Roger Corman

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knives
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Re: Roger Corman

#76 Post by knives » Thu Jun 09, 2022 4:08 pm

I largely agree. Still, for a first attempt from George Armitage it’s not bad. I think he just needed time to allow his ideas to solidify which he would quickly do with Corman.

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knives
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Re: Roger Corman

#77 Post by knives » Fri Jun 17, 2022 10:49 am

Believe it or not we’re at the year that started me on this road. I originally was planning on doing a Demme watch through before deciding on the more Herculean task. In a way that’s appropriate as this is also a close of sorts as I’ll outline below. In any case it’s unrealistic to completely cover a studio in the last six months of the year so I’m going to be far more picky and choosy about what I cover from here going forward.

Anyways onto Demme.

The biker genre is definitely the weakest of Corman’s though it at least gave us Jonathan Demme who was contracted thanks to a random encounter to be in charge of the biker films producing and writing them as friend Joe Viola directed. The first pairing, Angels Hard as They Come, is as mediocre as they come to the point of being bad from the nothingness, but at least it also has Scott Glenn.

Much more compelling is Private Duty Nurses which despite being bad is bad in a compelling way. The series trades Stephanie Rothman for George Armitage switches from Gas’s comedy for the most dramatic of the nurse films. Drama without satire isn’t Armitage nor New World’s strength and so the film mostly works as an illustration of limitations.

The last of the big genres finally makes it premiere with the studio’s first major star. Corman put his money and greatest effort behind New World’s prison pictures. He made sure that they would succeed and last in people’s mind which they surely have compared to the other two genres he was playing at although the nurse films were actually more successful at the time.

In order to maximize the budget and probably because they required actual sets they were all shot in the Philippines with the help of super producer Cirio H. Santiago as well as rival Eddie Romero. He also enlisted Jack Hill as the primary director for these films. While I haven’t spoken about him much this year Hill was one of Corman’s earliest partners and by this point an extremely trusted ally. This would launch Hill’s most productive period and be a major benefit for both men. Of course all of this were unnecessary thanks to the superstar who would become the face of American Filipino action cinema: Pam Grier. She’s a bit more of a background player in The Big Doll House, in her second credited role, but with a villainous flavor steals the show as the most interesting prisoner. The film itself is only okay with Hill’s followup next year being far superior, but Grier enlivens the movie to a sort of greatness at points. More on that next year.

As important as the prison films were to New World they cost a lot and so Corman had to depend a lot on local talent to save money. This is most obvious with the extras and even bit parts, but keeping Jack Hill in country for years wasn’t practical either leading to director Gerardo de Leon to become the director of the second prison film Women in Cages. In fact the film in a lot of ways in a full Filipino production that happened to be financed and distributed by Americans.

The experience of watching this, mediocre, film really gave me pause to consider how much of American perspectives on Asian cinema is thanks to exploitation and how that relationship will never be fully separated. De Leon was a well established director nearing the end of his career when he made this and I have and likely will never have another film to place him in perspective with. Likewise I’ll never have a clue how he stands near his contemporaries as the only ones with any American presence are from later generations and are largely exploitation filmmakers like Eddie Romero with Lino Brocka being the only person to offer a different perspective. What would the reputation of Filipino cinema be without Corman? Would it even exist?

New World’s final film of the year is an oddball that doesn’t fit any of the patterns. Remember that movie the internet was hollering about a few years back: The Love Witch? The Velvet Vampire is that movie in theme, aesthetic, performance, and all told in under 80 minutes. The brevity and reduced histrionics make this an absolute, if sadly told, delight that knocked me backward. This is a truly great film.

After the massive success of The Student Nurses and years of good service Corman gave Stephanie Rothman his version of a blank check letting her shot and then releasing whatever $100k could buy. Rothman had a few projects she was interested in, but her producing partner was most interested in making a vampire movie. As a peak into the process Corman himself didn’t like the end product, but released it regularly as part of that thanks. That said I think in many ways Rothman provided the most emblematic film of this era of New World. Because sex sells women would obviously become the stars of this new company, but in a return to his ‘50s works Corman didn’t let sex be the only appeal. All of these films in one way or the other thematically deal with the world as an exploitation of women and put women’s perspectives first. Sometimes this resulted in a kind of misery porn, but many times, especially with the nurse films and this, there’s this nuanced presentation of experience going into why women feel exploited and their various ways of coping. It’s telling that our vampire is introduced with a foiled rape. She is imprisoned by her relations to men and only through shifting from heterosexuality to homosexuality does she manage the release from her prison.

What adds interest to this is how her prison makes for her as a warden to others. Any negativity of womanhood comes from a cycle of violence between the sexes. Rothman offers up some sensual suggestions to end violence which are both of their time and against as the film talks with and against The Female Eunuch.

This is all on the feet of Rothman who is so fully realized here I wish she had made more films and that the ones she had made were more widely known. For Corman though, this is just an indication of how he compares to the legend and deserves respect for being an auteur without force.

Finally Corman stepped out of his New World to make a final day on his old one with Von Richthofen and Brown. This honestly would be a great place to end my Corman-a-thon as it’s the end of his career as a director. Corman has said that he took his twenty year sabbatical due to the difficulties of running New World which definitely has truth to it, but this was also a long time coming as he was clearly frustrated with his ceiling and how that was limiting the sort of stories he could tell. Already some of his protégés like Coppola and Nicholson where becoming major figures within the studio system that he was barred from succeeding in and for a variety of reasons he didn’t seem willing to bet the house on his pet projects.

