Friday, November 13, 2009


This weekend marks an important milestone for filmmaker Roger Corman. The famed drive-in movie director will be getting an Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.That will happen this weekend.

Now, I gotta say -- I don't think Roger Corman ever expected he'd ever get an Oscar for any movie, for any reason. His movies are not the kind of movies that anyone would imagine to be Oscar-worthy at all.

He made movies like Little Shop of Horrors,  X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, The Pit and the Pendulum, It Conquered the World, Machine Gun Kelly, The Wild Angels, and a host of others. He was mainly known for his work with American International, the great B-movie studio of the Sixties, before he moved on in the Seventies to his own company New World Pictures. As an executive producer Corman brought you some great Seventies T-and-A including The Student Nurses, The Big Doll House, Private Duty Nurses, Big Bad Mama and other R-rated flicks, including plenty of car-chase movies like Eat My Dust and Grand Theft Auto.

More than his movies, though, Corman is well-known for giving so many other talented Hollywood people at shot at making movies on the cheap with his studio. Among the folks who got their start with Corman was Jack Nicholson, cast in Little Shop of Horrors. He also gave early chances to such greats as Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante and Ron Howard. Howard was just coming off Happy Days when Corman gave him a director's shot for the movie Grand Theft Auto -- which was actually what you expect it to be, the kind of drive-in movie a young guy like Ron Howard could cut his teeth directing. The rest is history.

In Corman's book How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, there are so many anecdotes from all these now big-name folks who worked with Corman at one time or another and got their big break into the movie business. I wonder if it's even possible to go the same route today, with the drive-in business pretty much gone and replaced with the straight-to-DVD market. Anyway, his willingness to give so many talented people their shot in Hollywood is as much a part of the Corman legend as the movies he made as a director and later as a producer.

He was also executive producer on some films involving the great Queen of the B's Claudia Jennings such as Unholy Rollers and Deathsport. And he was executive producer on Big Bad Mama that starred Angie Dickinson and, uh, William Shatner.

In tribute to Corman I thought I would share some of the trailers for just some of the stuff that would not have made it to a drive-in near you had it not been for him. Enjoy.

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