Roger Corman

by Craig B.

Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a cinephile of schlock. I love bad movies. The cheesier, the better. I love feasting on unintentional humor…low-budget shoestring affairs whose only intentions are to turn a quick buck, art be damned. There used to be a lot of them out there. Strangely, the advent of computer generated special effects and editing has killed a good portion of the genre. Any schmo can make a movie now, and even if the acting and the script are bottom-of-the-garbage-can bad, your Apple laptop can hide that with competent (if not particularly inspired) editing and CGI.

Perhaps no single person epitomizes the spirit of B-Movie cinema like Roger Corman. He’s spent half a century shoveling some of the sappiest claptrap ever seen inside a theater. If you want to see an excellent biopic about his life and the numerous Tinseltown glitterati he weaned from infancy to stardom, I beseech you to watch Corman’s World.

And now, here’s some of my favorite “so bad, they’re good” picks from the maestro of malarkey, Roger Corman.

Attack of the Crab Monsters 

And just when you thought the giant-telepathic-crab genre was dead. My favorite line from this flick is when Dr. Karl Weigand, upon being told that a mountain has disappeared during the night, exclaims somberly, “I’m not surprised.”  Russell Johnson hams his way through the lead role. You can’t miss him. He plays a professor who creates gadgets in an attempt to get him and his friends off of the crab-infested island. Sound familiar? It should…he plays the same role on Gilligan’s Island later in his career.


Corman knows a good thing when he sees it: he just doesn’t know how to make a good thing himself. In his career, he’s produced a considerable library of knockoff schlock-fests. What makes a Corman knockoff such a spectacular affair is his proclivity to farm fresh talent at the lowest possible price. Piranha is no exception. The film is directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) and co-written by John Sayles (Eight Men Out, Lone Star) who were, at that time, two eager unknown filmmakers. They were given one month and $660,000 (pricey for a Corman production) to craft a competent rip-off of Jaws. I can’t honestly say that they achieved competency, but they did achieve a barrel full of hilarity and kitsch.

The Little Shop of Horrors

This isn’t the 1986 musical that we all grew up with, but rather its 1960 progenitor. It was listed in the Guinness Book of Film Facts and Feats as the “shortest shooting schedule for a full-length, commercial feature film made without the use of stock footage.” It took 2 ½ days and $23,000 to make. The crew simply used sets that were still standing from A Bucket of Blood. This also marks the first film that paired Roger Corman with Jack Nicholson. It’s funny that Jack shows up on the DVD cover, though; he’s only in the flick for about 5 minutes. Leave it to Corman to exploit a good thing at all costs.

War of the Satellites

Joe Dante used to joke that if Corman had directed Lawrence of Arabia, T.E. would have never left the tent. Corman’s art director Dan Haller said that the rocket’s interior for War of the Satellites was “four arches to make the hallways in the spaceship, and two lounge chairs. That was the entire ship.” I think Haller forgot about the room with the beepy thing.

I hope you enjoy these titles! Be sure to comment with any additional titles you discover so I can add them to my list.

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One response to “Roger Corman”

  1. Gloria says:

    One of the best modern tributes to Corman has to be the movie “Matinee”. Absolutely recommend it.

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