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News / Life / Entertainment

Celebrate Corman’s lasting influence

By Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
Published: May 17, 2024, 6:42am
2 Photos
A scene from Roger Corman&rsquo;s 1960 film &ldquo;The Little Shop of Horrors.&rdquo; (70M FILMGROUP/Zuma Press)
A scene from Roger Corman’s 1960 film “The Little Shop of Horrors.” (70M FILMGROUP/Zuma Press) Photo Gallery

The legendary film producer, director and distributor Roger Corman passed away over the weekend at the age of 98, and it’s safe to say that Hollywood and the film industry as we know it would not be what it is today without his renegade presence and independent spirit.

Under the American Independent Pictures label, and later his own New World Pictures, Corman directed, produced and distributed many low-budget independent cult films, giving opportunities to up-and-coming filmmakers who would later become great American auteurs, such as Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, John Sayles, Joe Dante, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdonavich and many, many more actors, producers and craftspeople. He also distributed many international filmmakers’ work in the United States, including Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.

To get a sense of Corman’s incredible influence on the industry, the 2011 documentary by Alex Stapleton, “Corman’s World,” is a great primer on the filmmaker’s extensive career and it captures his spirit as well. Rent it on all digital platforms.

It will no doubt inspire a desire to watch some of Corman’s most beloved films, which he both directed and produced, so here’s a rundown of some of the greatest hits and where to stream them.

Corman directed eight adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe works starring Vincent Price, including the 1960 film “The House of Usher” (available to stream on Prime Video, Tubi, Freevee and for rent on other digital platforms) and the 1963 film “The Raven,” also co-starring Peter Lorre (available on the Roku Channel, Tubi, Freevee and other digital platforms). Those are a good place to start with Corman’s directorial output, as well as with his 1960 adaptation of “Little Shop of Horrors,” starring Jack Nicholson (on Tubi, Kanopy, Freevee, Shudder or rent).

But Corman’s influence is best felt in the opportunities he gave to young filmmakers looking to try their hand at filmmaking. If it was cheap and sensational, Corman gave them a chance. Scorsese made his first film with Corman, the epic 1972 road movie “Boxcar Bertha” starring Barbara Hershey (available on Tubi, Freevee or for rent), as well as Coppola with his 1963 horror thriller “Dementia 13” (Roku, Tubi, Kanopy, Freevee and more).

New World Pictures in-house trailer editors Allan Arkush and Joe Dante got their big breaks when Corman made a bet that he could produce a movie in 10 days and on $54,000. The result was the 1976 Arkush/Dante collaboration “Hollywood Boulevard,” a B-movie satire (available on Tubi or for rent). Later, Arkush would direct the infectious high school rock musical “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” (1979) starring P.J. Soles and the Ramones (streaming on Peacock, Tubi, Kanopy and more), and Dante would direct “Piranha” in 1978, written by John Sayles, and about well, a school of murderous fish loosed upon a small Texas town (stream it on Peacock, Tubi, Kanopy and Shudder).

New World Pictures art director and set designer James Cameron would cut his teeth directing “Piranha II: The Spawning” in 1982 (rent it on digital platforms), though it was somewhat of a disaster for the young filmmaker. He’d meet future wife and producer Gale Anne Hurd at New World, and they’d make “The Terminator” two years later.

This is only scratching the surface of Corman’s impact on the film industry, but watch a Corman picture in his memory.His influence cannot be overstated.