There was one pet project he was desperate to make and for which he called in every favor he could. The project was a biography of The Red Baron which in initial conception would have been wholly improbable to sell. Corman needed this project to succeed though so he conceded to the money men one more time by making this a split biography of the Baron and the man who killed him.

The film is truly great and could have been one of the best final films of a director had it stayed that way. It’s a perfect distillation of many of his themes, the biggest one missing is his feminist weavings, with a gorgeous visual style that must be breathtaking on the big screen. Although a lot of credit must go to DP Michael Reed for helping realize Corman’s classic studio look after living an experimental life for so long I think the film’s MVP is Jimmy T. Murakami. Murakami is best known for his contributions to animation with Heavy Metal, When the Wind Blows, and especially The Snowman on his resume, but following Haller’s graduation to director Murakami became Corman’s do everything man. So much of the visual style and feeling of the movie comes from him. Reed and Murakami work together to make a two dimensional comic strip that evokes the era as contemporary.

The beauty of this enterprise helps, but it’s the themes born out by the characters which makes this great. Renoir seems the key inspiration with the film fusing together The Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game into a pessimistic look at how status is irrelevant in the face of stupidity. There’s a dissatisfaction with post modernity as everything becomes liquid and actions are meaningless. War is attacked because, in part, it’s just killing each other as sport. Brown becomes suffocated in his Hawksian role as professional torn from the rules that the imbeciles upstairs play. There’s a beautiful scene which could be straight out of Only Angel Have Wings where Brown is mystified at the callousness of his superiors at the deaths of their own men due to them being killed by a noble. For a Canadian the idea that class is more important than country is disgusting. What helps elevate the film even further though is that Corman doesn’t force this theme onto the Baron who instead realizes the overarching theme of the danger of authority in his own terms as the hero of his own story. His frustration is born out by his peers being so fair weather. Things are what they are and this war is a passing fad rather than something which costs lives. The idea that this is just an incident of history kills the Baron who must make a circus for himself in order to successfully save lives. War isn’t hell. It’s just ridiculous and frivolous at too high a cost.

So in just over 15 years and with over 45 films minus one coda comes to a close one of the most thrilling and multifaceted directing careers ever of a figure who wanted to know no bounds and was defeated by the system he built to become boundless.

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Re: Roger Corman

#78 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:20 am

I think The Big Doll House is a lot of fun, and I go back and forth on whether I prefer that or Caged Heat for 70s WiP exploitation films, but I really enjoy this one's ending a lot. Grier is great, but I really like Roberta Collins' perf too- it's colorful and works well within the framework. I should probably revisit this to make a better case for my enthusiasm

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Re: Roger Corman

#79 Post by knives » Fri Jun 17, 2022 11:32 am

I definitely prefer Caged Heat, but agree on the baseline of fun both are stellar. The warden here is amazing and one of true delights of the year. I think Hill bettered things with a more full set of themes with next year’s offering, but this one is definitely good.

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Re: Roger Corman

#80 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 28, 2022 9:01 pm

Despite having apparently revisited Caged Heat and The Big Doll House last year (thanks for reminding me of my fading memory, Letterboxd!), I had to watch them again back-to-back in order to discern the differences, and boy are these completely different movies! Okay, so, they're both Woman in Prison exploitation films, but Caged Heat is more contained, with Demme's concentrated humanistic compassion overthrowing its exploitative dressing in nudity, violence, etc. with ease. The conflicts aren't as exaggerated, and antagonistic exchanges occur and allegiances are formed with economical sentience to the energetic bonds between people. Similarly, the pain from torture is felt with a sincere approach, and the most entertaining B-story of the time-sensitive vent food delivery to a friend in need is treated as an inherently moral and vital quest rather than ridiculous. From the outside-in, it may seem like the problem size does not warrant the risk, but we get the sense that this fun escapade carries with it raw value in camaraderie, which is all these people have to hold it together. This is why internal conflicts between prisoners can be cast aside in favor of their commonalities with only an acute opportunity to prove allegiance needed to forgive and accept support.

So if Demme's exercise is a toned-down film using the restrictions of subgenre to actualize his thematic interests, Hill's film is swinging its dick in the other direction, going full-ham on exploitative gonzo antics. The Big Doll House is what a Vincent Price B-horror movie might look like if set in a familiar environment with a female cast. That, or a cartoonish version of modern torture porn. I don't know- those dungeon torture scenes are reminiscent of Corman's most psychedelic aesthetic work, and the portrayal of all conflict- from disputes between the prisoners, to the power imbalanced relationships between the guards and prisoners, to heroin addiction- are amplified to the nth degree. I can't say one film is better than the other because they're just so wildly singular in their intentions and effects, but The Big Doll House may get the edge for being so messily sprawling in its mad, absurdist energy, to the point where I was constantly thrown off balance to what was happening and why, and thrilled to be fed unexpected material within such a predictable narrative skeleton. Character motivations, their erratically-shifting rivalries, their offbeat, confounding digs at one another, the warden's attempts to balance her deceitfulness with a persuasive facade of innocence and timidity, the exotic fantastical-realities of sexual interactions... it's all regurgitated in such an eccentric and exciting approach that reflexively imitated the chaotic experience of being stripped of all bearings of power and forced into the insane conditions of prison.. only, you know, exhilarating.

