Roger William Corman in Detroit, Michigan, 5 April 1926.
Attended Beverly Hills High School; Stanford University, California,
engineering degree; Oxford University, one term, 1950.
Served in United States Navy during World War II.
Married Julie Halloran, 1969, one daughter, two sons.
Messenger boy, Twentieth Century-Fox, then television stagehand and
literary agent, Hollywood, early 1950s; scriptwriter and producer, then
director and producer, mainly for American International Pictures (AIP),
from 1953; directed first film,
, 1954; founder and director of production and distribution company New
World Pictures, 1970–83; founded production company New Horizons
Pictures, 1983, and distribution company Concorde, 1985; set up Brentwood
TV company, 1990.
c/o New Horizons Production Company, 11600 San Vicente Boulevard, Los
Angeles, California 90049, U.S.A.
Apache Woman ; Day the World Ended
The Oklahoma Woman ; It Conquered the World ; Gunslinger ; Swamp Woman ; The Undead
She-Gods of Shark Reef ( Shark Reef ); Naked Paradise ; Not of This Earth ; Rock All Night ; Attack of the Crab Monsters ; Carnival Rock ; Teenage Doll ; Sorority Girl ( The Bad One ); The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent ( Viking Women and the Sea Serpent ; Viking Women )
War of the Satellites (+ role); Machine Gun Kelly ; Teenage Caveman ( Out of the Darkness ); I, Mobster ( The Mobster ); Last Woman on Earth (+ role)
The Wasp Woman (+ role); A Bucket of Blood
Ski Troop Attack (+ role); The Fall of the House of Usher ( House of Usher ); The Little Shop of Horrors (+ role); Creature from the Haunted Sea (+ role); Atlas
Pit and the Pendulum ; The Intruder ( I Hate Your Guts )
The Premature Burial ; Tales of Terror ; Tower of London
The Raven ; The Young Racers (+ role); The Haunted Palace ; The Terror ; X ( The Man with the X-Ray Eyes )
The Secret Invasion ; The Masque of the Red Death ; The Tomb of Ligeia
The Wild Angels
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre
What's In It for Harry (for TV)
Gass-s-s-s, or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It
Von Richthofen and Brown ( The Red Baron )
Highway Dragnet (Juran) (+ co-sc); Monster from the Ocean Floor (Ordung); The Fast and the Furious (Ireland and Sampson)
Beast with 1,000,000 Eyes (Kramarsky)
Stake out on Dope Street (Kershner); The Cry Baby (Addiss); Monster from Galaxy 27 (Kowalski); Hot Car Girl (Kowalski); Night of the Blood Beast (Kowalski); The Brain Eaters (Ve Sota); Paratroop Command (Witney); The Wild Ride (Berman)
Tank Commando ( Tank Commandos ) (Topper); Crime and Punishment U.S.A. (Sanders); High School Big Shot ( The Young Sinners ) (Rapp); Attack of the Giant Leeches ( Demons of the Swamp ) (Kowalski); Beast from a Haunted Cave (Hellman); T-Bird Gang ( The Pay-Off ) (Harbinger); Battle of Blood Island (Rapp)
Night Tide (Harrington); The Mermaids of Tiburon ( Aquasex ) (Lamb)
The Magic Voyage of Sinbad (Posco) (re-edited version of Ptuschko's 1952 film Sadko ); Battle beyond the Sun (Colchart) (re-edited version of Kozyr and Karyukov's 1960 film Nebo zovet/The Heavens Call )
Dementia ( The Haunted and the Hunted ) (Coppola)
The Girls on the Beach (Witney); Sky Party (Rafkin); Beach Ball (Weinrib); The Shooting (Hellman); Ride in the Whirl-wind (Hellman); Blood Bath (Hill and Rothman)
