Roger Corman is a name synonymous with low budget B-movies. He was known as a prolific purveyor of schlock cinema and exploitation films. It would be easy to dismiss Corman's contributions to the movie industry simply because his pictures would never be considered high art. Frankly, Hollywood could use more folks like Roger Corman and less of Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer or anyone else of their ilk. It warmed my heart to see the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award Corman an honorary Oscar in 2009. Sadly, he wasn't given the chance to make a speech on the actual Oscars broadcast. They have to save time for all those self-indulgent montages, you know.
Luckily, fans will get the chance to hear from the man himself in Alex Stapleton's documentary, "Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel." Those unfamiliar with Roger Corman may be surprised at how soft-spoken, intelligent, and articulate he is. After all, this is a man who made movies where women were raped by giant worms or sea monsters. Born in Detroit, Corman studied industrial engineering at Stanford and literature at Oxford University. He got his start in the movie business as a script reader for 20th Century Fox. After dismissing nearly every screenplay he read, Corman championed "The Gunfighter" and contributed several ideas to improve the story. It was turned into a successful Western starring Gregory Peck, but Corman received no credit and decided to strike out on his own.
Corman began writing, producing, and directing his own films in the mid-50's and had a successful run adapting some of Edgar Allen Poe's most renowned short stories. Corman really hit his stride in 1970 when he formed his own independent studio in New World Pictures, which produced cult classics like "Death Race 2000," "Rock 'n' Roll High School," and "Big Bad Mama." Corman was also responsible for launching a staggering amount of careers. Actors like Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, David Carradine, Chuck Norris, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, and William Shatner all worked on Corman productions. Filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, Curtis Hanson, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, and John Sayles started out on a Corman picture in some capacity. Long before becoming the king of the world, James Cameron did production design and special effects on films like "Galaxy of Terror," which was a clear precursor to his work on "Aliens."
Nearly every one of these individuals makes an appearance in "Corman's World" to reminisce about the master. I've always enjoyed hearing Scorsese and Bogdanovich speak, but Nicholson provides some of the best moments and anecdotes. Nicholson actually breaks out in tears and recalls how Corman was the only one who would employ him when he started, along with encouraging his early efforts to write and direct. Most interesting are Corman and Shatner's recollections of the 1962 picture, "The Intruder." It was a rare attempt at more serious minded fare with the future starship captain as a bigot stirring up racial violence in the Deep South. At the time, it was the only Corman production to lose money as exhibitors avoided it like the plague. So, it was back to cheap scares and creature features.
Eventually, Hollywood caught up with the genius of Corman and started making B-movies with A-budgets. "Jaws" and "Star Wars" gave birth to the summer blockbuster and could have easily sprung from the New World factory. It became tougher to compete with the unlimited resources of the major studios as Corman played catch-up with knockoffs like "Piranha" and "Battle Beyond the Stars."
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is strong without any noticeable flaws. Interview segments are bold and clean while vintage clips are grainy.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Sound isn't overpowering with dialogue coming in crisp and clear.
Extended Interviews (13:10) are essentially deleted scenes with some subjects (Brett Ratner) thankfully left out of the final cut.
Special Messages to Roger (15:15) are personal greetings from the interviewees addressed to Roger Corman.
The Blu-ray also includes the documentary's theatrical trailer.
Alien invasions, giant robots, vampires, wizards, and super-powered men in tights, sure sound like the type of thing Roger Corman would have punched out. If Corman had his druthers, he'd rather make a hundred $1 million movies than one $100 million production. "Corman's World" isn't a deep delving expose, but a loving tribute to an unsung filmmaker.