Review: Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (Sundance)
PLOT: An in depth profile of the 'King of the B's' Roger Corman,who, over his sixty year career, has produced such grindhouse classics as DEATH RACE 2000, PIRANHA, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, GRAND THEFT AUTO, ROCK N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, and more.
REVIEW: CORMAN'S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL was one of the more light-hearted documentaries to play at this year's edition of the Sundance Film Festival. A tongue in cheek look at Roger Corman's legacy, it's every bit as fun as you'd expect given Corman's oeuvre. It's a pretty comprehensive overview of his work, starting from his days churning out trash like NOT OF THIS EARTH with AIP pictures, to his near-breakthrough with counter-culture pictures like THE TRIP and THE WILD ANGELS- all the way to his current work with the Sci-Fi Channel on films like SHARKTOPUS.
One thing that's made clear is that Corman, while tight-fisted with cash, was never one to deny people with potential the chance to shine. The talent he discovered is staggering. Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdonovich; these are just a few of the names Corman helped put on the map.
Sadly, it's also made clear that Corman has been something of a victim of his own lack of ambition. To him, the Grindhouse picks he churned out were just product, and he didn't really care if they were good or not- just as long as the bottom line put the film in profit. Corman's one big shot at the mainstream was probably when he had the opportunity to produce EASY RIDER, but was shot down by AIP's board of investors, which led to him starting his own company, New World Entertainment. Once on his own, he never tried to make anything particularly worthwhile, instead focusing on films for the drive-in set, and later, the video market.
Perhaps this is due to the failure of Corman's one true passion project, a sixties civil right drama called THE INTRUDER, that he directed in 1963, and starred a young William Shatner. Passionate about civil rights, CORMAN'S WORLD shows how much of himself Corman put into the project, only to see it flop at the box office, despite critical acclaim. This doc argues that Corman never really recovered from this blow, explaining the years of schlock that followed.
Of course, there's really nothing wrong with schlock, just as long as it's well-done, and Corman usually delivered on this score. Everyone interviewed here, including Scorsese, Howard, and Bogdonovich seem to have nothing but admiration for the man. Jack Nicholson is featured extensively, and at one point, he begins to weep openly when thinking of the doors Corman opened for him, allowing him to be the mega-star that he is today.
If you like this kind of thing (and really, who doesn't?) CORMAN'S WORLD is a must-see documentary. It's astoundingly well put together by director Alex Stapleton, who seems to have had a better budget than Corman did on most of his films, with this having a slick look, and a phenomenal retro-score by none other than Air, who haven't scored a film since THE VIRGIN SUICIDES. It's a great, affectionate look at a by-gone era in exploitation filmmaking, and stands alongside NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD and MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED as the finest of it's kind.