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Stacie Ponder – All Hail Roger Corman, King of the Bs!

Complaining about the Oscars is one of my favorite pass times, and my biggest complaint is that my favorite genre is usually shut out of the entire process.

But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science just made up for past transgressions — even the shunning of 2002’s Shark Attack 3: Megalodon — by awarding Roger Corman an honorary Oscar. Yep, the man who helped spawn Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold has one of the golden statues bestowed upon the best of the best. This may seem at odds with Corman’s B-movie rep, but remember: Honorary Oscars recognize lifetime achievement, including impact on the movie industry.

Now, perhaps you’re one of the converted and you’re thinking, “I need to satisfy my Corman cravings now.” You’re in luck, my friends: there are four Roger Corman movies streaming right here at AMCTV.com for free. Free, but for some mouse-clicking — so get your Corman on! The goodies are:

The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957): Can you guess what it’s about — the title may be a little hint!

Rock All Night (1957): Escaped killers head to teen hangout Cloud Nine and take everyone hostage. Did I mention the thug named Jigger is played by Russell Johnson, Gilligan’s Island‘s Professor?

The Undead (1957): Scientists hypnotize a prostitute who was a witch in a past life. This broad can’t catch a break!

Teenage Caveman (1958): Cave-teen Robert Vaugh faces problems not at all unlike those confronting modern teenagers: jerky adults, forbidden fruit, rules, regulations, giant lizards, etc… so what are you waiting for? Get your Corman on!

Now, Corman did his share of writing and directing, but his output as producer — nearly 400 movies — is mind-blowing. Sure, he demanded fast, cheap work, but Corman took chances on young moviemakers, from Martin Scorsese to James Cameron, and regularly gave female producers, writers and directors a shot. Corman has tackled every genre and at 83 he’s still going strong. It’s hard to pick a handful of movies from this cornucopia, but here are ten must-sees.

10.) The Fantastic Four (1994)
Before Sam Raimi brought Spider-Man to the big screen, comic book heroes languished in the world of cheapo live-action adaptations. This one stands out as the best worst of the worst: See the Invisible Girl, Mr. Fantastic, The Thing and The Human Torch without the aid of CGI! Yes, there are gloriously hokey special effects as far as the eye can see, but don’t worry — there’s also atrocious dialogue as far as the ear can hear. It’s tough to come by a copy of this commercially unreleased, so-earnest-you’ll-smile crapsterpiece, but it’s so worth the search.

9.) The Intruder (1962)
OK, OK, so sue me: The Intruder isn’t horror. But this gripping, Civil-Rights era take on race relations in the South bears mention none the less, as it just may be Corman’s finest movie. Not only that, but William Shatner’s performance as a hateful white supremacist is perhaps his most impressive — yes, even more so than his turn as Rack, the arachnid-fightin’ veterinarian in Kingdom of the Spiders.

8.) A Bucket of Blood (1959)
A true gem amongst the dollar-bin DVDs, this black comedy gives the great character-actor Dick Miller his chance to shine as Walter, a beat coffee-shop waiter who dreams of being an annoying, pretentious artist just like the ones he serves. And he does, complete with black beret, when his dead-cat sculpture makes a splash on the local scene. What no one knows is that there’s a real dead cat under all that plaster! Bucket of Blood features murder, mayhem, heroin, beatniks and bad poetry galore.

7.) Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)
Another non-horror Roger Corman production, I know, but this corny musical comedy stars PJ Soles (Halloween‘s “totally” girl) as the rabble-rousing Riff Randell, who just wants to listen to the Ramones, dammit. And really, isn’t that what we all want?

6.) Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Some of Corman’s finest work is on view in his cycle of films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Adapted by Richard Matheson and starring Vincent Price and Barbara Steele, Pit and the Pendulum doesn’t adhere closely to Poe’s story, but it doesn’t much matter. Price chews up the lush scenery as if it were made of Rice Krispie treats, and Steele is hauntingly beautiful. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

5.) Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
Reportedly shot in two days, this is a simple little tale of a boy and his plant. Wait, did I mention that the plant lives off blood and eats people? Well, it does… but then, you probably knew that. If you haven’t seen the Corman-helmed original, then you’ve probably seen the musical comedy version that came along decades later. Audrey Jr. is one plant that just won’t die.

4.) X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Ray Milland stars as Dr. James Xavier, a physician who develops X, an agent that grants him x-ray vision. Though his intent is to serve his patients, using his new ability to to spot tumors and diagnose disease, he becomes an outcast in the medical community and an addict to boot. Though the movie bears the unmistakable hallmarks of a Corman cheapie, Milland’s sympathetic turn in the title role makes it better than the B-grade acclaim it’s afforded.

3.) Piranha (1978)
Genre fave Joe Dante directed this Corman-produced guilty-pleasure about… yeah, piranhas. The title kinda gives it away. A government project goes awry (piranhas would have given us a huge edge in the Vietnam War, you know) and zillions of razor-toothed fishies are loosed in a civilian waterway. Much biting ensues.

2.) Death Race 2000 (1975)
Man, remember in 2000 when there was that car race across the country that awarded points for running down pedestrians? No wait, that was just Paul Bartel’s outrageous born-to-be-a-cult-classic flick. Cars with teeth, men in capes, action, nudity and the incomparable Mary Woronov — truly this movie is king of the B-picture heap.

1.) The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Corman adds a dash of Satan to his finest Poe adaptation, making Prince Prospero (Price again) not only a gluttonous debaucher, but a Lucifer-loving loony. The story of the Prince and his cronies, sealed up inside his castle in hopes of eluding the mysterious plague called the Red Death, is pure spectacle from beginning to end, all vibrancy and colors.

Considering all he’s done for the world of cinema, both good and schlocky, for all the hours of entertainment he’s given the world, Roger Corman really should be getting every Oscar the Academy awards from now until forever. But I’m just thrilled he’s been recognized this year: It’s well-deserved, and the Oscars have done good. I’m sure I can find something else to complain about next year though.


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When Stacie Ponder isn’t writing about horror movies here or at her own beloved blog Final Girl, she’s making them. Always, though, she leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.

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