Queen of Blood (Harrington)
Targets (Bogdanovich); Devil's Angels (Haller)
The Dunwich Horror (Haller); Naked Angels (Clark); Pit Stop (Hill); Paddy (Haller)
Student Nurses (Rothman); Angels Die Hard! (Compton)
Angels Hard as They Come (Viola); Women in Cages (de Leon); Private Duty Nurses (Armitage); The Big Doll House (Hill); The Velvet Vampire (Rothman)
The Final Comedown (Williams); Boxcar Bertha (Scorsese); The Big Bird Cage (Hill); The Unholy Rollers (Zimmerman); Night Call Nurses (Kaplan); Fly Me (Santiago); The Young Nurses (Kimbro); The Hot Box (Viola); Night of the Cobra Woman (Meyer)
I Escaped from Devil's Island (Meyer); The Arena (Carver); The Student Teachers (Kaplan); Tender Loving Care ( Naughty Nurses ) (Edmonds)
Cheap (Swenson); Candy Stripe Nurses (Holleb); Cockfighter ( Born to Kill ) (Hellman); Big Bad Mama (Carver); Caged Heat (Demme); TNT Jackson (Santiago); Street Girls (Miller); The Woman Hunt (Romero)
Capone (Carver); Death Race 2000 (Bartel); Crazy Mama (Demme); Summer School Teachers (Peeters); Dark Town Strutters (Witney); Cover Girl Models (Santiago)
Hollywood Boulevard (Arkush and Dante); Fighting Mad (Demme); Cannonball ( Carquake ) (Bartel); Jackson County Jail (Miller); Nashville Girl ( New Girl in Town ) (Trikonis); Moving Violation (Dubin); God Told Me To (Demon) (Cohen); Dynamite Women ( The Great Texas Dynamite Chase ) (Pressman); Eat My Dust ! (Wilson)
Black Oak Conspiracy (Kelljan); Grand Theft Auto (Howard); I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (Page); Thunder and Lightning (Allen); Andy Warhol's Bad (Johnson); Moonshine County Express (Trikonis); Dirty Duck (Swenson); Maniac ( Assault on Paradise ) (Compton); A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich (Nelson)
Deathsport (Suso and Arkush); Piranha (Dante); Avalanche (Allen); Outside Chance (Miller); The Bees (Zacharias)
Rock 'n' Roll High School (Arkush); Saint Jack (Bogdanovich)
Battle beyond the Stars (Colchart)
Smokey Bites the Dust (Griffith); Galaxy of Terror (Clark)
Forbidden World (Holzman)
Star Child (Cohne); Space Raiders (Howard Cohen); Suburbia (Spheeris); Warrior and the Sorceress (Broderick)
Love Letters (Jones); Deathstalker (John Watson)
Barbarian Queen (Oliveira); Streetwalkin' (Freeman)
Cocaine Wars (Oliveira), Big Bad Mama II (Wynorski)
Munchies (Hirsch); Stripped to Kill (Ruben); The Lawless Land (Hess); Amazons (Sessa); Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Jones); Hour of the Assassin (Llosa); Sweet Revenge (Sobel)
The Drifter (Brand); Daddy's Boys (Minion); Half Life (Ruben); Saturday the 14th Strikes Back (Howard Cohen); Nightfall (Mayersberg); Dangerous Love (Ollstein); Watchers (Hess)
Two to Tango (Oliveira); Crime Zone (Llosa); Stripped to Kill (Shea Ruben); Dance of the Damned (Shea Ruben); The Terror Within (Notz); Time Trackers (Howard Cohen); Bloodfist (Winkless); Masque of the Red Death (Brand); Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (Griffith); Heroes Stand Alone (Griffiths); Transylvania Twist (Wynorski)
Overexposed (Brand); Streets (Shea Ruben); Morella (Wynorski); Cry in the Wild (Griffiths); Back to Back (Kincade); Primary Target (Henderson); Watchers II (Notz); Silk 2 (Santiago); Full Fathom Five (Franklin); Bloodfist II (Blumenthal)
