Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CORMAN'S WORLD (Blu-ray)

Regular readers of this site are no doubt familiar with the name Roger Corman. Even without doing the hard work of actually searching through the 650 or so reviews I've written for this site, I'm still willing to bet that his name pops up in far more Late Show posts than any other individual. His impact on the world of B-movies and exploitation films, as a pioneering director and producer, is almost beyond measure, and it is this impressive cinematic legacy that the 2011 documentary, CORMAN'S WORLD, celebrates.

Director Alex Stapleton mixes tons of archival footage from Corman's vast body of work with new interviews with many of the most notable actors and filmmakers that got their start with the legendary producer. An emotional Jack Nicholson discusses his early days working on Corman's low budget Gothics like THE RAVEN and THE TERROR and the biker exploitation films that came later, while Ron Howard discusses how Corman gave him his first chance to direct with GRAND THEFT AUTO. William Shatner reminisces about the dangers of filming the civil rights drama THE INTRUDER with Corman in the still-segregated South. Blaxploitation queen Pam Grier talks about her adventures filming women-in-prison potboilers in the Philippines, while acclaimed directors Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante and Johnathan Demme elaborate on the educational value of their time working under Corman. And then there's Corman's wife and producing partner Julie, who shares a bit about how they got together and what their working relationship is like.

Other notable interviewees include actors Robert DeNiro and Bruce Dern, filmmakers Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino, and the late David Carradine.

The vintage clips and interviews are interspersed with footage shot on location during the filming of the 2010 Corman-produced monster flick, DINOSHARK, which featured the producer in a rare acting role. It's amusing when the documentary camera catches notoriously frugal (or "cheap") Corman complaining under his breath about the inefficiency of the crew or criticizing the director's blocking.

Overall, it's a lightweight, celebratory look at a genuine independent filmmaking maverick, from his earliest days in the business through his professional highs and lows, and into his current twilight years, making SyFy channel TV movies.

The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment is very nice, with a solid, 1.78:1 1080p widescreen transfer. The vintage film clips vary dramatically in quality - some of it looking very beat-up, indeed - but all of the new footage is razor-sharp. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio is equally sharp and clear. Bonus material includes extended interview footage, "Special Messages to Roger" from some of the interviewees, and the original theatrical trailer.

This documentary is a celebration of Roger Corman's career, so there's no "dirt" to speak of, no sordid scandals or secrets exposed. It is the chronicle of one man and his determination to make movies his way, free of studio control and interference, and make a healthy profit doing so. If you are an admirer of Corman's brand of moviemaking - and I'm betting you are - you'll want to check out CORMAN'S WORLD.

BUYCorman's World [Blu-ray]