Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

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Highly entertaining documentary about the exploitation/trash maestro who had ambitions way beyond his pay grade.  We hear from a variety of his alumni and the man himself, his brother Gene (another producer), his wife (and fellow producer) Julie and former assistant Frances Doel, among many others, about how the engineer who got screwed over money on the movie The Gunfighter decided to put on a show himself and debuted with The Monster From the Ocean Floor. By the time he made The Wild Angels he was directing his 100th movie which is stunning. He meant the world to Jack Nicholson who made his debut with The Cry Baby Killer – and then didn’t work again for a year! Nicholson describes Corman as his ‘lifeblood’ and bursts into tears. Corman kept him in work and gave him writing and acting jobs for a decade before he made his breakthrough with Easy Rider – which wouldn’t have happened without The Trip, which Nicholson wrote and it starred Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper: AIP wouldn’t make Easy Rider with Hopper and it went on to make history – as well as pots of money (as it were…) There are great clips of all the era’s material but the best storytelling comes from William Shatner recalling the personal jeopardy the Cormans experienced during the making of The Intruder, that fierce discourse on integration. The seventies stuff –  crazy funny movies like Hollywood Boulevard and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is interspersed with really good interviews with Allan Arkush and Joe Dante and we learn about Corman’s own personal viewing tastes, choosing to distribute great films by European auteurs through his own company. The big studios took his formula and made multi-million dollar versions of Fifties exploitation content that made his name so he moved more fully into straight to video. There is no mention of the studio he set up in Ireland in the Nineties – presumably on grounds of taste.  Nor of his big studio movie from 1993, Frankenstein Unbound, his last directorial outing. Personally I’d like to have seen Monte Hellman speak about their collaborations but instead we get Paul WS Anderson and Eli Roth. That’s showbiz! Directed by Alex Stapleton.

 

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Happy Birthday Roger Corman! 04/05/2017

RC Monster from the Ocean Floor.jpegRC Swamp Women.jpgRC Five Guns West.jpegRC Beast with a Million Eyes.jpgRC Apache Woman.jpgRC Day the World Ended.jpgRC The Fast and the FuriousRC The Oklahoma Woman.jpgRC Gunslinger.jpgRC It Conquered the World.jpgRC Naked Paradise.jpgRC Carnival Rock.jpgRC Not of This Earth.jpgRC Attack of the Crab Monsters.jpgRC The Undead.jpgRC Rock All Night.jpgRC Teenage Doll.jpgRC Sorority Girl.jpgRC Viking Women.jpgRC I Mobster.jpgRC Night of the Blood Beast.jpgRC War of the Satellites.jpgRC Machine Gun Kelly.jpgRC Hot Car Girl.jpgRC Teenage Caveman.JPGRC Cry Baby Killer.jpgRC She Gods of Shark Reef.jpgRC Bucket of Blood.jpgRC Attack of the Giant Leeches.jpgRC Ski Troop Attack.jpegRC Battle of Blood Island.jpegRC The Wasp Woman.jpgRC House of Usher.jpgRC Little Shop of Horrors.jpgRC Last Woman on Earth.jpgRC Atlas.jpgRC Creature from the Haunted Sea.jpgRC The Pit and the Pendulum.jpgRC Premature Burial.jpgRC The Intruder.jpgRC Tales of Terror.jpgRC Tower of London.jpgRC The Young Racers.jpgRC The Raven.jpg

