Roger Corman – Part 2
The late 1960s saw Corman and his films give a voice to the counter-culture of the time. In 1966, Corman made the first biker movie with The Wild Angels. It starred Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, and opened the 1966 Venice Film Festival. In 1967, The Trip, written by and starring Jack Nicholson, began the psychedelic film craze of the late 1960’s and was the American entry at Cannes that year. Joan Didion said she went to see The Wild Angels because, “there on the screen was some news I was not getting from the New York Times. I began to think I was seeing ideograms of the future.”
In 1970, Corman founded New World Pictures which became a small independently owned production/distribution studio, making many cult films such as Women in Cages (1971), Death Race 2000 (1975), Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Children of the Corn (1983), and the Joe Dante film Piranha (1978). Corman’s distribution side of New World brought many foreign films to mass audiences in the United States for the first time, including the works of Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa. In a ten-year period, New World Pictures won more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film than all other studios combined. Corman eventually sold New World to an investment group in 1983, and later formed Concorde Pictures and later New Horizons.
Corman’s penultimate film as director was 1971’s Von Richthofen and Brown (he had always wanted to make an aviation movie, being a pilot himself). He then returned to directing once more with 1990’s Frankenstein Unbound. In total, Roger Corman has produced over 300 movies and directed more than 50.
In 2009, Corman produced and directed alongside with director Joe Dante the web series “Splatter” for Netflix. The protagonist of the film is portrayed by Corey Feldman, and the story talks of the haunting tale of rock-and-roll legend Johnny Splatter. He also started contributing trailer commentaries to Dante’s web series, Trailers From Hell.
Corman most recently produced the 2010 films Dinoshark and Dinocroc vs. Supergator for the Syfy cable television channel. Dinoshark premiered on March 13, 2010. Sharktopus, his latest Syfy production, had premiered in September 2010.
A number of noted film directors worked with Corman, usually early in their careers, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, Joe Dante, James Cameron, John Sayles, Curtis Hanson, Jack Hill, Robert Towne and Timur Bekmambetov. Many have said that Corman’s influence taught them some of the ins-and-outs of filmmaking. In the extras for the DVD of The Terminator, director James Cameron refers to his work for Corman as, “I trained at the Roger Corman Film School.” Cameron, Coppola, Demme, Hanson, Howard and Scorsese have all gone on to win Academy Awards. Ron Howard was reportedly told by Corman, “If you do a good job on this film, you’ll never have to work for me again.”
Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicolson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, Sandra Bullock and Robert De Niro. David Carradine, who received one of his first starring film roles in the Corman-produced Boxcar Bertha (1972) and went on to star in Death Race 2000, later noted: “It’s almost as though you can’t have a career in this business without having passed through Roger’s hands for at least a moment.”
In 1964, Corman was the youngest producer/director to be given a retrospective at the Cinematheque Francaise, as well as retrospectives at the British Film Institute and the Museum of Modern Art.
In 2006, Corman received the David O. Selznick Award from the Producers Guild of America. Also in 2006, his film Fall of the House of Usher was among the twenty-five movies selected for the National Film Registry, a compilation of significant films being preserved by the Library of Congress.
In 2010, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Corman with an Academy Honorary Award at the inaugural Governors Awards, on November 14, 2009.