It's a poor measurement tool for excellence, but I just watched both films twice within the last year, and while I now feel like I have Caged Heat's action mostly memorized, I could rewatch The Big Doll House again tomorrow and get something entirely new out of it, I'm certain. There's something enticing about it, where I just want to consume the film over and over again.. an effect like the movie's appropriately-but-still-cartoonishly-heightened version of heroin addiction, I guess.

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Re: Roger Corman

#81 Post by knives » Tue Jun 28, 2022 9:25 pm

I do think that does well to capture Hill’s genius. His evolution seems to be taking Corman’s willingness to accept any plot development of visual cue as real and forcing that surrealism into a fully conceived world. I don’t think we’d have the fantasies of Tarantino and ‘80s Walter Hill without him. It makes me wonder what it would be like to see a Hill film post Tarantino. What would distinguish them?

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Re: Roger Corman

#82 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 28, 2022 9:33 pm

I think, at least for this Hill film, the world may be fully conceived but part of the intoxication of being an audience member is that we're never fully invited into Hill's vision - or to be more charitable to the nature of our harmonic relationship with his art, he's always just a few steps ahead of us. At a certain point you just throw your hands up and enjoy the ride, and one can definitely discern an internal logic present, but it's the implementation of those surrealistic elements that's a bit rougher than the compatible digestibility of later Hill and Tarantino that removes that particular degree of disorientation in its edge.

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Re: Roger Corman

#83 Post by knives » Tue Jun 28, 2022 9:49 pm

I see what you’re saying, but I think your previous comment on rewatches is kind of a key wherein the film is radically different by being more discernible with time. It’s almost like the end of In the Mouth of Madness where the art eventually renders the audience mad in order to make it perfectly ordinary. Eventually it just makes sense that Pam Grier’s sex appeal literally causes earthquakes or that Sid Haig would be jealous of another man being raped.

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Re: Roger Corman

#84 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jun 28, 2022 11:25 pm

Yeah true, though contrary to your thoughts above I don't think Grier is the standout here. I mean, her performance may be the best on a level of general acting skill, but I'll double down on Roberta Collins' eclectic and enigmatic perf, which really sells this whole vibe by being the secret focal point to viscerally comprehending the film's wavelength in the form of a character impossible to pin down -That is, until she's perversely blasted from the picture without a moment of silence! The camera gives no attention of close-up or follow through of the kill, doesn't stall on the aftermath to demonstrate her worth for a second. Sounds about right, to literally execute the tonal representation of your film in a similarly bizarre and haywire metaphorical execution!

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Re: Roger Corman

#85 Post by knives » Tue Jun 28, 2022 11:46 pm

She is really great though my choice for secret MVP is Kathryn Loder who I also mistook for Barbara Steele until this recent viewing. She’s terrifying in an alien kind of way that immediately sets the tone.

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Re: Roger Corman

#86 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jun 29, 2022 12:25 am

Yeah I had the same thought about the mistaken actress identity. That might be yet another reason I've confused the two films (the presence of an awesome blonde side character is another), because I always recollected Steele having a blaring sinister presence in Caged Heat and was surprised to find her performance to be firmly rooted in less flashy introverted deviance, which fits with the softer undercurrent of Demme's style imbued into such a loud genre. Meanwhile, Loder goes all out! I love the solitary-confinement sauna, which takes what could be portrayed as a realistic and troublesome form of torture in a Demme version and instead transforms it into an artificial, yet urgently coarse, bonkers setpiece!

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Re: Roger Corman

#87 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:34 pm

While still unhinged and ridiculous to certain degrees, Hill’s follow up to The Big Dollhouse, the spiritual-sequel The Big Bird Cage, plays out in a safer and less stimulating manner within expected constructs of narrative, at least once the morally-illogical first act that kicks off the plot is over. That reason for the rescue mission is a scream, even if we then evolve into morally-compatible territory for audience sympathies. Both are welcome, though I wish there were more upending instigations in friction with formulaic beats spliced into the back half.

It took witnessing and vicariously residing in this film's completely opposite setting conditions to realize a huge part of why the first film succeeds for me: It's layout and the stirring implications of this spacial variable. The prison's insides -and the even exterior environments- within The Big Dollhouse's kaleidoscopic bubble have no clear outline or structure cueing in the audience, so all the action plays out in jarring fragments just like its various changing rooms and walls. The filmgoing experience and the milieu function both literally and figuratively as a haunted house ride. The sequel takes place in a lucid outside space without many physical or narrative obstructions to its clarity. The transparency of space, action, and motive makes for a more accessible movie but not necessarily a more electrifying one.

That said, I still enjoyed The Big Bird Cage. It’s very different and there are perverse details that make one feel at home with Hill’s tact for wedging surprise stimuli into the DNA of his worlds. The surrealistic aspects were milder by comparison- but anyone who’s seen this film and calls them "mild" without context needs to seek help! There are some crazy nonchalant inserts that are immediately accepted as within the internal logic of the movie- they’re just fewer and farther between, and I suppose I expect a sequel to enhance the aspects of the earlier film if they’re sourced in this kind of creative absurdism. Then again, this isn’t exactly a sequel, so the two movies work as effective counterparts to one another, and both are successful by the merits of their own respective intentions. I just prefer the one that is most startling and novel, as separate from the pack of programmatic exploitation efforts as one can get, even if both films qualify as outliers. Maybe The Big Dollhouse set too high a bar- it's like the The Masque of the Red Death of WiP films.

