Roger Corman is the King of low budget horror and b-movies. Always looking to save a penny, he’s notorious for being a tight wad with ridiculous filming schedules, and a bad habit of repurposing stock footage, even when it doesn’t make sense.
But it all worked out for him right? The man has launched the careers of some of Hollywood’s most prestigious, produced over 400 movies and directed over 50 of his own. Not to mention, his influence can be seen in almost every horror film produced post 1960.
And after the release of fantastic new documentary last week about Corman’s career called: Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, I was inspired to watch some of his best/worst work. Lucky us, there’s quite a bit available to stream via Netflix. Here’s what’s in the “Corman” queue this week:
Vincent Price stars as Nicholas Medina, the son of a Spanish Inquisition torturer, whose wife Elizabeth has mysteriously died, prompting her brother Francis to come investigate.
After a series of revelations, ghostly appearances, and strange deaths, Francis finds himself strapped to a torture device during the film’s climax, one of the most important scenes in post-1960 horror!
According to Lucy Chase Williams’ book, The Complete Films of Vincent Price, the shooting schedule was 15 days, and the film’s budget was almost $1 million. Corman has said that the film’s actual production cost was approximately $300,000. Stock footage of the climactic torture sequence also finds its way into the 1966 spy spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, which also starred Vincent Price.
The queen bee of a cosmetics company, struggling with her own fading beauty, turns to a potions expert who extracts an age-defying enzyme from the jelly of royal wasps. The solution proves remarkably effective at first, transforming her into a sultry raven-haired vixen… until she begins to take on the predatory traits of a giant female wasp setting out on a killing spree.
I love the message this cheesy monster mash carried, and found the “special effects” giggle worthy, although I was wishing for the actual creature that is featured on the poster the entire time.
The film also inspired the less amusing Leech Woman and was later remade in the 80’s as Evil Spawn. Roger Corman appears in a quick, uncredited cameo as a doctor.
Genetically treated salmon escape a cannery and are eaten by coelacanths who then turn into mutant monsters, who then bring mayhem to a sleepy oceanside community when they kidnap — and mate with — the town’s teenage girls.
Rob Bottin’s effects are nauseatingly effective, and the cast is good, especially Vic Morrow as a racist fisherman and Doug McClure as the stalwart hero.
An uncompromising shockfest with enough gratuitous blood and nudity to keep fans happy, the film features an Alien-inspired shock ending which still makes viewers jump today.
Jonny Splatter had it all — fame, fortune and rock-and-roll immortality. But now he’s dead by his own hand, and a small circle of supposed friends (one of whom is played by Tony Todd) have gathered to hear his last will.
Somehow Jonny lives on, even after a bullet to the brain, and the five people he’s brought to torment from beyond the grave will be able to testify to his cruelty.
Directed by Joe Dante, produced by Corman, starring Corey Feldman and Tony Todd – this is a good quickie for the horror fan [guaranteed you’ll be kicking it out of your bed shortly after]. This is also Roger Corman’s, and Netflix’s, first foray into webisodic content.
Geeky and shy Walter Paisley is a busboy at a hip coffeehouse, whose life changes when he accidentally kills a cat and hides the body in a morbid sculpture that becomes known as an artistic triumph by the unwitting Bohemian crowd. Beset by numerous requests for similar work, Paisley finds inspiration by whacking his peers with various objects, and the demand for more sculptures just keeps growing.
A Bucket of Blood was shot in 5 days and on a $50,000 budget AND YOU CAN TELL, which makes it so much fun. This is also the first of three comedic horror collaborations between Corman and writer Charles Griffith, and was followed by The Little Shop of Horrors. In 1959, The American International Pictures’ theatrical marketing campaign put a lot of emphasis on the comedic aspects of this film, proclaiming the audience would be “sick, sick, sick – from LAUGHTING!”
Lt. Andre Duvalier [a very young Jack Nicholson], an officer in Napoleon’s army, pursues a mysterious woman into the castle of an elderly baron [Boris Karloff] and uncovers a bizarre plot: A witch is planning to drive the baron to suicide. Duvalier soon finds himself in a world of supernatural treachery where nothing is what it seems.
Young Jack Nicholson is worth enduring the slow story line littered with a few ‘boo’ moments to make sure you’re still awake.
And instead of a fire, the usual finale for a Corman film of that period, he flooded the castle in stead. The bulk of the film was shot over 4 days and clips from the film were also used in Targets .
An unsuspecting teenager takes in a friendly stray dog never knowing that the animal escaped from a top-secret government genetics lab.
The boy and dog become fast friends, but problems crop up when the canine’s “partner,” a large, deadly, orange creature, comes looking for him.
This film got double-tapped by the ugly stick seeing that it was made in the 80’s and produced by Roger Corman on a pitiful budget — It didn’t even have a chance! That’s all the more reason it’s enjoyable and a good memory of Corey Haim. The Watchers is based loosely on the novel by Dean Koontz.
As several young women disappear in California, suspicion falls on the creepy tortured artist who believes that his ancestor was a vampire. This movie is notoriously known for its tumultuous production history.
The original film, shot by Jack Hill, was pieced together with portions of a Yugoslavian horror film called Operation Titian, a movie Corman purchased on the cheap for song rights. Then vampire material was shot and added by the films new director Stephanie Rothman.
All of the opposing views are blindingly obvious when watching. If you want to know what it’s like to watch three movies at once, this one will teach you a lesson.
Diane Ladd plans to unleash a deadly virus to rid Earth of humans and repopulate the planet with a new strain of dinosaurs, and a security guard and an environmentalist are the only ones who stand in her way.
It’s Jurassic Park ala Roger Corman! Critics actually didn’t hate this film as much as its audience [Ebert gave it a thumbs up.] Carnosaur grossed over 1.7 million, which is considered a success given the tight budget and limited theatrical released.
It has also spawned two direct-to-video sequels that were pieced together with stock footage from their predecessor.
Oh, this is my favorite — a triple threat of terror from the master of the genre: Edgar Allan Poe! Corman admired him a lot. This collection of three films — The Black Cat, Morella and The Case of M. Valdemar — offers everything horror fans can’t get enough of, from murder and dementia to live burials, open tombs, resurrection and zombies.
In Morella, Price’s bitterness over the long-ago death of his wife results in tragedy for his estranged daughter Maggie Pierce. The Black Cat is a funny revenge tale concerning Price, his bitter enemy Peter Lorre, and Lorre’s two-timing wife Joyce Jameson. And in the last tale, The Case of Mr. Valdemar, Price is put into a state of suspended animation by the diabolical Basil Rathbone when Rathbone claims Price’s bride Debra Paget for himself. Keep and eye out for the hilarious hallucination about playing football with someone’s head, it’s a good time. - The End