Saturday, 19 April 2014

"Corman’s World – Exploits Of A Hollywood Rebel" on BLU RAY – A Review Of The 2011 Alex Stapleton Documentary Film...

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"…Hassled By The Man!" – Corman's World on BLU RAY

Take a look at this list of Actors – Jack Nicholson, Tommy Lee Jones, Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern, William Shatner, Lee Van Cleef, Dick Miller, Charles Bronson, Vincent Price, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Harvey Keitel, David Carradine, Pam Grier and Mamie Van Doren… 

Or this list of Directors, Writers and Producers – Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, John Sayles, Joe Dante, Paul W.S. Anderson, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd and Francis Ford Coppola…

What have they all got in common? The answer is Producer, Writer, Director, Mentor, Career-Break Giver, Cheapskate and Sordid Exploitation B-Movie Legend - ROGER CORMAN. So why don’t you know this? Well that’s what Alex Stapleton’s 2011 documentary film "Corman's World" is about.

It begins in the late Forties with two horrid years in the American Navy where Cadet Roger William Corman from Detroit, Michigan wilfully goes up against every order and gets a ludicrously high amount of demerits. He cannot stand authority of any kind. Roger then takes a job for 8 weeks reading crappy scripts at 20th Century Fox – says screw this – and decides in 1954 to make a film of his own – a black and white called "Monster From The Ocean". He does everything himself and on a budget of nothing minus zero (they show hilarious footage of his glowing one-eyed monster) and our boy’s off and running. Some decades later and at the sprightly age of 82 - there’s a staggering 384 more films where they came from (and he’s Directed 55 of them). And in between all that our heros has managed to procure a loving and talented wife Julie and four kids…and millions of movie-going admirers (many of whom are now Industry giants).

What’s fascinating about this fabulous story is the huge number of genuine stars Corman knew and gave a break too – and who take time out to acknowledge this. Jack Nicholson in particular - who seems to owe his stunning career to the man – is so witty and self-deprecating that he’s worth the price of admission alone. Ron Howard is characteristically generous too (got his first Director’s spot under Corman) and has hilarious anecdotes about dangerous stunts in borrowed cars. Genius Writers and Directors John Sayles and Peter Bogdanovich give insightful glimpses into Corman’s sometimes cavalier yet utterly driven personality – always sticking it to 'the man'. While "Boxcar Bertha" gave Martin Scorsese and his troop of stunning actors an outing and the maestro his first Director’s Chair.

But what really tickles the funny bones is the endless parade of film clips - exploitation movies you haven’t seen in decades – or not at all. Most were made without safety or permits - where an explosion is pretty much mandatory – where crass is good – and if it can be made for less than the dollar price of Scrooge’s underwear – then that’s even better. Blood spatters, cleavage pops, hoodlums do what hoodlums do, monsters invade from outer space (Lee Van Cleef sorts out a mutant bug with a canister blowtorch), crocodiles chomp on limbs, massively endowed ladies ponce about on the planet Venus with telepathy but very few clothes…and cars eat people…all of it thoroughly delightful.

But in between all this B-Movie/Drive-In fodder are moments of breakthrough – 1962's "The Intruder" – a serious film about racism down South starring a first part for William Shatner that nearly got all involved killed. And while his flicks might have been the wrong side of pump-action nudity drivel – his tastes were for proper art-house films of the European and World schools. So Corman used his distribution company ‘New World Pictures’ to give Fellini, Bergman, Truffaut and Akira Kurosawa movies their only American releases.

Corman also made eight Edgar Allen Poe films with Vincent Price including "The Pit And The Pendulum", "The Masque Of The Red Death" and "The House Of Usher" which are now revered as classics of the Horror genre. He used genuine Hells Angels in the biker movie "The Wild Angels" (the character Heavenly Blues gives the quote that titles this review), spoke to the teenagers of America with the Sixties culture flick "The Trip" (popped LSD to be authentic) and followed that nugget with the biggest independent cult film hit of all time – "Easy Rider" - which made global superstars of Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.

But not to leave crass behind - for the Seventies - we get the Downton Abbey pleasant "Women In Cages", the University Challenge brain-teaser "Death Race 2000", the very nice boy clean-haircuts of The Ramones in "Rock & Roll High School" and vein nibbling fishy in the artistically fulfilling "Piranha". What a man and what a life!

The 30-minutes of Bonus Features have extended interviews and special messages to the great man. Aspect ratio is Full Screen and of course varies with the Source while Audio is a Basic 2.0. There are no subtitles.

In some respects - to blab and reveal more - is to do you the viewer - an injustice. Suffice to say that "Corman's World" is one of those cool insider peeks at the history of 'alternate' movies and the independent side of Hollywood. But perhaps like the chipper curmudgeon himself – this wonderfully uplifting and funny documentary is largely unknown and criminally under-appreciated.

Juts don’t let this BLU RAY gem go unacknowledged in your household…or we may have to send some killer vixens around with chainsaws and open blouses…

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