April 5, 2011
Filmmaker ROGER CORMAN (born 1926) comes off in interviews as a bland, cheerful square, a golfer, a Rotarian, but his list of directing, writing, and producing credits, stretching back to the early ’50s, includes some of the strangest, loosest, most unfettered films to ever reach mass distribution. As King of the B’s, Corman covered all the usual territory — nurses, bikers, carpet-covered sea monsters — but in his most fertile period, say from 1959’s beatnik horror story Bucket of Blood to the Freudian gangster romp Bloody Mama (1970), he elevated every genre he touched. His cycle of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, in which he made thrifty and dramatic use of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre, deserves special mention. This writer has a particular fondness for Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961). High Corman: pell-mell, hep, bizarrely hybridized — both a heist movie and a monster movie. In the end, the gangster with the pegged white jeans and hipster drawl gets the girl, but the monster gets the gold.
It may not be possible to offer an appreciation of Corman without succumbing to listmania. Alumni of the unofficial Roger Corman School of Film include Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Monte Hellman, John Sayles, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, David Carradine, Talia Shire, Bruce Dern, and on and on. But let us also praise the work of Corman’s faithful stablehands: Barboura Morris, Anthony Carbone, and the estimable Dick Miller, who missed the brass ring. Further, let us remember that the films those graduates went on to make, signposts of the counterculture like Easy Rider and Two Lane Blacktop, owe direct, specific, bald-faced debts to Corman, who did it first and without the self-congratulation. And unlike many of his students, he has had the good taste to fade into semiretirement, executive-producing straight-to-third world airline features.
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Agnetha Faltskog.
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist generation (1924-33).