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Re: Roger Corman

#88 Post by knives » Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:37 pm

Decided to continue with this. I won’t be covering everything and there will only be a few years I’ll go over 5 films, but I am going to try to bring a representative swath while also trying to post a year a week. Speaking of our year is 1972, a year full of variety and interest, which is nice, but one film definitely overshadows everything else.

Boxcar Bertha shot Scorsese into stardom and also officially ended Corman’s 15 year partnership with AIP forcing him to switch up the plan for New World although that wouldn’t really come into play until ‘74. Despite officially being the film that broke the supposed back of the Corman-AIP relationship this feels totally of Corman’s mind to the point where Scorsese as director almost feels incidental. Only the ending bathed in obvious Christian symbolism and if you squint the politics seem in tune with Scorsese. This isn’t even a developmental thing either. There’s a pretty straight line between his first feature and Mean Streets with Boxcar, for as much as it’s a technical step up, standing as an odd man out. It’s no wonder that Cassavetes threw a hissy fit at his protégé.

As a Corman film though this really shows the power of his influence for as much as he has a reputation for being hands off no one could mistake this as the work of anyone else, Tolstoy references included. It even looks like a Corman film despite DP Stephens and editor Feitshans’ newness. It’s the themes and how they’re expressed which key in on Corman the most though. Like Carradine this is a film with the heart of a Bolshevik and both eyes on the money.

The other major oddity is The Final Comedown by underrated genius Oscar Williams. Corman wasn’t fully involved as a producer, but helped finance this frankly uncommercial piece of brilliance that I would love to see Criterion release. This is easily my second favorite of the films I’ll be covering not directed by Corman himself. It’s hard to talk about, but perhaps a contrast is useful. It’s as politically radical as something like Sweetback, but with a more coherent style that feels closer to today’s sensibilities. Whereas Peebles reminds me of Jodorowsky this film seems in the vein of Battle of Algiers complicating the revolutionary story while being firmly of it.


Under the New World banner are five films I’ll be covering. The first two are somewhat unusual for the company while the other three are in the standard of the day.

To start with is Sweet Kill. Curtis Hanson of LA Confidential fame directed this. He had already been doing some work for Corman who eventually gave him the chance to make this despite apparently disliking the developing slasher genre. He apparently disliked the end product so much that Corman re-edited it becoming a bit of what he was running from. The film itself is not terribly good, but it reminds me a lot of The Driller Killer in terms of suggesting a deeper soul behind the camera than the movie is capable of expressing. It’s also similar for padding the runtime with the lead just sitting around doing nothing.

A bit more successful in the horror genre is Night of the Cobra Woman. This is basically a Filipino Lair of the White Worm with that comparison really highlighting how weak Cobra is. It’s just a horror movie with no major aesthetic nor thematic hook to hang its hat on. Still, it continues to be fascinating to see all the facets of this teaming of countries.

Believe it or not The Hot Box was the first film I saw for this project and it runs like a weaker version of the Hill films. Still achieving mediocrity is better than the previous Viola-Demme project although I’m ready for Demme to take the reigns.

If you thought the above was dire wait till you see Night Call Nurses. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how many more of these trite films I can take regardless of the significance of the filmmakers, in this case Jonathan Kaplan, I can take. Here’s a better summary of these films than I can bother with directly from Kaplan.
I'd never seen a Nurses movie. He [Corman] laid out the formula. I had to find a role for Dick Miller, show a Bulova watch, and use a Jensen automobile in the film. And he explained that there would be three nurses: a blonde, a brunette, and a nurse of colour; that the nurse of color would be involved in a political subplot, the brunette would be involved in the kinky subplot, and the blonde would be the comedy subplot. The last thing he said was "There will be nudity from the waist up, total nudity from behind, and no pubic hair - now get to work!"
As that quote indicates at least these are beginning to be self referential.

Finally is the real diamond in the rough. Though it doesn’t need its company to look great as arguably The Big Bird Cage is the best pure exploitation film ever. I just love it so much as cinema. Of the heavily exploitative films this is unquestionably the best with a gorgeous and painterly style, fantastic acting (Sid Haig deserves a medal), and a coherent script which successfully executed its ideas with a smile and sense of authority. Anitra Ford is dynamite matching Pam Grier toe to toe as someone perverse and supercharged.

To succeed as a New World product you have to be a fantasy and this utilizes that for great effect especially in the editing. There’s this wonderful set of quick cuts as Haig gets more and more degraded that couldn’t work anywhere else. It helps so much to have just a total master like Jack Hill at the helm who can take this ridiculous film up the madness to ten and yet keep the themes coherent and worthwhile. This gets down to the failings of leftist revolutionary groups in a silly way that nonetheless rings true for the reasons discussed above.

Next up is a year I wish I could skip entirely and fortunately availability means I largely will.
Last edited by knives on Wed Jul 13, 2022 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Roger Corman

#89 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:40 pm

Alright, we both just posted about The Big Bird Cage within three minutes of each other, and we're not even in the same bird cage. This is some Jack Hill surrealism

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Re: Roger Corman

#90 Post by knives » Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:49 pm

Jinx (and sorry mods for the double post)
therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Jun 29, 2022 9:34 pm
While still unhinged and ridiculous to certain degrees, Hill’s follow up to The Big Dollhouse, the spiritual-sequel The Big Bird Cage, plays out in a safer and less stimulating manner within expected constructs of narrative, at least once the morally-illogical first act that kicks off the plot is over. That reason for the rescue mission is a scream, even if we then evolve into morally-compatible territory for audience sympathies. Both are welcome, though I wish there were more upending instigations in friction with formulaic beats spliced into the back half.

