (Corman always knew how to put out a film quickly), and it was based on a novel by John Brosnan that was a direct influence to Michael Crichton's source novel for the Spielberg-movie. "The Fantastic Four" (1994), based on the popular Marvel-comic of the same name, was only produced so Bernd Eichinger and Constantin Film would not lose the film rights of the property. The film was never intended to be released though and hasn't been officially, however, through various sources, quite watchable versions of the film have seen the light of day. "Dinosaur Island" (1994) which was an attempt to combine dinosaurs and topless nudity, "Revenge Of The Red Baron" (1994) a sequel to his own "Von Richthofen And Brown" about the Red Baron returning from the dead wanting to have revenge on the pilot who killed him decades ago, Mickey Rooney stars. In 1995, Corman started to have films from his backlog remade for television, including "Bucket Of Blood" (1995), "The Wasp Woman" (1995), "Piranha" (1995) and "Humanoids From The Deep (1996).


"Dillinger And Capone" (1995) had Martin Sheen and F.Murray Abraham in the title roles - and "Babyface Nelson" (1995) with C.Thomas Howell in the title role, F.Murray Abraham as Capone once again and Martin Kove as Dillinger are two more period gangster flicks made on the cheap. "Black Scorpion" (1995) is a made-for-television movie about a hot cop who dons a sexy outfit every night to do crime-fighting on the side. "Black Scorpion" was intended as a pilot for a TV-series, but that didn't happen right away. Instead, Corman produced a sequel, "Black Scorpion II: Aftershock" in 1997, before a 22-episode-series finally came into being in 2001, with Michelle Lintel taking over the title role. Corman didn't shy away from the occasional adaptation of a work of literature either, with source material ranging from "Bram Stoker - Burial Of The Rats" (1995) and "The Sea Wolf" (1997) to "The Haunting Of Hell House" (1999) and Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Suicide Club/The Game Of Death" (2000). Besides works of literature, Corman also adapted the comic book "Vampirella" (1996), which was created back in 1969 by horror movie critic legend Forrest J.Ackerman, who also has a cameo in the film. The movie stars Talisa Soto in the title role and Roger Daltrey as the main vampire villain.

In 2001, Corman had the 1974 film "The Arena" remade. The film was another American-Russian co-production directed by Timur Bekmambetov, who would eventually go on to direct the vampire movies "Night Watch" (2004) and "Day Watch" (2006), two of the most successful Russian films ever, as well as "Wanted" (2008) starring Angelina Jolie. "When Eagles Strike" and "Operation Balikatan" (both 2003) took Corman back to the Philippines. Both are war films starring bodybuilder Christian Boeving. "Barbarian" (2003) is, as you might have guessed, a barbarian movie shot in the Crimea that re-uses quite a few scenes from "Deathstalker" from 20 years earlier. Corman never was a producer to waste either money or footage from his library. Corman carried on with "Dinocroc" (2004), "Saurian" (2006), "Scorpius Gigantus" (2006) and "Supergator" (2007). On the other side of the spectrum, Corman also produced art-house director/guerrila filmmaker Alex Cox' micro-budget movie "Searchers 2.0" (2007), as well as play a part in it. Unfortunately, Corman decided to sell the rights of "Death Race 2000", one of New World's best productions, to Cruise/Wagner Productions, who, under the title "Death Race" (2008). Corman has an executive producer-credit on this one, which was produced by neither Concorde nor New Horizon.



While this list of Roger Corman/Concorde/New Horizon productions seems incredibly long as it is, it only scratches the surface of the man and his company's output and yet despite of all of his involvement with the company, Corman had time to return to the director's chair one last time, for "Frankenstein Unbound" (1990), a project handed to him by 20th Century Fox and they granted him a considerably larger budget than he had on any of his films as a director or producer, too. The film is based on Mary W.Shelley's "Frankenstein" and also on Brian Aldiss novel "Frankenstein Unbound", which combines the traditional Frankenstein-tale with time travel motives, giving the story a whole new dimension. Raul Julia stars as Frankenstein in this one, Nick Brimble plays the monster, while Michael Hutchence from INXS and Bridget Fonda can be seen as Percy Bysshe and Mary W.Shelley, with Jason Patric playing Lord Byron, the lead - a time traveller from the future - is played by John Hurt. Of course, Corman being Corman used the momentum of "Frankenstein Unbound" to produce "Dracula Rising" (1993), a reinterpretation of the Dracula-myth with Christopher Atkins as the vampire. 

In 2010, Roger Corman teamed up with Shout! Factory to release new DVD and Blu-ray editions of Corman productions under the name "Roger Corman's Cult Classics". The releases have concentrated on 1970–1980's films he produced through New World rather than directed. These titles include "Rock N Roll High School", "Death Race 2000", "Galaxy Of Terror", "Forbidden World", and "Piranha" and many more (Over 60 to date), with additional titles continuing to be released. Even at the age of 86 Corman doesn't seem to be slowing down and is still producing films for New Horizons and other companies such as SyFy. In total, Roger Corman has produced over 550 movies and directed more than 50.


A number of noted film directors worked with Corman, usually early in their careers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Armondo Linus Acosta, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, Gale Anne Hurd, Carl Colpaert, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Monte Hellman, Paul Bartel, George Armitage, Jonathan Kaplan, George Hickenlooper, Curtis Hanson, Jack Hill, Robert Towne, Michael Venzor and Timur Bekmambetov. 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 asserts, "I trained at the Roger Corman Film School." The British director Nicolas Roeg served as the cinematographer on "The Masque Of The Red Death". Cameron, Coppola, Demme, Hanson, Howard and Scorsese have all gone on to win Academy Awards. Howard was reportedly told by Corman, "If you do a good job on this film, you'll never have to work for me again."

Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Talia Shire, Sandra Bullock, and Robert De Niro. David Carradine, who received one of his first starring film roles in the Corman-produced "Boxcar Bertha" (1972) and went on to star in "Death Race 2000", later noted: "It's almost as though you can’t have a career in this business without having passed through Roger's hands for at least a moment." Many of Corman's protegés have rewarded him with cameos in their films, including "The Godfather Part II", "The Silence of the Lambs", "Apollo 13" and as recently as Demme's 2008 film "Rachel Getting Married".


"Other writers, producers, and directors of low-budget films would often put down the film they were making, saying it was just something to make money with. I never felt that. If I took the assignment, I'd give it my best shot." - Roger Corman

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