‘Corman’s World’ – An Ode To The Hollywood Rebel


The best part of Corman’s World is to see Jack Nicholson cry as he speaks about Roger Corman saying, “He was you know my main connec…  my lifeblood to whatever I thought I was gonna be as a person.” Nicholson is not the only man who dedicated his career to Corman, but the list is so long that you might end up mentioning all the revolutionary filmmakers of Hollywood, be it Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Paul W. S. Anderson, Peter Fonda, Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Cappola, and make me stop.

The man who gave Hollywood so many gems was neglected for recognition for a long. His films were treated as unwanted material but Corman had his own audience. He created his audience beyond the anarchy of Studio. He ran a film club, a studio, and whatnot, that groomed filmmakers of the future, and later became the pillars of Hollywood. Corman’s World is to honor the School of Roger Corman and the man himself.

Indefinite gratitude to the director, Alex Stapleton to focus the spotlight on this extraordinary rebel who took Hollywood and never let the studios exploit him. Roger Corman made more than 200 films in his career and produced some 150-175 films that were extremely low budget. But the beauty wasn’t in the budget but in his endeavor, for a painting is still a painting, whether made on glossy paper or sandpaper.

Corman’s Style of Filmmaking

Roger Corman made films in the ERA when Hip-Culture was at its height. The audience was looking for a different kind of film. Studios were exploiting the artist, and re-using the same plots again and again. The films were neat, clean, and utterly dull. Roger perceived the notion that moviegoers at that time, the teenagers were in constant struggle with the authorities. So he not only channelized his film that depicted that rebellion but also in turn became a rebel against the existing norms of Hollywood.

Corman used to work for the studios too, but when on a western film, The Gunfighter (1950), his efforts were unrecognized he decided it’s time to leave and take matters into one’s hand.

Corman made his first low-budget film, Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954) which was a sci-fi horror film. The genre was not new to the underground cinema-goers but the man and vision were. And Corman was just getting started.

Corman’s second film, The Fast and the Furious (1955) introduced him as the Rebel of Hollywood. His method was to smash things, “every motorcycle that runs, has to smash or blow up.” That kind of style required money as well, and Corman was a real businessman. However, his second film felt heavy on his pocket. When American International showed interest in it, Corman made a 3 picture deal with them. What Corman wanted was to keep making films and not wait for the pictures to be successful or a failure. Fortunately, Corman made some 250 films and never lost a dime.

Roger Corman’s style of filmmaking was personal. He made outlaw films for the outlaw audience of his generation. He himself was an outlaw of the Hollywood studio system. The rebels recognized the revolution in his films where the basic theme was “defining yourself on your own terms.

“I’ve always been anti-establishment. I really must break the law.”

Roger Corman

An Artistic Disaster

Not many people know, but Roger Corman was a distributor of Foreign Films in Hollywood. The films were made by rebellious filmmakers of their respective countries. These makers were Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut, Kurosawa, and all the filmmakers about whom a Cinephiles boast off. That was the double world of Roger Corman. In one direction he was making exploitation films, and on the other, he was distributing the most creative films of World Cinema. He thought the films of these makers should get a larger audience.

Now, the question arises, how a maker like Corman who had his influences right, made exploitation films? Well, Corman had an artistic disaster that led him to do so. For him, making films was more important than the kind of films he made. Exploitation films, Horror Sci films were the films that made money for Corman, and the artistic ones, which he made, led him to mortgage his own house.

In 1962, Corman tried to direct a film he wanted to do as an artist. The Intruder (1962) was his say as an artist. However, the film went down the drain because it was a social commentary and the audiences were not ready to soak in that viewpoint, at that time. The film commented on racism and was about school integration happening in a small town. A masterpiece ahead of its time. Corman was labeled as a Communist, and the failure of The Intruder pushed him back to the lane of low budget horror flicks. He wasn’t in a position to afford another failure. It was the only film, Corman never made a profit on.

“It made me rethink my method of making pictures. I should make my subject matter the text, which will be a commercial text, but my theme, my message, what is important to me, should be the subtext.”