It took witnessing and vicariously residing in this film's completely opposite setting conditions to realize a huge part of why the first film succeeds for me: It's layout and the stirring implications of this spacial variable. The prison's insides -and the even exterior environments- within The Big Dollhouse's kaleidoscopic bubble have no clear outline or structure cueing in the audience, so all the action plays out in jarring fragments just like its various changing rooms and walls. The filmgoing experience and the milieu function both literally and figuratively as a haunted house ride. The sequel takes place in a lucid outside space without many physical or narrative obstructions to its clarity. The transparency of space, action, and motive makes for a more accessible movie but not necessarily a more electrifying one.

That said, I still enjoyed The Big Bird Cage. It’s very different and there are perverse details that make one feel at home with Hill’s tact for wedging surprise stimuli into the DNA of his worlds. The surrealistic aspects were milder by comparison- but anyone who’s seen this film and calls them "mild" without context needs to seek help! There are some crazy nonchalant inserts that are immediately accepted as within the internal logic of the movie- they’re just fewer and farther between, and I suppose I expect a sequel to enhance the aspects of the earlier film if they’re sourced in this kind of creative absurdism. Then again, this isn’t exactly a sequel, so the two movies work as effective counterparts to one another, and both are successful by the merits of their own respective intentions. I just prefer the one that is most startling and novel, as separate from the pack of programmatic exploitation efforts as one can get, even if both films qualify as outliers. Maybe The Big Dollhouse set too high a bar- it's like the The Masque of the Red Death of WiP films.
I don’t think the film is necessarily safer so much as it is clearer in communicating. The themes are spelled out, underlined, and repeated in a way that is easier to understand and filled with farcical humor, perhaps giving more security to the derangement but not really in my mind reducing it.

I think, counter to your experience, the more open nature of this film is the source of my preference. The prison genre is not something I inherently like all that much so the film needs to either go all interior like Chicago or Caged Heat or go outside the confines of the genre as in this case. The mushy and against everyone politics here, which seems the theme for the year, are personally very exciting as I grapple against my own political tribe mentality. This, obviously, isn’t an argument for superiority but rather an explanation for preference when I see your explanation as splendid for why you have your preference.

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Re: Roger Corman

#91 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 30, 2022 12:11 am

Yeah, I didn't separate those points very well, but I think The Big Birdcage is both more coherent and also follows a smoother, expected, and safer trajectory in terms of the risks Hill takes within the confines of this kind of exploitation film. This isn't an objective problem because, to your point and preference, these choices are directed at, and allow for a deeper exploration of theme within a paradigm. But he's still operating within a standard composition, and not obfuscating our sense of place, theme, and narrative movement, and that reads to me as safer by comparison - certainly riskier in terms of connecting the celluloid's contents to a mass audience.

I don't like the prison genre either, which is why I appreciate Demme's humanistic aims of Caged Heat, and Cromwell's brutal noirish focus in Caged, for each doing something unique and exceptional within the boundaries of the subgenre - but The Big Dollhouse takes the prison genre's expected blueprints in every respect and subverts them. The Big Birdcage is more of a typical prison movie, and while you and I have both been vocal about the value of art creatively cultivating meaning within limitations, of which this film is a great example, I think there's something awesome about a prison movie existing entirely outside of any structural confines or limitations, and not only because that sentence itself breeds several ideas that are perplexing and ironic in self-reflexivity!

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Re: Roger Corman

#92 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jul 01, 2022 4:13 pm

There is not too much that I can bring to this discussion but I wanted to thank knives for his extremely thorough posts here, especially that wonderful write up of Von Richthofen and Brown.

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Re: Roger Corman

#93 Post by knives » Wed Jul 13, 2022 9:34 am

Thanks Colin. I really hope all this sets up the thread to have more participants as much as this two man tango is fun.

Anyways, what I’ve been putting off. 1973 is a pretty dire year. It was one of New World’s most productive, but was also almost exclusively nurse films with so many of them being useless. Just due to availability I’m skipping most of the films, but still went through a handful. Weirdly as the productions reached a nadir Corman started seriously pursuing something that would give him his highest and most lasting praise. Corman always imported films from around the world, but unusually films similar to those he was producing. Around this time he branched out into prestige productions becoming the premier importer of art films during the ‘70s and ‘80s introducing America to Miyazaki for example. Anyways, I’ve put them off long enough. Here’s the films.

From the main series is The Young Nurses directed by Corman regular Clint Kimbrough. This highlights an improvement in the series as it becomes self aware enough to be an enjoyable soap opera as pure camp. The stories also seem slightly less perfunctory though I think that’s only coming from me enjoying myself more. There’s even a fun little Sam Fuller cameo that I couldn’t at first believe was happening. Speaking of things this movie has in common with the French New Wave, I suspect part of my enjoyment stems from how brilliantly shot this film is. Lacambre, who also shot The Velvet Vampire since I last mentioned him, gives a real stud to the movie which pops with color and uses a variety of lighting schemes that are just to die for. I don’t know who to credit with this, but an example of the film’s visual success is a convo the blonde nurse has on a pier. She’s made separate from everything else by wearing a bright red shirt while the boats and boy are all wearing a stark blue. They’re paired slightly with white on the boats, girl, and boy. It shows at least someone cared to make a good film. That said this still isn’t any morning rose and I eagerly anticipate Corman letting New World show some ambition.

