Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

Roger Corman’s contributions have been unmatched by most Hollywood directors, and sadly he’s become a mostly unappreciated presence in filmmaking. As viewed in “Corman’s World,” Roger Corman is one of the most ambitious but very money conscious filmmakers that’s managed to build an entire legacy out of creating entertainment on low budgets, while discovering some of the best filmmakers of all time. From giving Martin Scorsese and Peter Bogdonavich their breaks, to teaching Ron Howard how to direct around limited resources, Roger Corman has been a wizard of giving studios what they want, and doing it his way.

Surprisingly, there’s a very sour tone to “Corman’s World” that undercuts a lot of the attempts to look back at Roger Corman’s films with a laugh and a nostalgic gleam. His contemporaries not only seem to undermine a lot of the lessons he’s given them to take them in to fame, but he’s very resentful of Hollywood for taking B movie concepts like a killer shark movie (Jaws) and a space opera (Star Wars), and turning them in to the bases for what we know as the Hollywood blockbuster. There’s mention of his film “Piranha,” but oddly enough filmmaker Alex Stapleton sidesteps the lawsuit that led to the film nearly being taken out of distribution. There’s also no real interview with James Cameron, one of Corman’s many protégés. “Corman’s World” is a very dodgy documentary that can never be sure if it wants to have fun with Corman’s career, or display disappointment toward it.

Surely he’s built a massive library of B movies that have gone on to cult fame, but has he really garnered much from it beyond respect? Director Alex Stapleton constantly shifts back and forth from a very raucous mood, exploring a lot of Corman’s best films, and then jumps back to a bitter tone where many of Corman’s friends convey anger and annoyance not just toward his lack of appreciation, but toward Corman as well. In one portion the exploration of his efforts to be subversive with “The Intruder,” a controversial racially charged film that resulted in Corman being attacked during a screening. There’s also two great segments involving an interview with Pam Grier, who explains her experiences with Corman, who put her through the ringer as an action star, since she was one of the few women in Hollywood willing to perform stunts for the camera.

There’s also his influence on Peter Fonda, whose own biker films with Corman led to his directing “Easy Rider,” which is subtly maligned as a rip off of “The Wild Angels.” Then there’s another portion of the film, where Scorsese slightly derides Corman for agreeing to produce “Mean Streets” on the basis that it garnered an all black cast, which Scorsese didn’t agree with. Despite the tonal inconsistency, the epilogue almost seems to validate all that Corman’s worked for, with his lifetime achievement dedication at the Oscars, but the biggest validation is Jack Nicholson who not only finds the notion of Corman being unappreciated disgusting, but also breaks down in to tears at the notion of his friend being brushed aside by Hollywood and movie fans. You have to admire how Corman has stayed an independent filmmaker, despite his massive success, and for that “Corman’s World” really pays a respectful tribute to a master of filmmaking.