“I eventually worked out a theory, or whatever it may be, that horror, sex and laughter are all connected in strange ways”
The saga of independent filmmaker Roger Corman ranks as one of the most amazing motion picture success stories. Having produced more than 550 films and directed fifty others, his influence on American film goes far beyond his own energetic, creative low-budget movies. He is arguably one of Hollywood’s most gifted and masterful film makers.
Noted for his keen ability to spot young talents, his most lasting legacy will undoubtedly be the legion of producers, directors, writers, and actors he has fostered, among them: Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Talia Shire, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Sally Kirkland, Ron Howard, Charles Bronson, Joe Dante, Jonathan Demme, Gale Ann Hurd, and James Cameron. Born in Detroit in 1926, Corman graduated from Beverly Hills High School. In 1947, he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Stanford University. After a stint in the Navy, he took a job at 20th Century Fox and by 1949 was a story analyst at the studio. Disenchanted with studio protocol, he left Fox for England, where he did post-graduate work in modern English literature at Oxford’s Balliol College. Upon his return to Hollywood Corman worked briefly as a literary agent.
In 1953, Roger Corman sold his first screenplay, entitled “Highway Dragnet”, to Allied Artists and served as associate producer on the film. With the proceeds of the sale he made “The Monster from the Ocean Floor” the following year, his first film as an independent producer, on the remarkable budget of $18,000.
The triumph of his initial endeavor proved that a high quality film can be made with very little money. As a result, Corman began producing a wide array of low-budget features for American International Pictures; all were extremely successful. He tackled a variety of genres, from Westerns and gangster films to sci-fi, teen-age hot rod and rock`n’roll movies. In 1957 alone Corman turned out nine films–some of which were completed in two or three days. With this string of box office hits to his credit, Corman began to procure larger budgets. Throughout the 1960s, Corman’s cycle of Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe horror films earned him international acclaim. When the French Film Institute honored him with a retrospective in 1964, Roger Corman became the youngest producer/director ever to receive such an accolade. Always a trendsetter, Corman made the first “biker” movie with “Wild Angels”. Starring Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, the film opened the 1966 Venice Film Festival to great acclaim. In 1967, “The Trip”, written by and starring Jack Nicholson, began the “psychedelic” film craze of the late 1960s.
As American International Pictures’ primary director, Corman’s success built the company into a major force in Hollywood. Appalled by the intrinsic waste of time and money, as well as executive interference, Corman opted out of the major studio system. In 1970, he founded his own production and distribution company, New World Pictures. New World’s first year in operation astonished even Corman, as all eleven pictures distributed showed substantial profits. New World rapidly grew into the largest independent motion picture distribution company in the United States. In addition to providing the public with such fast-paced entertainment as “Big Bad Mama” and “Eat My Dust”, or cult films such as “Rock and Roll High School”, New World soon became the independent leader in presenting high-quality foreign films to the American public.
In January of 1983, Roger Corman decided to sell New World Pictures. The sale allowed him to continue producing films without simultaneously managing a gigantic distribution company. It also enabled him to produce more movies with larger budgets. The day after he sold New World, Corman announced the formation of his new company, Concorde-New Horizons. In the year that followed, he released four new films: the teen comedy “Screwballs”, the sci-fi adventure “Space Raiders”, the sword and sorcery epic “Deathstalker”, “Love Letters” with Jamie Lee Curtis.
Concorde’s recent releases include the critically acclaimed “Reflections in the Dark”, starring Mimi Rogers and Billy Zane and Paul Anderson’s “Shopping”. For Showtime’s “Roger Corman Presents,” he showcased such films as “Alien Avengers” starring George Wendt, “Black Scorpion II” starring Joan Severence, “Humanoids from the Deep” starring Robert Carradine and “Vampirella” starring Roger Daltry.
Roger Corman lives in Santa Monica with his wife, producer Julie Corman, and four children.
Present at FACTS: 2001