Sundance 2011 Review: CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL
Just as it was inconceivable that it took so long for the Academy to recognize Roger Corman with a lifetime achievement award (he received one in 2009), it seems odd that there has not been a comprehensive documentary about the man until now. Alex Stapleton's loving portrait of the Hollywood legend is a fast and flashy assembly of clips and interviews that finally brings the complete story of Corman and his work into one tidy package. For those unfamiliar with Corman's work, the film will prove to be a fascinating primer, a doorway through which one can begin to explore the man's vast filmography. Longtime fans will find little new information, but will most definitely appreciate finding it in one place and expressed so colorfully through many wonderful interviews.
Roger Corman's storied career began in 1949 with a job at 20th Century Fox that eventually led to a position as a story analyst. This work bred his distaste for the studio system after he received no credit for notes he made on a screenplay. He produced his first film, MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR, in 1953 which led to a lengthy stint with American International Pictures where he produced and directed films for years. With his films always turning a profit, larger budgets were given to him and in the '60s he developed a long string of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. He set trends by creating the first biker movie (WILD ANGELS) and the first "drug" movie (THE TRIP). He eventually left AIP to form his own company, New World Pictures, which not only produced Corman signature entertainment but also distributed renowned foreign films in the US. He then sold New World and formed Concorde-New Horizon which is still in operations today.
CORMAN'S WORLD features an impressive array of interview subjects. From Roger and his wife Julie to people whose careers began by working with Corman (such as Jack Nickolson) to a new generation of filmmakers heavily influenced by Corman (Eli Roth, Paul W.S. Anderson, etc.). Each person is candid about their time spent working with Corman or how his work has influenced their own art. Jack Nicholson in particular has some of the greatest moments in the film, his usual charm and machismo providing some genuine laughs.
What CORMAN'S WORLD so wonderfully expresses is the impressive length of Roger's career and his influence in so many lives. His career has spanned across two major shifts in Hollywood. First, the success of EASY RIDER (for which WILD ANGELS paved the way) marked a turning point in the films studios would produce. A threatening shift came next with the release of STAR WARS, a style of film Corman had been producing for years at a fraction of the price. Through all of this, he was continually able to spot new, young talent such as Joe Dante, Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdanovich who would lead the way as Hollywood and independent cinema alike changed. There are some notable omissions, though, such as no mention of James Cameron who famously impressed Corman with his work on GALAXY OF TERROR.
CORMAN'S WORLD is the most comprehensive piece about the master producer/director ever made. Even if you've heard these stories before, the clips and interviews are edited together so well and presented with such pizazz one can't help but be entertained and be happy to sit and watch the interviewees honor Corman. The film will be an excellent introduction to Corman for those walking in with minimal knowledge of his filmography and impact on the movie industry. In short, CORMAN'S WORLD is a wonderful documentary and a true celebration of filmmaking.