Roger Corman: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

One from the re watch pile…

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

Film: I sometimes wonder if when the Lumière brothers stood on the shoulders of Thomas Edison and William Dickson and created their wonderful Cinématographe machine if they ever sat down and discussed the wonders of what their creation may hold in the future.

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film about an Island of Fishmen!’

‘I imagine one day someone will make a film called ‘ Dinoshark’!’

‘I imagine one day someone will adapt the work of Edgar Allen Poe into a series of films!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film with a spaceship in it that has boobs on it!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make all those films, and write/ produce/ star in many many more!’

‘Oh Auguste, don’t be ridiculous: one man could never do all that in one lifetime!!’

Well, one man did, and continues to do so! Roger Corman would have to be the most important man in the history of cinema. He is certainly a rebel before his time who has not only nurtured such talents as Ron Howard, Jonathon Demme, Joe Dante, Jack Nicolson, Martian Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and many others, he’s also been at the forefront of effects development, expediency of production (both time and money wise) and just the ability to show that any story, if made cheap enough, can be a financial success… and DAMN the critics. Audiences and critics want different things from cinema!

I believe that B movie fans like myself are generally Corman fans before they realise that Corman exists. I know my youth was spent looking at Famous Monsters and watching late night creature features, a lot which have probably disappeared from my memory through the eons I’ve been alive, so I must have really experienced his work around this time. For certain though, I definitely know I watched Battle Beyond the Stars, and even as a kid knew it was a cheap seats version of Star Wars, but Sybil Danning…. sigh!

It wasn’t until my Fangoria years in the 80s that I really realised what a spectacular output Corman was responsible for, and here, with the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, we get to see just why his influence on the movie industry is a unique and important one.

Written and directed by Alex Stapleton, who reviewed two important nominations for this film, one the Golden Camera at Cannes and the other a Rondo Hatten Classic Horror Award, this film looks at Corman’s history, the amazing successes he’s had over the years, and the daring steps he took into all different areas of production, direction, distribution and even sociological ideals which may not have always been wholly acceptable by the moral majority.

This film is a concise look at an amazing career, that still continues today, and with the absolute catalogue of talent interviewed here, we get a look at what Corman did for so many people in Hollywood, even if that just meant them finding out exactly what they WOULDN’T want to do as far as production is concerned.

Highly recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK Bluray release which runs for approximately 90 minutes. For the most part, the image is excellent and presented in 1.78:1 but that occasionally changes depending on the historical footage shown. The audio is a matching quality DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: There is a pretty cool bunch of extras on this disc:

Extended Interviews takes all the stuff that didn’t make the cut to the film but still had interesting stories to tell.

Special Messages to Roger is a nice collection of tributes to Corman from his contemporaries, acolytes, apprentices and dilettantes. Some are heartfelt, some funny, but all seem to be genuine!

There is also a trailer for the film. Nicholson’s comment from the film,’ by mistake, he made a good picture every once in a while’ should have been the Tagline to the whole thing, and it’s quoted here.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I actually love film documentaries almost as much as I love movies, and this is one I watch regularly.

Galaxy of Terror (1981) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Galaxy of Terror (1981)

Galaxy of Terror DVD cover

Film: Talking about American cinema? Well at sometime you are talking about Roger Corman: writer, director, producer, actor… is there ANYTHING he can’t do? Not only has he many many credits to his name, he has also discovered SO many talents, such as Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese… honestly, that’s another ridiculous list one could write that would fill a book.

Roger Corman is the physical embodiment of every horror fans dream come true.

Several years ago, Shout Factory paid tribute to Mr Corman with a cool set of DVDs under the banner ‘Roger Corman’s Cult Classics’ and so such a tribute should be made’ in actual fact, I wish someone would get off their butt and do a ‘Corman Definitive Collection’ and remaster ALL his films onto Bluray. Who wouldn’t love a collection that feature such diversity as Death Race 2000, Humanoids from the Deep, Mask of the Red Death and Little Shop of Horrors in it?

This film, Galaxy of Terror tells the crew of the space ship ‘Quest’ who travel to a planet called Morganthus to find out what happened to the missing crew of the ship ‘Remus’. When they get there, they discover the entire crew is dead, but not only that, something seems to be stalking them too… something that comes from their nightmares…

Galaxy of Terror: Ray Walston... my favourite!
The first real stand out for this film in the cast: Zalman King from Blue Sunshine, Erin Moran from Happy Days, Ray Walston from My Favourite Martian, Sid Haig from Spider Baby, and of course, the man who three years later would become Freddy Krueger, Robert England.

It’s proper old school cinema as well, with heaps of stop motion, matte paintings, practical gore… even the post-filming effects look ever so slightly better than 70s television! Hilariously though, the sound effects are straight out of some Effect bank somewhere, probably the same on Hanna Barbera or Filmation used for their Saturday cartoon set. I almost expected, at times, for a Batman ’66 ‘BAM’ or ‘THWACK’.