It kind of makes sense that Fly Me would be made. The Philippines were a boon to Corman allowing him to produce more expensive looking films while the nurse films were making money hand over fist so why not make a nurse film in the Philippines? Corman’s main producer in country, the truly fascinating Cirio H. Santiago, was contracted as director for a film that promised to be interesting.

As usual the film follows three sex obsessed professionals, this time stewardesses. I’ll admit I had trouble telling two of them apart at first and it took me till the middle of the movie to realize the film had distinct plots for them and didn’t just forget one existed. This is why it’s so important to have one non-white actress. It’s impossible to tell the non-blondes apart otherwise. The main film is pretty mediocre and borders on incompetent although the blonde’s comedy plot is genuinely funny with a stereotypical Italian mother.

Corman must have thought so too as he had a typical Nurses scene with Dick Miller shot as a prologue by Curtis Hanson and had Demme shoot the absolute worst martial arts sequences ever as his technical directorial debut. The end result is a fitfully entertaining loser of a film, it’s so desperate to have us think this is Hong Kong despite the flag of the Philippines being in the background at points, that I like thanks to the context it was made in.

Finally we have something very different as we leave New World. Gene and Roger Corman contracted old Hollywood hand William Witney to helm I Escaped from Devil’s Island, a Jim Brown prison escape vehicle. It’s a great deal of fun with a sheen of legitimacy during a time when Corman otherwise was stuck in the dregs of sexploitation. The movie is totally empty headed though and seems to fit better with Gene’s output which was beginning to become more studio connected. The lesser Corman had won the day which speaks volumes to me. That said we did get The Big Red One from him so I’m glad for the success.

Next year will be exceptionally improved and so the year after that for about the next decade. I’m really excited to get into the most significant films Corman ever produced.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Roger Corman

#94 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jul 13, 2022 11:39 am

“knives” wrote:and had Demme shoot the absolute worst martial arts sequences ever as his technical directorial debut.
Holy shit, you are not kidding. I watched one of the sequences on youtube just now, and the incompetence is staggering. Like someone watched a Bruce Lee film while tired and then tried to replicate what they half remembered seeing, but then kinda gave up and had everyone thrash objects at the camera and roll around. That it’s Jonathan Demme behind the camera is the bizarro cherry on top.

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HypnoHelioStaticStasis
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Re: Roger Corman

#95 Post by HypnoHelioStaticStasis » Wed Jul 20, 2022 5:53 am

Figured this was worth sharing: A fun new interview with Corman, who sounds like he's doing great

And I just want to say the write-ups here have been great. "A Bucket of Blood" is one of my all-time favorites, and the respect for Corman as an auteur is truly warranted.

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knives
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Re: Roger Corman

#96 Post by knives » Fri Jul 22, 2022 6:56 pm

That’s a really great interview. Thanks for that. For anyone who wants more (too much?) of that goodness Shouts’ streaming app has a whole series of interviews running about 45 ,inures each with Corman and his wife (who is absolutely essential to his work as a producer).

I’m also back for 1974: the year New World starting making movies. All the films here are trying something new which is striving from the outset to be good rather than having it happen though sheer force of will (I really owe Barbara Peeters a major debt of gratitude). It’s also around this time when Corman was getting his reputation as the elder statesman of popcorn cinema and best friend to New Hollywood with cameos in stuff like The Godfather and his old movies popping up more often on television screens.

I’m going to start out with the big hitter of the year and the most arthouse friendly, though not most arthouse, film Corman ever produced. Cockfighter is a film I just want to hurl superlatives at. As will be a running theme from here on out no one was really interested in making films with Hellman so he returned to Corman who seemed to view him as the most trustworthy ally in making a movie outside of his comfort zone. The end result is a literal odyssey into one man’s own self delusion and pride as we see Warren Oates in a perversely mute performance, ruined by some voice over, struggle to succeed in a totally ridiculous arena for reasons that become more revealing as the film moves on. It’s honestly a film best experienced as a washing over of the mind and too much talk probably doesn’t help. I will say it has one of my favorite all time endings which just make the film. No wonder it flopped.

A good example of what I mean by more arthouse is Demme’s first full feature as a director Caged Heat. It’s full of the usual exploitation trappings of a woman in prison film, but with such abstract artistry as to change the whole enterprise. There’s so much to recommend. For instance, it’s so great seeing Erica Gavin in this. She’s easily the best actor from the Russ Meyer stable and is so effective here with a much larger part than I expected. Steele was a great surprise as well. It’s so weird seeing her without dubbing, but it’s an utter delight.

It’s kind of incredible how complete Demme already feels here with Goetzman popping up and this being lensed by Fujimoto. Thematically there’s a lot that will be developed later on as well. The film is very plainly shot in a way which makes it more surreal even in the regular moments. It’s not much a leap from the weirdly shot craps game to the opening of Melvin and Howard. There’s also that relentless empathy with sympathy rather than titillation being the most commonly sought after experience. There’s a real love of character as human I have not seen in any other Corman women in prison movies.

Also one of the funnier uses of Nixon I’ve seen in a while.

The next two aren’t as good, but are about as good as their limitations allow. To start with is a Santiago film which raises itself to being fun. TNT Jackson is easily the most Black Dynamite film I’ve seen. Even in the gorgeous presentation of streaming, it’s so nice seeing one of these in scope, you get a sense of the music, sound effects, weird acting affects, and some of the scratchiness. It’s uncanny to the point I didn’t even feel the need to bring up that this is co-scripted by the Dick Miller and it’s a pretty good script too with lots of humor and an actually pretty tight plot.

