Perhaps no director invites boos and cheers in equal amount as Roger Corman. A man who made 100 films as a director and producer by 1963 and who still churns out schlock, exploitation, and low budget junk, he’s the subject of director Alex Stapleton’s documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. While definitely more of a straight regurgitation of facts than anything substantial, film buffs will get a real kick out of looking back on the career of one of America’s most prolific filmmakers.
Stapleton follows Corman from his start in the industry (walking out on Fox after a dispute regarding rewrites he did on The Gunfighter) to his series of Poe film and through the 60s and today. It also shows how Corman is nothing like his on screen persona, as it touches on Corman’s efforts to bring foreign films from Bergman and Fellini to the States and his own personal politics.
That’s really the entire log line for the film, and so simple that it’s obvious why Corman would agree to do it in the first place. Stapleton has also assembled some wonderful interview with some of Corman’s biggest discoveries. Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, and John Sayles are all on hand (just to name a few) to talk about working with Roger and to explain just why Corman was a vital filmmaker. For the uninitiated it will be wonderful to see just how many people got their start thanks to Corman, and for film fans it’s great to hear rarely told anecdotes.
As the film goes on to talk about the rise of Spielberg and George Lucas, it also shows just how much influence Corman had in his heyday. It’s nostalgia for a period that’s slowly fading and has been since the late 70s. It’s sad to watch Roger fade into slow obscurity thanks to the rise of the event picture. Late in the film, Stapleton strikes a genuinely loving tone thanks to interview subjects who desperately want the director to finally get the respect he deserves.
Other than that, it’s pretty slight entertainment, but perfect for a Saturday afternoon. I doubt Corman would’ve had it any other way. It’s a different kind of Hugo.