Roger Corman at the Loft

by David Safier

No political observations will be made here. Shorter post: That was so cool! I saw Roger Corman!

For younger readers who aren't up on film history, Corman is the "King of the B's," as in B movies. He cranked out an amazing number of films, some in a matter of days, featuring cars, motorcycles, gore and half-dressed (as well as undressed) women, from the 50s to the present. He's still making movies at 86, many of them for the SyFy Channel. His stable of actors included much younger Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Bruce Dern, along with many others. Directors like Martin Scorcese and Ron Howard, among others, made their first films, all in the exploitation genre, for Corman. Corman is the godfather/grandfather of much of modern film. "Easy Rider" came out of his stable. "Jaws," "Star Wars" and the films they spawned were big budget, big studio versions of the filmmaking style Corman helped pioneer.

The Loft screened a documentary, Corman's World, Saturday night. I went, not for the film (which was pretty good) but for the chance to see a legend. I honestly expected a dessicated, semi-degenerate hulk of a man, barely held together after years of debauchery, slurring his words and making inane, crude comments. Instead I saw a very dignified gentleman — think Alan Alda ten years older, but without the cynical, egotistical undertones — who is in terrific physical and mental trim and still making films. Apparently, he was always a gentleman, never the kind of guy who hung out with the kind of people who acted in his films. Earlier Saturday, he scouted the Old Tucson location, thinking about making a much grittier, documentary-style version of the classic "Gunfight at the OK Corral" story.

Oh, and as a distributer, he was responsible for bringing the great foreign film directors to American screens — Bergman, Fellini, Antonioni, Kurosawa and others. He had consumate taste in film, though he said he loves film of all kinds. Fortunately, he didn't allow the standard definition of "taste" to interfere with his movie-making vision.

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