Roger Corman

American New Wave – The Hollywood Renaissance

At the time when things were beginning to change, there weren’t any films that were reflecting the changes in the thinking of the young people. But Roger was alert.

Roger directed his 100th film in those revolutionary times. The film was The Wild Angels (1966) that became the biggest independent film of that time. His next film was The Trip (1967) which was both a poetic and commercial hit due to the thematic use of the LSD effect, which wasn’t used on screen before. The hip culture was on the rise and these two films established Corman as the beloved director of the rebels.

Easy Rider (1969) that is considered as the beginning of New Hollywood was hugely inspired by The Wild Angels & The Trip. It expounded the Corman effect, because every member of the crew of Easy Rider came from Corman’s school, be it the director Dennis Hopper, or the stars Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson.

Nicholson recounts that when Easy Rider was screened in Cannes and his character came on screen, the movie exploded in the audience. Easy Rider was made from Corman’s influence and Jack is still indebted to him. Corman was the support system behind his journey of becoming “the movie star.

It is hard to imagine the new Hollywood without Roger Corman. The new-age directors, Francis Ford Cappola, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, and Martin Scorsese directed their first film under Corman’s production.

Boxcar Bertha (1972), the first film directed by Martin Scorsese was a sequel to the 1970 film Bloody Mama, which had Robert De Niro in it. Thus, Corman’s indirectly ignited the long association of Martin and De Niro. It was the crew of Boxcar Bertha that helped Scorsese make his first classic masterpiece, Mean Streets (1973). After that, there was no looking back.

Roger Corman not only supported the director of New Hollywood but also influenced their films. A lot before science flicks like Star Wars and Monster films like Jaws became popular, Corman was making them on a daily basis, spending from his own pocket. Star Wars is a great example of how Corman’s idea was taken by the Studios and sold as their own. Corman was never recognized for his vision by these studios which is also a bitter reality of the capitalistic film society.

“I think it’s very important to let the generations of today know who he is”

Martin Scorsese

The Long Wait before Recognition

Academy took an Era to recognize the effort and unparalleled vision of this man who changed Hollywood and entertainment. When his friends like Nicholson and every other filmmaker went on stage to receive a trophy but Corman was neglected, they made it their goal to bring an Oscar to Roger.

Roger Corman was awarded with lifetime achievement award for his brave endeavors and rebellious filmmaking career.

“I think that to succeed in this world you have to take chances. I believe the finest films being done today are done by the original, innovative filmmakers who have the courage to take a chance and gamble. So, I say to you, Keep Gambling and Keep Taking Chances.”

Roger Corman

The Dog Barks but the Caravan moves on

Corman was fueled by outwitting, even more than rebelling, against the authority. It brings out his creativity and his drive. It just seems to fire him up to just show them that he will do it himself. And that’s what Roger Corman did. He made films with a budget as low as 2000-7000 dollars and wrapped up a shoot in 7 days. He wasn’t trying to make good independent films, but he was trying to make films that would open the doors to more films, films that can be sold. The studios were doing the same but Corman was doing it, on his own terms, and the subtext read “rebellious”. He was selling the revolution through these commercial films while studios were just selling projects.

Roger Corman

Any maker who is starting out and doesn’t know how to begin, learn from Corman’s school of filmmaking. Learn from him how to make films that sell, fulfill your artistic soul, and are budget-friendly. Some might say he was lousy, but to integrate these 3 ingredients in a film, is the mark of a genius filmmaker which Roger Corman is. He still makes films and teaches students how to make them on a low budget, because the studio might not support your dream but your intellect and creativity can. Be alert and Be a Rebel.

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel doesn’t teach you anything specific about filmmaking. But it inspires every cell in your body to believe that you can make your low budget films without falling prey to finances. I believe every aspiring filmmaker and cinephile should check out this graceful documentary, Corman’s World made possible by extraordinary Alex Stapleton. Without this, so many details about this heroic man would have been missed and lost in the history of films.

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel is available for Video on Demand.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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