Roger Corman may not enjoy the high profile among moviegoers that he used to, but he is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, not only because he gave so many major talents their big breaks, but because of his choice of subject matter which started out as strictly for the exploitation flicks but is now seen as ideal material for your average summer or Christmas tentpole blockbuster: Hollywood took a while, but they did latch on to Corman's visions. Here we catch up with him on the set of his latest venture, a SyFy Channel movie that he is overseeing in his eighties...
Although Alex Stapleton's documentary begins looking like some kind of puff piece for Corman's cheapo straight to TV horror cash-in, what you were actually getting was a grounding in where the man not only was at the point the film was made, but also where he had come from, which played out through the rest of the ninety minutes or so it took to tell the life of its subject. The impetus here is set out nearer the end, that anyone who enjoys movies owes so much to this man, and if there is a danger he may be forgotten in spite of the waves he made in the picture business, this is attempting to arrest his possible obscurity.
Of course, whether Corman's World had as much attention as the work that somewhat stole its exploitation flick thunder, Not Quite Hollywood, the tale of Australian movies of the less reputable variety, was debatable and Stapleton must have acknowledged that although their subject matter was different, it was hard to approach it in any other way than what the Aussie documentary had conjured up. Thus there were plentiful clips from Corman's movies, both the ones he directed and the ones he produced, which offered up a portrait of his oeuvre, but if anything the cumulative impact here was a shade more resonant than the previous film.
Certainly the sheer amount of recognisable faces they assembled here was undeniably impressive, with those the casual moviegoer would recognise mixing with the sort of person the more experienced buff would welcome, so Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese discussed their early work with Corman, because he was basically the only producer who would give them a job back when they started, and then there would be the cultier personalities such as Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze from the really early years telling amusing anecdotes about how cheap they were operating to Mary Woronov and Pam Grier being very funny about what was expected of them in the efforts they headlined. It was sobering to see how many of those offering their thoughts had died by the time this was released, another echo of the mortality of not only the movies but those who make them.
Each of these interviewees build an impression of Corman as a shrewd businessman, but a lover of culture both high and low, a man realistic about where productions sat in the movie pecking order but surprisingly generous for all his notorious penny-pinching. This is more than you get from Corman himself who remains as urbane, polite and genial as ever, yet with that slightly guarded air that indicates why some of those talked to described him as, if not aloof, then apart from those he worked with, keeping their relationship strictly business. But after all is said and done, and a lot is said - what he learned from the socially-charged The Intruder (basically keep the politics as subtext or the audience don't like it), how he pioneered foreign language distribution when hardly any American studios were, how he saw blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars adopt his genres and overtake him - this turns out to be surprisingly moving as Corman gets his lifetime achievement Oscar and we recognise how poorer movies would be without him. Jack Nicholson overwhelmed with emotion at the end speaks a thousand words. Music by Air.