There’s actually a lot to enjoy here even beyond the weird artifacts. Most of the cast is rather charming and most of the fights are enjoyable and well staged. This was my first film as director from Corman’s Philippines point man Cirio Santiago and it gave me a lot of hope for high quality entertainment. Simply put this is just a super fun film and one of the high points of Corman’s super trash era.

If I had one complaint it’s with lead actress Jeannie Bell who is just awful. The script is clearly written with Pam Grier in mind and she would have easily elevated this as a film that you can complement as actually good. Bell on the other hand can’t act, can’t fight, can’t do anything. The movie grinds to a halt when she is asked to do anything. Even the actors who clearly don’t know English give better performances than her and outside a body double in the fight scenes she just never seems real to the world of the movie. Ebert’s hilarious review gets at how some of the other issues with the film prevent it from being good according to reasonable measures.

More seriously and with more positivity, this is another film where Corman’s commercial instincts align with his liberal politics in a way that is incredibly fascinating. I was instantly reminded of a line by Scorsese where he said that he gave Corman a first option on Mean Streets and the only stipulation was to have the characters be black. Somehow in the 1970s for Corman there was greater commercial prospects in a minority lead movie than a white lead one. This film really punches towards that ethos in its own weird little way. You can see every move from the hiring of Santiago to having the whites be the villains to keeping the lead a woman despite not having Grier in their commercial motivation while at the same time admiring how against the mainstream grain the film is for all the same reasons.

The other winner of the day is the last of the nurse films, Candy Stripped Nurses. I kind of love, to give a sense of the absurdity it delights in, that one of the plots can’t fit any nudity in so they just insert a dream sequence for the sake of it. Not a good movie, but more entertaining than I was expecting to the point where I’m curious what these other nurse films are like.

Finally is a pair of films from Steven Carver who was Corman’s most immediate discovery and whom he clearly was betting the chips on. More on that next time. Carver’s feature debut and better of his two films this year is The Arena. Corman seemingly jealous he didn’t make Black Mamma, White Mamma just does that movie with its stars, but set in Ancient Rome and not good. Worse yet and somehow one of his most enduring films is the truly dreadful Big Bad Mamma. Foolishly I saw Angie Dickinson and assumed this would an attempt to class up New World and make a mini-Bloody Mamma. While the alter part of that idea might be present certainly the former never did with the film starting at child marriage and only running down from there. There’s a couple of moments of life here including a delightful turn by William Shatner all of which suggests how Corman would end the decade. Unfortunately we’re not there yet and instead are stuck with the grossest parade of nudity in service of the most empty headed story possible for a film pretending to try. Did Steve Carver ever make a good movie? There’s two more to go so we might find out.

At least this offered Dick Miller more than his usual cameo, but only barely so.

If this year saw the light of consistent quality peek through then next is really going to send us flying.

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Re: Roger Corman

#97 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Jul 22, 2022 8:20 pm

I agree with almost all of your thoughts and feelings on Cockfighter, so thanks for posting them! Your comment about the voiceover ruining his mute performance caused me to think about how this could actually serve the themes of the film. While I'd need to revisit it to be able to back up this hypothesis, I wonder if this could be a coy strength by Hellman in demonstrating to us how Oates' silence isn't the result of some zen self-actualization, but a rigid-thinking, self-immolating superstition, and that -(of course!)- his rambling egotistical thoughts and observations continue behind the facade of cool. That the audience gets let in on his banal thinking patterns and vapid persona only juxtaposes with the exterior of calm, and reframes what would appear to be unconditional confidence as revealing its self-delusion. Though this comes organically sans voiceover, through unveiling information of why he takes the vow of silence and more by peripheral characters, leading up to the subtly isolating yet powerful finish, I can't help but wonder if the voiceover itself can function as an asset in this quietly complicated character study of a deceptively-simple man who keeps things simple out of fear of doing anything else.

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Re: Roger Corman

#98 Post by Altair » Sat Jul 23, 2022 3:49 pm

Just wanted to chime in and say how much I have been enjoying knives' writing on Roger Corman - it's been a delight to follow this viewing project.

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knives
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Re: Roger Corman

#99 Post by knives » Sun Jul 24, 2022 7:29 am

Thank you.
therewillbeblus wrote:
Fri Jul 22, 2022 8:20 pm
I agree with almost all of your thoughts and feelings on Cockfighter, so thanks for posting them! Your comment about the voiceover ruining his mute performance caused me to think about how this could actually serve the themes of the film. While I'd need to revisit it to be able to back up this hypothesis, I wonder if this could be a coy strength by Hellman in demonstrating to us how Oates' silence isn't the result of some zen self-actualization, but a rigid-thinking, self-immolating superstition, and that -(of course!)- his rambling egotistical thoughts and observations continue behind the facade of cool. That the audience gets let in on his banal thinking patterns and vapid persona only juxtaposes with the exterior of calm, and reframes what would appear to be unconditional confidence as revealing its self-delusion. Though this comes organically sans voiceover, through unveiling information of why he takes the vow of silence and more by peripheral characters, leading up to the subtly isolating yet powerful finish, I can't help but wonder if the voiceover itself can function as an asset in this quietly complicated character study of a deceptively-simple man who keeps things simple out of fear of doing anything else.
That’s an interesting perspective. I’ll have to consider it when I next watch the movie.