Galaxy of Terror: Erin Moran… they weren’t ALL happy days!

It’s not the greatest story in the world, and you can see both its influences from Alien, that were then passed onto Aliens (possibly due to James Cameron’s involvement) but it is a fine way to spend 80 odd minutes, and any film with a giant maggot rape surely is a must watch!!

Score: ***1/2

Galaxy of Terror DVD menu screen

Format: This review was performed of the Shout Factory, region 1/ NTSC DVD which runs for about 81 minutes. The image is a decent anamorphic widescreen with a matching Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Heap of extras in this disc!

Tales from the Lumber Yard: The Making Galaxy of Terror is a six-part documentary exploring Roger Corman, New World Pictures and the making of this film. It’s pretty thorough and has some great interviews with cast and crew, some of whom have some interesting anecdotes about James Cameron.

There is a huge collection of stills galleries, which I normally hate, but a lot of the pictures are posters and promo material, background matte painting plates and storyboard stuff, so I’ll let it slide.

The script is also available as a PDF ( not reviewed ).

There is four trailers, for this film, Humanoids from the Deep, Piranha and Forbidden World.

There is also a commentary with Dave DeCoteu moderating discussions about the film with cast and crew members including Taaffe O’Connell, Alex Gillis and Allan Apone. It’s an entertaining commentary for sure, with heaps of memeories about the set.

Score: ****1/2

WISIA: It’s Corman scifi, which means a bit of gore, a bit of nudity and a lot of fun: of course it’s a rewatcher!

Galaxy of Terror: what a nightmare!

Summer review: Piranha (1978)

To celebrate the summer solstice, here’s an oldie from the re watch pile…
Piranha (1978)

Piranha Australian blurry release

Film: In Australia, nothing says summer like a swim in at the beach or a dip in a river in one of our many national parks, and just as Jaws makes everyone stay out of the surf, Piranha is sure to dull anyone’s inclination to enjoy the river ways.

Piranha: Menzies, Dillman and McCarthy

Piranha is a film that is probably just as well known as it’s ‘older brother’ Jaws, it’s written by The Spiderwyck Chronicles screenplay writer John Sayles, from a story devised by him and Kingdom of the Spiders Richard Robinson. The film was directed by Joe Dante, who also gave us the wonderful Gremlins, and The Hole.

Piranha tells of Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies), a private investigator who enlists the help of mountain man, Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) to find two missing hikers. They find the hiker’s devoured bodies at the bottom of a swimming pool that they empty, but what they don’t realise is, they have delivered into the local river, where a Summer Camp and a Resort lie, a school of deadly killer fish. Scientist and creator of the creatures, Dr Hoek (Kevin McCarthy) informs them of their deadly faux par! 

How can they stop them and is the appearance of the military and mysterious Dr. Mengers (Barbara Steele) going to benefit to hinder their efforts?

Piranha: fish food.

This film is pretty much 70s horror/ exploitation/ Corman distilled into the perfect package. It exploits Jaws by its very existence and playing on the fear of the water it gave us a few years earlier, and it does so with bravado: look out for the video game of Jaws, and a copy of Moby Dick in various scenes as well as other references. Throwing in fan favourites Steele, McCarthy and Dick Miller and Paul Bartel doesn’t hurt the proceedings either! 

It does play very cleverly on that fear of the unknown in the muddiness and darkness of the water and there is enough levity to make it fun as well as horrifying. A favourite of mine as well as a damn good Corman film!

Score: ****1/2

Piranha menu screen

Format: The review copy of this film is the Australian multi-region bluray release which runs for approximately 92 minutes, and is a pretty good anamorphic widescreen presentation, with a clear 2.0 stereo audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There’s a cool bunch of extras on this disc.

There’s a commentary starring director Joe Dante and producer Jon Davidson, both of whom give a cool commentary on the film. It is interesting and thorough, and so informative!

Behind the scenes footage has some pretty cool ‘home movies’ of what went on on the set of the film.

The Making of Piranha is a 20 minute doco about the film with reflection on it from Roger Corman, Joe Dante, and various other cast and crew.

Bloopers and Out takes are just what they sound like. Really it feels like more behind the scenes stuff but it is occasionally funny.

Additional scenes from the Tv version is exactly what it is called. There is a pretty cool bit with Dick Millar and Paul Bartel, where Bartel manages to squeeze in a nose-pick joke: well played!

 There is some radio spots, Tv ad and trailers for the film, and a poster and stills gallery is a bunch of international promotional material.

Phil Tippet’s Behind the Scenes photo collection which is about 50 pretty cool behind the scenes shots of the various effects used in the film, including sculpts and the internal mechanics of the fish.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a 70s horror classic and I watch it quite regularly.

Piranha: the 70s at its finest