Terror Within II (Stevens); Hollywood Boulevard (Dante and Arkush); Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever (Feldman); Futurekick (Klaus)
Play Murder for Me (Oliveira); Eye of the Eagle 3 (Santiago); In the Heat of Passion (Flender); Deathstalker 4 (Hill); Bloodfist 3 (Sassone); Immortal Sins (Hachuel); Berlin Conspiracy (Winkless); Field of Fire (Santiago); Dance with Death (Moore); Ultra Violet (Griffiths); Bodywaves (Pesce); Blackbelt (C.P. Moore); Sorority House Massacre 2 (Wynorski); Munchie (Wynorski); Body Chemistry 2 (Simon); Assassination Game (Winfrey); Final Embrace (Sassone); Homicidal Impulse (Tausik); Bloodfist 4 (Ziller)
Firehawk (Santiago); To Sleep with a Vampire (Friedman); Stepmonster (Stanford); Dracula Rising (Gallo); Carnosaur (Simon); 800 Leagues down the Amazon (Llosa); Live by the Fist (Santiago); Dragonfire (Jacobson)
Cheyenne Warrior (Griffiths); Unborn 2 (Jacobson); Watchers 3 (Stanford); In the Heat of Passion II (Cyran); Reflections in the Dark (Purdy)
Carnosaur 2 (Morneau); Spy Within (Railsback); Crazysitter (McDonald); Dillinger and Capone (Purdy); Twisted Love (Lottimer) (exec pr); One Night Stand (Shire) (exec pr)
Vampirella (Wynorski) (exec pr); The Unspeakable (McCain) (exec pr); Subliminal Seduction (Stevens) (exec pr); Rumble in the Streets (McCormick) (exec pr); Last Exit to Earth (Shea) (exec pr); Ladykiller (Winkless); Humanoids from the Deep (Yonis—for TV) (exec pr); House of the Damned (Levy) (exec pr); Death Game (Cheveldave—for TV); Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill (Jacobson) (exec pr); Black Scorpion II: Aftershock (Winfrey) (exec pr); Black Rose of Harlem (Gallo) (exec pr); Bio-Tech Warrior (McCormick) (exec pr); Alien Avengers (Spiro) (exec pr); Carnosaur 3: Primal Species (Winfrey)
Urban Justice (Payne) (exec pr); Stripteaser II (Ernest) (exec pr); Starquest II (Gallo) (exec pr); Shadow Dancer (M.P. Girard) (exec pr); The Sea Wolf (McDonald) (exec pr); Overdrive (Spiro) (exec pr); Macon County Jail (Muspratt) (exec pr); Haunted Sea (Golden) (exec pr); Future Fear (Baumander) (exec pr); Falling Fire (D'Or) (exec pr); Eruption (Gibby) (exec pr); Don't Sleep Alone (Andrew) (exec pr); Detonator (Clancy) (exec pr); Criminal Affairs (Cullinane) (exec pr); Club Vampire (Ruben) (exec pr); Circuit Breaker (Muspratt) (exec pr); Born Bad (Yonis) (exec pr); Black Thunder (Jacobson); Alien Avengers II (Payne) (exec pr); Spacejacked (Cullinane) (exec pr)
Stray Bullet (Wood) (exec pr); Running Woman (Samuels); Watchers Reborn (Buechler); A Very Unlucky Leprechaun (Kelly)
The Protector (McCormick); The Phantom Eye (Gibby—mini for TV) (+ role as Dr. Gorman); The Haunting of Hell House (Marcus); Shepherd
The Doorway ; The Suicide Club
A Time for Killing ( The Long Ride Home ) (Karlson) (uncredited co-d); Wild Racers (Haller) (uncredited 2nd unit d)
De Sade (Enfield) (uncredited co-d)
The Godfather, Part II (Coppola) (role)
The Howling (Dante) (role)
Der Stand der Dinge ( The State of Things ) (Wenders) (role)
Swing Shift (Demme) (role)
Silence of the Lambs (Demme) (role as FBI Director Hayden Burke)
Philadelphia (Demme) (role as Mr. Laird)
Apollo 13 (Howard) (role as Congressman)
The Second Civil War (Dante) (role as Sandy Collins)
Scream 3 (Craven) (role as Studio Executive)
How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime , with Jim Jerome, New York, 1990.
Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1963.
Midi-Minuit Fantastique (Paris), no. 10–11, 1965.
Image et Son (Paris), March 1967.
"A Letter from Roger Corman," in Take One (Montreal), July-August 1968.
Interview in The Film Director as Superstar , by Joseph Gelmis, New York, 1970.
Interview with Joe Medjuck, in Take One (Montreal), July-August 1970.
Interview with Philip Strick, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1970.
Interview with Charles Goldman, in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1971.
Séquences (Montreal), October 1974.
Millimeter (New York), December 1975.
Interview with Bill Davidson, in New York Times Magazine , 28 December 1975.
Interview in Journal of Popular Film (Washington, D.C.), vol. 5, no. 3–4, 1976.
Interview in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1979.
Interviews in Ecran Fantastique (Paris), no. 18, 1981, and May 1984.
Interview in Films and Filming (London), November 1984.
Interview with Robin Wood and Richard Lippe, in Movie (London), Winter 1986.
Interview in Film Comment (New York), July-August 1988.
Interview in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 463, January 1993.
Interview with Mark A. Miller, in Filmfax (Evanston), July-August 1995.
Interview with Edward L. Mitchell, in Filmfax (Evanston), May-June 1996.
Willemen, Paul, David Pirie, David Will, and Lynda Myles, Roger Corman: The Millenic Vision , Edinburgh, 1970.
McCarthy, Todd, and Charles Flynn, editors, King of the Bs , New York, 1975.
Turroni, Guiseppe, Roger Corman , Florence, 1976.
di Franco, J. Philip, The Movie World of Roger Corman , New York, 1979.
Hillier, Jim, and Aaron Lipstadt, Roger Corman's New World , London, 1981.
Naha, Ed, The Films of Roger Corman , New York, 1982.
Bourgoin, Stéphane, Roger Corman , Paris, 1983.
McGee, Mark Thomas, The Story of American International Pictures , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1984.
Morris, Gary, Roger Corman , Boston, 1985.
Ottoson, Robert, American International Pictures , New York and London, 1985.
McGee, Mark Thomas, Roger Corman: The Best of the Cheap Acts , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1988.
Ray, Fred Olen, The New Poverty Row , Jefferson, North Carolina, 1991.
Frank, Alan, The Films of Roger Corman: 'Shooting My Way out of Trouble', New York, 1998.
Gray, Beverly, Roger Corman , Los Angeles, 2000.
Silver, Alain and James Ursini, Roger Corman: Metaphysics on a Shoestring , Los Angeles, 2000.
Monthly Film Bulletin (London), vol. 31, 1964.
Positif (Paris), March 1964.
Dyer, Peter John, "Z Films" in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1964.
Midi-Minuit Fantastique (Paris), no. 1, 1965.
Film (London), no. 43, 1965.
French, Philip, "Incitement against Violence" in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1967–68.
Wallace, Eric in Screen Education (London), July-August 1968.
Jeune Cinéma (Paris), February 1969.
Action (Los Angeles), July-August 1969.
Montage (London), April 1970.
Diehl, Digby, in Show (New York), May 1970.
Ecran Fantastique (Paris), December 1970.
Koszarski, Richard, in Film Comment (New York), Fall 1971.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 5 February 1976.
National Film Theatre booklets (London), December 1976 and January 1977.
Avant-Scène (Paris), 15 May 1980.
National Film Theatre booklet (London), February 1981.
Chute, David, in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1982.
"Corman Issue" of Cinema Nuovo (Turin), January-February 1984.
Goldstein, Patrick, in American Film (Washington, D.C.) January-February 1985.