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Aside from being a great opportunity to look at 50 years of wonderful poster art and titles to die for, today is trash-horror-exploitation maestro Roger Corman’s 91st birthday. The legendary Pope of Pop Cinema started life as an engineer but lasted just 4 days in the job. After a spell studying literature and reading scripts for Hollywood studios he got into the whole filmmaking thang himself and created a company that eventually served as a film school for some of the most notable directors in American cinema, from Francis Ford Coppola to Martin Scorsese, Stephanie Rothman to Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich to Penelope Spheeris. The most acclaimed of his work is the Edgar Allan Poe series, adapted by top-class scenarists like Richard Matheson and Robert Towne. His own best work as director (The Intruder) was so controversial he steered clear of such subject matter (racism) again and passion projects like Von Richthofen and Brown aka The Red Baron eventually gave way to serial producing:  his last directorial effort was a quarter of a century ago (Frankenstein Unbound). He audited acting classes with blacklistee Jeff Corey to understand performance and meet talent – which is how Jack Nicholson got his break in Cry Baby Killer and Robert Towne started writing screenplays. What I love about his early work is the way the women come to the fore:  June Kenney, Fay Spain, Beverly Garland and Susan Cabot are some of my favourite ladies and some of his alumni like Paul Bartel, Ron Howard and Demme have called upon him to act in small character parts in their mainstream successes. I once presented him with a project on biker movies and it was returned to me with the dry comment ‘Very accurate.’  High praise indeed! A scattering of my own fave raves from this renaissance man would include Gunslinger, Sorority Girl, A Bucket of Blood, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Wild Angels and Cockfighter. So much choice! Happy Birthday Mr Corman!

The Blob (1958)

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This independently made campy trash classic is mainly of interest these days because it stars Steve McQueen – and it boasts a fairly horrific theme tune by one Burt Bacharach. Steve’s out necking in his crush-worthy automobile with Jane when a shooting star that crashes to earth turns out to be … a parasitical blob of cherry Jell-O that infests humans! Well, what would you do, Daddy-O? Truly a product of its time but it looks pretty good and it must have been sensational at the drive-in paired with I Married a Monster From Outer Space!

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

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What on this good earth could possibly be better than a biker film – unless it’s a biker horror film?! Adam (Stephen Oliver) and his crew The Devil’s Advocates (nominative determinism or tempting fate?!) are tooling around as bikers do until he falls under the influence of One (Servern Darden) and his cult… Donna Anders, appearing here as DJ Anderson (confusingly, her real name!) , plays his girlfriend Helen, who doesn’t like the hand of Tarot cards she’s dealt at the story’s outset. When they come across One and his gang in the deconsecrated desert church their food is drugged, she turns into a werewolf and soon infects Adam. (Is this a feminist act?!) They flee but get picked off one by one and when Adam and Helen transform in front of the others, the gang kill them. A few of them return to the church to kill the satanists but they recognise themselves in the procession …Notable for its footage of real-life bikers doing what they usually do, this was co-written by director Michel Devesque with David M. Kaufman. Oliver was best known for playing Lee Webber in TV’s Peyton Place between 1966 and 1968 and appeared in a number of other biker outings:  Motorpsycho (1965), Angels from Hell (1968), and Cycle Psycho (1973). You’ll recognise other cast members from The Last Movie. Cinematographer Isidore Mankofsky earned his stripes shooting for Encyclopaedia Brittanica but after this he made Scream Blacula Scream and in the following years got credits on films as diverse as The Muppet Movie, Somewhere in Time (sigh!), The Jazz Singer, Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer:  a versatile talent.  Likewise Levesque, who followed this with Sweet Sugar, another exploitation outing, but who also had an impressive career as an art director on such fare as Supervixens, Beneath the Valley of the Super-Vixens, Carquake and Foxes. There’s a notable psychedelic soundtrack provided by Don Gere. This is pretty good as biker werewolf movies go, which is to say, what more could you want from such a fabulously preposterous genre mashup?! If you’re hairy you belong on a motorbike! You read it here. PS cat lovers beware.

Frightmare (1974)

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Aka Cover Up. And on this eve of lost souls it is only right to return to the world of Pete Walker, that sleazy trash maestro of Britcult, encompassing cannibalism, lunacy and serial killing. As you were.  Jackie Yates (Deborah Fairfax) has been dreading the release from a mental asylum of her father Edmund (Rupert Davies) and stepmother Dorothy (Sheila Keith) who apparently ate 6 of their victims in a 1957 killing spree. Now they’re back. And a lot of young people are disappearing in the neighbourhood. Time for Jackie to turn Nancy Drew with her boyfriend Graham (Paul Greenwood). The complicating issue in her quest to stop the driller killers is her stepsister Debbie (Kim Butcher!) who wanders  off at night with a biker gang and appears to have a genetic predisposition to human flesh …  Written by Walker and David McGillivray with sounds by Stanley Myers (any relation to Michael?!) in an outing which boasts the usual Walker flourishes and desposits what Rosemary Woodhouse might call a sort of chalky undertaste. Notable for an appearance by the lovely Leo Genn in his second last screen appearance ever, as psychiatrist Dr Lytell. Care in the community? Psycho on the streets! Happy Halloween!

