Roger Corman is a Hollywood legend, an integral piece in the history of cinema. Looking at his recent Syfy movie work, titles like 'Piranhaconda', 'Camel Spiders', and 'Sharktopus', admittedly doesn't suggest such an acclaimed proclamation; however, in the nearly 60 years he has worked as a producer, an impressive feat in and of itself, Corman has been responsible for altering the industry and offering many their first break in the business. Director Alex Stapleton gathered a number of those who went on to have impressive careers in their own right to tell this amazing story.
Corman gave up an engineering degree from Stanford for show business. He started as messenger at Twentieth Century Fox and moved up to story analyst but he didn't stay long. When some of his ideas made it into the script of 'The Gunfighter' minus any recognition, he was motivated to strike out on his own. He raised the money and in 1954 released 'Monster from the Ocean Floor'. Soon after he got involved with Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures to distribute his films.
Though it's now a common business practice for the studios, Corman found great success tapping into the then-ignored youth market, making pictures that appealed to teenagers. In the 1960s, he grew confident as a filmmaker and made a series of Edgar Allen Poe pictures. His frugality provided inspiration. 'The Terror', of which its star and co-director Jack Nicholson warns, "God forbid, I don't want to encourage anyone to see it," was made because the sets for 'The Raven' were staying up over the weekend before being torn down.
Corman influenced the two big movements of the 1970s, the New Hollywood era and the rise of the blockbuster, and those responsible for it. After 'The Wild Angels' became the biggest indie film up to that time, Hollywood took notice. Corman, who had previously worked with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, was going to executive produce 'Easy Rider', but AIP wanted to be able to replace Hopper as director if the production fell behind schedule. Instead, they took the film to Columbia, and Corman still stings from losing out on his percentage. Martin Scorsese directed 'Boxcar Bertha' for Corman and brought him the script for 'Mean Streets', but Corman wanted to change the characters from Italian to African Americans because blaxsploitation was all the rage. Directors Francis Ford Coppola and Peter Bogdanovich also worked with Corman at the beginning of their careers.
Horror and science fiction were key genres for Corman and he didn't get much competition from the studios until the great successes of 'Jaws' and 'Star Wars'. Corman knew the game had changed with the budgets he was going to be competing against. There's a great piece taken from 'The Tomorrow Show' where Corman tells Tom Snyder what a waste it is to be spending $35 million on a film. I wonder what late '70s Roger Corman would have thought if he could see today's budgets. Corman adapted, as he always did, and in the 1980s focused on creating movies for the new home-video market. And he is still going strong today, churning out low-budget productions. The documentary captures a bit of Corman on the set of the recent ' Dinoshark' where his producer's eye never ceases to find waste. It would be interesting for a reality show to follow Corman through an entire production.
'Corman's World' goes beyond documenting his career exploits and provides a wonderful tribute to the man. The outpouring of love and appreciation is amazing, and the roster of those taking part is very impressive. Joining the previously mentioned Nicholson, Scorsese, and Bogdanovich are Ron Howard (who for some odd reason walks through a majority of his scenes), John Sayles, Joe Dante, Penelope Spheeris, Jonathan Demme, David Carradine, Robert De Niro, William Shatner, Peter Fonda, and Bruce Dern.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Anchor Bay presents 'Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel' on a 25GB Region A Blu-ray disc housed in a blue ecocase. The menu appears after trailers for 'The Killing Fields' and 'The Son of No One'.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer. The modern-day footage is displayed at 1.78:1 and offers a satisfying presentation. The image is clean and free of defects for the most part, though there was some aliasing from De Niro's shirt.
The colors are solid hues, from the browns in Nicholson's den to the reds in Scorsese's screening room and the blue water from the 'Dinoshark' location. Both blacks and whites are solid, allowing for good contrast. There's great detail clarity throughout. Creases can be seen in old movie posters and the faces of the participants, as can the tiny dots that make up newspaper photos when the camera is zoomed in. Objects are sharp and contribute to the apparent depth.
The old film clips on the other hand come in various ratios and conditions. No restoration has been done to clean up damaged prints or correct faded colors, nor should there have been.
The audio is available in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, which is more than it needs. The dialogue-heavy track delivers a front-heavy experience and other than the documentary's score doesn't find much use for the surrounds. The different sources offer different qualities as above. The subjects in the modern-day interviews can be heard clearly and cleanly while the archive material offers a flat, mono experience with some expected slight hiss and crackle at times.
For fans of Roger Corman and Hollywood history, I can't recommend this documentary enough. It's a great biography that is well worth watching. Though not the best A/V presentation, the picture and audio are what one would expect from a film that uses so many different sources of varying conditions. The only downside is that extras are slim. This one comes recommended.