Sunday, May 19, 2024


I have only written about one Roger Corman film, the 1994 unreleased adaptation of “The Fantastic Four” comic book he was recruited to produce, so another producer could retain the rights to make a bigger-budget release later. I also made mention of a film Corman produced to cash in on the success of “Smokey and the Bandit, and while I did not mention him by name, I have also talked about “Little Shop of Horrors, Frank Oz’s 1986 film version of the musical itself based on Corman’s original film, released in 1960.

While I talked about the newer “Little Shop of Horrors” because of its restored ending, Corman’s original, aside from featuring an early role for Jack Nicholson, was famously made for approximately $30,000 in only two days and one nights using sets left over from his previous film, “A Bucket of Blood”, before they were torn down. Low budgets, making films back-to-back, reusing sets, inserting stock footage reusing footage from previous films and following trends are all hallmarks of Corman productions, alongside the long list of graduates from “The Corman Film School” that went on to their own accomplished careers, like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Joe Dante.

What struck me later was that recounting facts about the making of Corman’s films seem to be more interesting than the films themselves, as if the feat of creating and completing a film in seemingly reduced circumstances, when compared to the lavish production lines of the main Hollywood studios, is more remarkable than any artistry found in the films themselves.

I think this is because Corman, while known as a director mainly in the 1950s and 60s, including the influential series of films based on the work of Edgar Allen Poe, is mostly credited as a producer, looking at the bottom line as a matter of necessity, actively finding ways of extending his budgets. Selling the rights to the name of his 1954 crime drama “The Fast and the Furious” to Universal Pictures, in exchange to access to their stock footage library, is an ingenious move, but it is mainly a business decision.

But Roger Corman was known as the “king of the Bs”, and while the B-movie is more understood these days as a lower-budget film, rather than the second half of a double bill, their being able to be cheaper for cinemas and distributors for buy also placed less expectations and inhibitions upon them : the experimentations their production, the creative use of stock footage, and the ability to gather their talent pool from new people entering the industry ready to prove themselves by any means available, ultimately highlight the restriction placed on higher-budgeted films by the expectations placed upon them. Whether that makes a Corman-produced genre-based film a “cult” film, or “shlock”, is quite beyond the point – if it finds an audience, it will find a profit even faster.

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