Back in the mid-’50s, when the drive-in movie was barely a glint in the mainstreams’ eye, a pioneer of cinema forged a blazing trail across America and the world.
His name was — and still is — Roger Corman, an engineering student turned B-movie master who saw a hole in the burgeoning teenage market for lower end, rougher movies that could be made quickly, cheaply and effectively.
Starting with his production of Wyott Ordung’s ludicrous tropical shocker Monster From the Ocean Floor in 1954, Corman unleashed a decade spanning torrent of B-movie gems that mined every exploitable genre, from racing drama (1955’s original Fast and the Furious), science fiction (1957’s Attack of the Crab Monsters), literate-minded horror (1960’s House of Usher) and wild action (1975’s satirical Death Race 2000).
Today, still spry at 83, the producer, director and studio mogul is as prolific as ever. Under the banner of his studio New Horizons Pictures, Corman still enforces his mandate to create lower end, commercially viable films that don’t insult audience intelligence.
“I’ve always thought that film, being a visual medium, is by its definition an artform,” says Corman, who, in his over half century in the business, only lost money once (1962’s William Shatner starring racial drama The Intruder).
“But film is also the most expensive artform. I have always tried to be as efficient as possible with my work while also bringing a certain level of artistic integrity.”
Corman is perhaps most revered for nurturing and mentoring some of film history’s heaviest hitting talent, giving starts to the likes of Francis Ford Coppola (1963’s Dementia 13), Ron Howard (1977’s Grand Theft Auto), Jack Nicholson (1961’s original Little Shop of Horrors), Martin Scorsese (1972’s Boxcar Bertha) and James Cameron (1981’s Piranha 2).
For these future masters, working their way up the ranks in Corman’s kingdom was better than film school.
“I am still very friendly with all of them,” says Corman of his high-profile Hollywood disciples.
“I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished, especially Jim (Cameron), who always showed dedication and professionalism along with creative vision. Today, I still get short films, student films and demo reels sent to my office and if I like the work, we give them a chance. I’m still very interested in promoting young talent.”
• Roger Corman is appearing at Fan Expo Canada 2009 this weekend in Toronto. For more information, visit www.fanexpocanada.com
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