Gonks Go Beat (1965)

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The Sixties were so wild and funky that someone thought a psychedelic pop interpretation of Romeo and Juliet set in space would be just the thing. A world in which Terry Scott is Prime Minister, Arthur Mullard the Drum Master and the Graham Bond Organisation is the house band can only be described with one word – CRAZY! The first British sci-fi musical and quite as bad as that sounds. Written by Jimmy Watson and director Robert Hartford-Davis, whom we encountered with The Fiend/Beware My Brethren.

Prehistoric Women (1966)

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Aka Slave Girls. For a commentator like IQ Hunter, this offers a range of semiotic possibilities. For the rest of us, it’s straightforward trash, using the sets from Hammer’s One Million Years BC and pleasantly ridiculous though hardly as well loved. Great White Hunter Michael Latimer is looking for a leopard and stumbles across an ancient civilisation dedicated to a White Rhino. He falls for Edina Ronay, one of the blondes being held captive by the brunettes led by Martine Beswick, who chooses him as her mate but he thinks she’s too cruel. Everyone on set was aware of the story’s quality – Beswick said they had a lot of laughs while director Michael Carreras said all it needed was speech bubbles because it was perfect comic strip stuff. Camp as a caravan site.

Cool It Carol! (1970)

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Janet Lynn is Carol Thatcher (!), the smalltown girl who’s bored and wants to go to London for fun and a modelling career. She convinces Robin Askwith playing Joe the trainee butcher to join her and deflowers him on the train journey. They quickly run out of money and she thinks it’d be a lark to pose for nude photos and when they have to wait to see if they’ll sell, he pimps her out so they can eat. Lynn maintains her upbeat approach to the world of seed even when old men masturbate over the pair of them having sex for a porn film. She wants to draw the line at having sex with a sheikh but now that Joe’s managing her she has to go through that and more because there’s so much money involved … they fetch up with a lorra lorra money but they’re not happy. Lynn is quite the delight and Askwith is good as the naif. From the pen of Murray Smith, this Pete Walker outing is a typically cautionary tale about prostitution – but it doesn’t stop him shooting all those couplings and breasts, eh? The Seventies. Another time, when you really did find stories in the News of the World and just change the names. Allegedly.

Au Pair Girls (1972)

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The sex comedy was quite the 70s thing only the Europeans did it better. Journeyman director Val Guest takes the reins in this showcase of toplessness with an array of young foreign lovelies (including Gabrielle Drake, sister of brilliant musican Nick) and an ensemble made up of the available TV actors of the day – Richard O’Sullivan, Johnny Briggs, John Le Mesurier, John Standing and Rosalie Crutchley. These 4 girls don’t go anywhere near children which is a good thing – who knows why they’ve descended on Britain? They just can’t keep their kit on. Knickers?  A thing of the past. Oh my goodness, softcore exploitation has its limits.

 

Confessions of a Sex Maniac (1974)

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A horny junior architect, Roger Lloyd Pack, uses his boss’ latest commission to shag every woman in sight, supposedly using their breasts as inspiration for his designs. He finally gets it on with the hot office secretary and the boss returns from a lecture trip to find them together. Neither sexy nor funny and quite possibly the antithesis to erotica, IQ Hunter describes this as censor-baiting rubbish, a career avocation of writer/director/producer (or sexploitation auteur) Alan Birkinshaw, whose greatest claim to fame (probably) is that his sister is Fay Weldon. Which goes to prove that some mothers do ‘ave ’em.