Newman, Kim, "The Roger Corman Alumni Association," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), November and December 1985.
Strick, Philip, "The Return of Roger Corman," in Films and Filming (London), March 1986.
Hillier, Jim, and Aaron Lipstadt, "The Economics of Independence: Roger Corman and New World Pictures 1970–80," in Movie (London), Winter 1986.
Hollywood Reporter , 26 March 1987.
Exline, P., "King of the B's," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1987.
Dixon, W., article in Postscript (Commerce, Texas), Fall 1988.
Bourgoin, S., and F. Guerif, article in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), September 1989.
Garsault, A., article in Positif (France), February 1990.
Solman, G., "Roger Corman," in Millimeter , May 1990.
Peary, Gerald, "Roger Corman: They Call Him Cheap, Quick, and 'America's Greatest Independent Filmmaker,"' in American Film , June 1990.
Combs, R., article in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1990/91.
Pede, R., and D. DuFour, article in Film en Televisie (Bruxelles, Belgium), May-June 1991.
Bohlin, L., and L. Holmstrom, article in Filmrutan (Sweden), 1992.
Liberti, F., "Il cinema di Roger Corman," in Cineforum (Bergamo), January-February 1993.
Prudente, Rosaria, in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), January-February 1993.
Soria, G., "Comix," in Film Threat (Beverly Hills), February 1996.
Biodrowski, S., "Roger Corman," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), vol. 27:36, no. 8, 1996.
Bacal, S., "Horror Camp Fire Burns," in Variety (New York), 4/10 March 1996.
Marsilius, Hans Jörg, in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 9 April 1996.
Alford, H., "The Merchant of Venice," in Vanity Fair (New York), April 1996.
Atkinson, M., "Corman's Children," in Village Voice (New York), 10 September 1996.
Klady, L. "Corman Feted by L.A. Crix," in Variety (New York), 28 October/3 November 1996.
Scapperotti, D., "Roger Corman Presents," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), vol 27, no. 7, 1996.
Oosterom, Chris and René Wolf, in Skrien (Amsterdam), February-March 1997.
The Roger Corman Special (for TV), 1995.
* * *
Grand master and patron saint of the American exploitation film, Roger Corman has forged a reputation for creative filmmaking on means so minimal as to seem absurd. He began his career in the mid-1950s producing and directing Westerns, gangster movies, mythological "spectacles," teen pictures, and sci-fi/horror films distinguished largely by their five-digit budgets and shooting schedules as short as three days. By the early 1960s his business savvy and understanding of the developing "youth" market had made him the most valuable commodity at American International Pictures, and his shrewd innovations in production and distribution contributed substantially to that company's pre-eminence in the exploitation market.
Backhandedly dubbed by critics "the King of Schlock" and "the Orson Welles of Z-Pictures," Corman has become a symbol of the creativity available to those willing to accept the economic limitations of working outside the mainstream. As a producer, he was able to provide decisive career breaks for a number of actors (Jack Nicholson, Ellen Burstyn, Robert De Niro, Cindy Williams), screenwriters (Robert Towne), and directors (Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme) who were to rise toward the upper echelons of the New Hollywood. Meanwhile, Corman insisted on maintaining his own kingdom on the fringes. When AIP's growing budgets and pretenses began to tighten studio control over individual projects, Corman left and, in 1970, established his own studio, New World Pictures, which quickly usurped AIP's place in the exploitation field. Corman did not direct at New World, but instead exerted a decisive influence as producer, cultivating the drive-in/inner-city audience by developing specialized sub-genres (women's prison pictures; soft-core nurse/teacher films; hard-core action and horror movies) and a strict formula, requiring given amounts of violence, nudity, humor, and social commentary. The social element not only reflected Corman's own attitudes (a self-characterized "liberal to radical" politically, he independently financed his anti-racist The Intruder when no studio would put up the money), but also an understanding of the politically disfranchised groups which comprised the New World audience. At the same time, Corman used the company to provide some of