This week’s DVD release of Roger Corman’s Sci Fi Classics is my occasion for celebrating the prolific low-budget producer Roger Corman. So far, Corman has produced 395 titles – mostly shameless and delicious exploitation movies for the teen market. In one four-year period, he produced The Student Nurses, Private Duty Nurses, Night Call Nurses and Candy Stripe Nurses – and 21 other movies!
Corman’s great gift to us all is his mentorship of young and talented filmmakers. Filmmakers who got their first assignment from Corman (called “the Corman Film School”) include Oscar winning directors James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Curtis Hanson, Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese. Not to mention cult directors Paul Bartels and Monte Hellman (Corman produced Hellman’s Warren Oates classic Cockfighter). And Chinatown screenwriter Robert Townsend.
Jack Nicholson first got some attention playing the masochistic dental patient in Corman’s 1960 Little Shop of Horrors. Nicholson showed up again in Corman’s 1967 The Wild Angels (biker gangs), 1967 The Shooting (trippy Western) and 1967’s LSD flick The Trip (more on that tomorrow).
Probably the best movie that Corman has produced was St. Jack (1976), directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Corman had given Bogdanovich his start, and in the intervening 12 years Bogdanovich’s star had risen (The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon) and fallen (Daisy Miller). Ben Gazzara and Denholm Elliott delivered great performances in this story of a hustling American expat running a GI brothel in Singapore during the Vietnam War.
Roger Corman’s Sci Fi Classics includes three films that I haven’t seen (or don’t remember seeing): Attack of the Crab Monsters, War of the Satellites and Not of this Earth. Although I may not have seen them, I can tell you that 1) they don’t have fancy production values; 2) they are fast paced and not too long; and 3) they’re a kick.