Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

Director: Alex Stapleton

SBS has been doing a string of schlock-cinema docos on Thursdays this month, and tonight’s was this survey of the work of a man who is actually kind of hurt by being called a “schlockmeister”, and says as much in a vintage interview with Tom Snyder near the end of the film. And yet, well, you can hardly blame people for calling him that, can you, I mean, just look at that filmography, and then look at some of the monsters in those films… can a large part of Corman’s oeuvre not be fairly described as “schlock”? Therein, of course, lies the problem, cos the doco also acknowledges that other, equally undeniable aspect of Corman’s career, where he clearly craved some sort of respect and had ambitions towards higher things, as manifested in things like The Intruder (infamously and allegedly the only film he ever lost money on) and the way he distributed films by Bergman, Kurosawa, Truffaut and the like in the 70s. As someone notes in the film, Corman in the flesh doesn’t seem like the sort of person who would make Corman’s films… Alex Stapleton has fashioned a pleasing overview of Corman’s career, fitting in probably about as much detail as could comfortably go into a 90-minute film, although I fear it does kind of imply that Corman fell into obscurity and out of the business in the 80s; the B-movie industry clearly was affected by the rise of the summer blockbuster in the 70s, and Corman did wind up selling New Worlds in 1983, but a quick squiz at his IMDB entry does show that more than half of his 400-odd producer credits post-date that time and that he’s never really stopped. As for him being an obscure figure, well, someone else wonders in the film why Corman himself never attained the mainstream success so many of his cast and crew would attain… and yet would mainstream success not have meant some degree of compromise? He’s quite appalled in that Tom Snyder clip by the idea of a film costing $40m, not even so much because he could make 20-30 films for that amount but because of how that $40m could’ve been used to actually improve people’s lives. I rather doubt Corman would’ve got on well in that sort of industry. The people these days who are into the sort of thing he did and does are not exactly a majority of film lovers, but among that crowd he’s always been a major figure. I suspect he’d be happier with that.

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