Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman, King of the B-Movies

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014, 8:31 am

In brief


Never mind the teddy bear and blankie. These are my precious childhood memories.

Warning: Rated R(eadable) for Gratuitous Nudity, Violence, Language and Teen Partying.

If you grew up in central Ohio, it was Fritz the Nite Owl. If you found yourself in Cleveland, it was Ghoulardi/Big Chuck and Houlihan/Big Chuck and Little John. But it didn't matter even if you found yourself in another part of the world. As long as you were raised in a pre-cable, analog era (think dinosaurs, kids), you were exposed to a schlocky local late night host showing even schlockier films. And if you had a warped sensibility and stayed up past your bedtime (like your reviewer), you learned to love Roger Corman.

So imagine my delight to see a new biography of the exploitation king in LURID SHOCKING COLOR, no less. Better yet, since it's an oral history there's not a lot of film dweeb paralysis by analysis, just we-were-there anecdotes from the directors and stars who made the magic happen. Okay, maybe Sid Haig and Pam Grier aren't your idea of stars, but to me they're the Tracy & Hepburn of the women's prison pic.

Of course, not even a clean-living maker of lowdown films can escape the taint of social significance, and Corman is no exception. The final chapter is devoted largely to the graduates of "Corman University;" the filmmakers who got their start with Roger either at American International or New World Pictures. You may even be familiar with a few of these schlubs: Scorsese, Nicholson, Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard; i.e. virtually everyone who's made American film what it's been for the last 40+ years. Mind you, compared to directing "Ski Troop Attack" or producing "Big Bad Mama," this seems like pretty small potatoes, but I guess it warranted more than a footnote.