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Re: Roger Corman

#100 Post by knives » Tue Aug 09, 2022 6:08 pm

Long time no see. I’m actually super far ahead in my viewings, but have just been lazy about posting. Anyway, here’s another really great year with 1975 shooting forward with some real classics. First up though are the last two soft core flicks I’ll be talking about for awhile. With a whimper comes Cover Girl Models, Whoever shot the American set scenes deserved a big bonus especially the opener with Mary Woronov using the same set as will be Dick Miller’s in Hollywood BLVD. It suggests a predecessor merely lacking in Dante sense of the macabre and Arkush’s absurdity. Unfortunately when we get to the Philippines, excuse me “Hong Kong”, it becomes another lame Santiago movie though this time at least threatening competence and also the always delightful presence of Vic Diaz as the heavy. It’s nothing to get excited about, but also something I could be affectionate toward.

Far better to the point of having a kind of genius is Summer School Teachers. These nurse style films have been getting slowly better and better. This script is denser with more fully formed characters and storylines. You can easily see writer director Barbara Peeters striving for long term success which sadly never reached her. It works hard at being a Corman film par excellence, it even has Dick Miler’s largest role in a while with several scenes and spoken lines relevant to the plot, while going beyond those goals with a well thought out set of themes expressing a deep understanding of contemporary feminist theory. Unfortunately that depth comes at the cost of the earlier films’ racial commitments. There’s no minority teacher at all and the one student is barely above an extra. It’s a frustrating suggestion of the limited scope of people’s interest at the time.

A real positive surprise after last year and answering my earlier question about Carver and good movies is Capone whose final image is stuck in my mind. Corman still had some outstanding debts with the studios and at least in the case of this Fox Production he seems intent on finally masterminding a protégé’s run to the mainstream. Capone is a clear continuation of Corman’s previous Fox film on the Chicago mob from the same writer and even featuring scenes from St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Despite focusing on one man this film plays bigger and more fantastic with a true stream of major and minor actors including Sly Stallone in one of his first major roles. I previously haven’t liked any of Carver’s films, but he does well enough here with the script and acting doing wonders to make this an exciting experience.

Finally is the cream of the crop with two truly and uniquely amazing features. Caged Heat is a great movie, but Crazy Mama is fully a Demme picture. It’s really hard to explain how, but this film has everything that makes Demme great while showing as clearly as one of the later era cameos that Demme’s essence is Corman.

I was actually a bit nervous at first as I’m a bit exhausted by the Mama pictures and their depression era violence so that even a good example might by trying. Certainly the opening didn’t allay those fears hewing so close to form it would literally be lifted for Big Bad Mama II a few years later. The credits with its ‘50s rock took away those fears as this trigenerational saga of just getting by played out. Leachman, in one of her best performances, actually plays the middle generation with Ann Sothern as her mother and a great performance by Linda Purl as her daughter. Each woman reflects their generation differently, but the John Waters like humor is best exemplified by their approach to motherhood. Sothern is a tired widow still upholding her husband’s honor, Leachman wants love and the nuclear family but it hasn’t satisfied her her, and finally Purl seems to have mastered the situation by just accepting reality as presented to her. Purl’s arch for her relationships is a fascinating one showing a lot of maturity from the writers who never make it perverse and from Demme who does his best to make it really all about love.

Love is the key word here. The other mamas were tiring me out as they were bound by hate and vengeance. That’s alive here, but Demme mostly ignores it in favor for building up a loving family. The amount each person cares for their new unit is serenely felt with no added drama to it. Even with the introduction of Sally Kirkland’s character Demme zigs where others have zagged making this a healing process.

Character may be the film’s lifeblood, but it’s also very dense in theme. Capitalism as a death March works very well in this ‘50s setting as if saying present prosperity (for the banks) doesn’t give hope the same way as universal depression did in the ‘30s. Everything is different and being Robin Hood is no longer viable. The light beauty of the opening hour makes strongly felt the harshness of the last twenty minutes (and who better to deliver that first shot of horror than Dick Miller) in a way that other films fail at. This is what makes Crazy Mama the real successor to Bonnie and Clyde. You have to have fun to realize the horror and no additional histrionics will aid in that.

Finally with a howl comes Death Race 2000. With the unfurling of a Nazi flag to Oh Say Can You Sing Paul Bartel’s beautiful pairing with long time Corman writer Charles B. Griffith marks itself as the best sort of satire. I don’t think I need to breathe it’s praises much since Death Race 2000 is known as one of the best movies of all time, but I’d like to put this a bit in context with the rest of Griffith’s career. We last saw him with the pair of biker flicks in the late ‘60s. He was a bit lost in the wild trying to become an A list talent in Europe when Corman asked him to help rewrite the film. A lot of serious pictures had fallen through such as one about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. As with a lot of returning talents Griffith used this as an opportunity to lick wounds and to make the ultimate expression of his artistic view. In this case that means taking a serious subject and turning it totally loopy.

This is most similar to Creature from Haunted Sea where the baseline plot is a very serious look at the failures of America, but rendered absurd by the cost of production and feeling of zeitgeist it doesn’t trust. In this sense Bartel who can be explained the same way is the best possible collaborator. Both men had clear sympathies within their subjects, yet had so little belief in any group that the revolutionaries also had to be insane. For Death Race that means that Frankenstein’s success is necessarily a temporary one limited to what we see. It’s a final dark joke that he doesn’t really do much of anything. Rather he revolution of the film is showing how cheap the world that made it is. The ridiculous ‘70s life that is hinted at in the film through language and visuals such as the clothes and sports commentary is unnerving in a way that produces laughs on its own.

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