the first intelligent American marketing of foreign "art films," accruing respectable successes with Bergman's Cries and Whispers , Fellini's Amarcord , Truffaut's Adele H. , and Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala. Yet it would not be quite fair to dismiss Corman, as Andrew Sarris did in 1968, as a producer "miscast" as a director. Admittedly, at that time Corman's most accomplished, complex, and disturbing film, Bloody Mama , was still to be made. But Corman had hit his artistic stride in the early 1960s with a series of seven flamboyantly artificial color horror films, loosely based on Poe and ranging in tone from slightly tongue-in-cheek to openly parodic. The cycle peaked with Masque of the Red Death , which made ingenious use of imagery borrowed from Bergman's Seventh Seal , to the disbelief of American critics and the delight of the Europeans, who have always seemed willing to take Corman fairly seriously. Indeed, even in the 1950s Corman had learned to make artistic virtue of low-budget tawdriness, which contributed greatly to the existential bleakness of such tortured morality plays as Teenage Doll and Sorority Girl , and to the essential minimalism of the definitive black comedies Bucket of Blood and Little Shop of Horrors. Yet, even if one is unwilling to recognize the philosophical despair of the moralist struggling against nihilism which underlies the straight-faced lunacy of It Conquered the World , the visionary metaphysics of X (The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) , and even the Urbiker picture of the 1960s, The Wild Angels , Corman's audacious independence has at least earned him the right to symbolize the myriad contradictions between artistic ambition and fiscal responsibility which seem inherent to commercial filmmaking.
Circumstances caused Corman to put his directorial career in the deep freeze in 1971. A rare foray into TV with What's in It for Harry (1969) had resulted in a film rejected as too violent by ABC, which released the film theatrically without a Corman credit. Studio interference with his youth movement paean, Gas-s-s-s (1970), eased his break with long-term home-base AIP, but he fared even worse when United Artists slashed his pet World War I drama, Von Richthofen and Brown (1971), into unrecognizability. It was critical savagery of the latter that drove him to assume mogul status full-time by forming New World Pictures, where he served as mentor to Ron Howard, Jonathan Kaplan, John Sayles, and Joe Dante, among others.
After selling New World Pictures in 1983 and then suing the purchasers for reneging on a distribution agreement, Corman returned to the pre-sold production whirl with a new outfit, Concorde/New Horizons. Although Corman is still a vital, hands-on moviemaker and a godsend to untried auteurs, his current product is indistinguishable from other direct-to-video fodder. In addition to expanding into family escapism and sexploitation noirs, Corman has been remaking his AIP classics for Showtime, along with some cable-TV originals like Runaway Daughters and Suspect Device , but none of these Cormanized revamps and remakes demonstrates the verve of the compact originals.
Cleverly conceived and infused with an undertow of nostalgic tristesse, Corman's directorial comeback, Frankenstein Unbound , is truly a monster movie for the backward-glancing 1990s. Responsible for precipitating an apocalypse in the future through his unchecked experimentations, a scientist travels back to the nineteenth century, where he tries to bridle Victor Frankenstein's excesses as a mea culpa for his own God-complex.
A cinematic Victor Frankenstein, Corman goes on robbing genre graveyards to bring new life to exploitation filmmaking. While Corman is irreplaceable as a studio chief, his Frankenstein Unbound is idiosyncratic enough to raise hopes for an occasional slumming into personal expression. An unselfish artist with a healthy respect for profits, Corman genuinely gets gratification out of his hired guns' success stories, and this shining example of vicarious creativity may be the only producer in Hollywood history who could be considered a father figure. As a cinematic icon, Corman's cameo appearances in his protegee's blockbusters like Godfather: Part Two , Philadelphia , and Apollo 13 reveal a soft-spoken, mysterious man with immense powers of focus; he looks like the archetypical American loner who simply gets the job done.
—Ed Lowry, updated by Robert J. Pardi