Simon Abrams Interviews Legendary Producer Roger Corman

Posted on September 5, 2015 at 3:31 pm

One of my favorite critics interviewed Hollywood’s legendary producer, Roger Corman, for New York Magazine’s Vulture, and it is a treat to read. Corman is by many measures the most successful filmmaker of all time because he made ultra low-budget films that were very popular with moviegoers, including “The Man with X-Ray Eyes,” “Little Shop of Horrors” (the original, with Jack Nicholson, that inspired the Broadway musical) and a series of adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe stories. At 89, he is still going strong, producing some of the SyFy channel’s nuttiest and most entertaining monster movies, like “Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf.”

Corman spoke to Abrams about the one that got away (“Easy Rider” went to another studio because one of the studio executives insulted Dennis Hopper) and the difference between making a theatrical release and a TV film.

“In a motion picture, you can wait a while, build suspense. I always preferred to hint at the creature and not disclose it until later. But Tom ‘s theory — and I think he’s right — is that in the theater, people have paid money to come in, so they’ll sit and wait, and expect the suspense to build. But in television, within the first five to ten minutes, they’ll simply change the dial. It’s a totally different concept.”

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A New Book About Roger Corman: Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses

Posted on September 10, 2013 at 3:59 pm

cormanThe most successful movie producer of all time is Roger Corman because every single one of his movies made money. Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman, King of the B Movie, released today, is the story of Corman, the self-proclaimed king of the B movie. No one would consider his films works of art, but he gave hungry and ambitious actors and directors their first opportunities to make movies.  As told by Corman himself and graduates of “The Corman Film School,” including Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert De Niro, and Martin Scorsese, this comprehensive oral history takes readers behind the scenes of more than six decades of American cinema, as now-legendary directors and actors candidly unspool recollections of working with Corman, continually one-upping one another with tales of the years before their big breaks.

If you want to know more, read Corman’s autobiography: How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime.  And watch his movies, including Candy Stripe Nurses, Private Duty Nurses, Night Call Nurses, Young NursesAttack of the Crab Monsters, War of the Satellites, and Not of This Earth.  Plus, this classic:

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Micro-Budget Rip-Offs Find an Audience

Posted on January 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

Wired has a great article about “Cheap-and-Schlocky Blockbuster Ripoffs” of big-budget movies, made for less money than the cost of crew t-shirts of the multi-billion dollar Hollywood movies they flatter with imitation.
While “Sherlock Holmes” with Robert Downey, Jr. is getting its final touches, another “Sherlock Holmes” is being filmed in Wales. It may not have Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, or Guy Ritchie. But on the other hand, it does have a homicidal robot, a dinosaur, and a giant squid.

The gonzo Sherlock, which you’ll be able to find at major rental chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, is the creation of the Asylum, a low-budget studio specializing in shamelessly derivative knockoffs that are not-so-affectionately dubbed “mockbusters.” B-movie producers have been cribbing from Hollywood for decades, but none have done so as brazenly or efficiently as the Asylum, which for the past six years has churned out titles like “Snakes on a Train,” “Transmorphers,” “The Terminators,” “The Day the Earth Stopped,” and, of course, last summer’s “Transmorphers: Fall of Man.” These are uniformly dreadful films, notable mainly for their stilted dialogue, flimsy-looking sets (which are frequently recycled), and turns by faded stars such as Judd Nelson and C. Thomas Howell — actors whose careers crumbled around the same time as the Berlin Wall….

And the studio is growing. It recently signed a series of deals to air more than 20 films — both “vintage” mockbusters and new titles — on the Syfy network and other NBC Universal cable channels, and it moved to a new production facility in Burbank, California.

The Asylum has even had a hit of sorts: “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus,” a tongue-in-cheek, non-mockbuster monster-mash starring Lorenzo Lamas and former teen pop star Deborah Gibson. Released last spring, the Mega Shark trailer — which ends with a shark devouring an airplane — went viral, garnering nearly 2 million views on YouTube.

This reminds me of the self-billed most successful producer in movie history, Roger Corman, whose biography is titled How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime. He has never lost money on a movie. Some of his films became cult classics like the original “Little Shop of Horrors,” which went on to become a musical play and movie with much bigger budgets and much bigger box office than the original film. Some of Corman’s films have even achieved some critical and scholarly acclaim. But outside of his investors, it is likely that his most significant contribution to the art form of making movies was giving talented young film-makers a chance when no one else would — people like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Nicholas Roeg, and Curtis Hanson. “Avatar” director James Cameron has said, “I trained at the Roger Corman Film School.” Actors who appeared in Corman films include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, David Caradine, and Robert De Niro.
I am not expecting the Asylum’s films to be picked up for big-budget remakes with song and dance numbers, and it does not sound like their directors or actors are on the road to stardom. But the Wired article notes that they are expanding, including opening a California production facility. So who knows? Maybe 20 years from now there will be some scrappy start-up making shlocky rip-offs of their films.

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