From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"In many ways Roger Corman is to American cinema what Jess Franco is to European cinema. They both directed low budget, B movie style films that attracted minority cultures in the United States and Europe respectively." --Sholem Stein
Roger William Corman (born April 5, 1926) is a prolific American producer, distributor and director of low-budget exploitation films (films being made this way today are more commonly referred to as "high concept" films).
He has apprenticed many now-famous directors, stressing the importance of budgeting and resourcefulness; Corman once joked he could make a film about the fall of the Roman Empire with two extras and a bush.
Corman was born in Detroit, Michigan to Anne and William Corman, an engineer. He received an industrial engineering degree from Stanford University. He began his career in 1953 as a producer and screenwriter, and began directing in 1955.
Until his so-called "retirement" as a director in 1971 (he continued to produce films even after this date) he would produce up to seven movies a year; his fastest film was perhaps The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), which was reputedly shot in two days and one night (supposedly, he had made a bet that he could shoot an entire feature film in less than three days; another version of the story claims that he had a set rented for a month, and finished using it with three days to spare, thus pushing him to use the set to make a new film). This claim is disputed by others who worked on the film, who have called it part of Corman's own myth-building. Quite a number of his films, such as Last Woman on Earth (1960), contain elements of science fiction.
Corman is probably best known for his filmings of various Edgar Allan Poe stories at American International Pictures, mostly in collaboration with Richard Matheson as screenplay writer including House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962) The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1964). All but Premature Burial starred Vincent Price. After the film version of the Raven was completed, he reportedly realized he still had some shooting days left before the sets were torn down and so made another film, The Terror (1963) on the spot with the remaining cast, crew and sets.
He also directed one of William Shatner's early films, The Intruder (1962). Based on a novel by Charles Beaumont, the film, made for approximately USD$80,000, has become famous for its treatment of segregation and civil rights. He has produced over 300 movies and directed over 50.
Corman did return to the director's chair once after 1971 with Frankenstein Unbound (1990), although this was poorly received.
A number of noted film directors have worked with Corman, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, Gale Ann Hurd, Carl Colpaert, Joe Dante, James Cameron, and John Sayles. 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." The British director Nicolas Roeg served as the cinematographer on The Masque of the Red Death. Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, and Robert De Niro.
His autobiography, titled How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime (ISBN 0-306-80874-9), documents his experiences in the film industry.
"The Corman Film School"
A number of important and influential filmmakers and actors had their first big break with Roger Corman. The following list is limited to Oscar winners.
Corman the distributor
In 1970, Roger Corman founded his own production and distribution company, New World Pictures, becoming the independent leader in presenting high-quality foreign films to the American public. New World releases included films by Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, and Werner Herzog.
- Francis Ford Coppola — directed Corman's Dementia 13. Oscar winner for The Godfather Part II
- James Cameron — directed Corman's Piranha II: The Spawning. Oscar winner for Titanic
- Jonathan Demme — wrote and directed Corman's Caged Heat (aka Renegade Girls). Oscar winner for The Silence of the Lambs
- Ron Howard — directed Corman's Grand Theft Auto. Oscar winner for A Beautiful Mind
- Martin Scorsese — directed Corman's Boxcar Bertha. Oscar winner for The Departed
- Swamp Women (1955)
- It Conquered the World (1956)
- Not of This Earth (1957)
- Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
- The Undead (1957)
- A Bucket of Blood (1959)
- The Wasp Woman (1959)
- House of Usher (1960)
- The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
- The Last Woman on Earth (1960)
- Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961)
- Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
- The Intruder (1962)
- Tales of Terror (1962)
- The Raven (1963)
- The Terror (1963)
- X (1963) (also known as X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes)
- The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
- The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)
- The Wild Angels (1966)
- The Trip (1967)
- Bloody Mama (1970)
- Gas-s-s-s (1971)
- The Red Baron (1971) (also known as Von Richthofen and Brown)
- Deathsport (1978)
- Emmanuelle 5 (1986)
- Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
- Supergator (2007) The Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie