The story of exploitation filmmaker Roger Corman — and the big breaks he gave to some now-major directors and actors — has been told in many books and Hollywood documentaries.
But no one has told the story as well or with as much emotion as director Alex Stapleton in the 2011 documentary “Corman’s World,” which is now available on DVD.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, Corman ground out B-movies designed primarily for young drive-in audiences. The producer-director made hot rod movies, Edgar Allen Poe adaptations and sci-fi thrillers — anything he could serve up cheaply and with the potential for a lurid advertising campaign.
Most of the Corman films are unwatchable now, but he holds an honored place in Hollywood history for giving big early breaks to directors such as Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme, and actors like Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper, Pam Grier and Bruce Dern.
The clips in “Corman’s World” from “Bloody Mama,” “The Trip,” “Wild Angels” and the rest are of the so-bad-they’re good variety, but the documentary gets its real power from the high caliber of the interview subjects who clearly still believe they owe Corman a lot for helping to launch their careers.
Nicholson gives a terrific interview in which he laughs about how quickly and cheaply movies like “The Terror” and “Little Shop of Horrors” were made, but then bursts into tears when he tries to express his gratitude to Corman.
Stapleton supplies us with a truly happy ending when we see Corman and his wife Julie at the Oscars a few years ago where the producer received an honorary award for his contributions to the industry.