In This Article Roger Corman

  • Introduction
  • Book-Length Studies
  • Interviews
  • Corman, Auteurship, and the New Hollywood
  • Corman and the American Independent Cinema
  • Exploitation and Cult
  • Corman and Horror
  • The Poe Series: Overviews
  • The Poe Series: Individual Films and Related Works
  • Corman and Science Fiction
  • Gangsters by Corman
  • Teen, Biker, and Road Movies
  • Politics, Radicalism, Counterculture, and The Intruder
  • Corman International

Cinema and Media Studies Roger Corman
by
Murray Leeder
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0315

Introduction

“The King of the B Movies.” “The Pope of Pop Cinema.” “The Spiritual Godfather of the New Hollywood.” “The King of Cult.” Celebrated and reviled, the many-nicknamed Roger Corman is a remarkable filmmaker for many reasons. By all accounts a quiet, unassuming man with left-wing politics who is nevertheless known as a cutthroat businessman and unapologetic capitalist, Corman is enshrined in Hollywood legend for his thrift and innovation. His 1950s and 1960s output as a director, mainly for American International Pictures (AIP), is varied and colorful: science fiction films, gangster films, motor racing films, biker films, sex comedies, Westerns. And yet it is surely for his horror films he is best remembered, especially the mid-budget series adapting Edgar Allan Poe stories, mostly starring Vincent Price. He is also well known as a nurturer of new talent, providing numerous actors and directors with early opportunities; his successful disciples have rewarded him with cameos in films such as The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Corman was an innovator on the business side as well. In 1959, he and his brother Gene Corman founded a distribution company called Filmgroup; it folded within a few years but was a prelude to the founding of Corman’s much more successful New World Pictures in 1970. New World was oriented toward inexpensive exploitation films but also responsible for the American distribution of many international art films by directors such as Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, and Akira Kurosawa. Academic attention to Corman came slowly. There was a swell of interest in the late 1960s and thereafter, identifying him as a low-budget auteur who maintained a distinctive set of themes unifying a diverse body of work, but it happened just as he retreated from directing, only sporadically returning to the director’s chair. Though Corman directed around fifty films, that count is vastly outstripped by his films as a producer, a role he regularly occupies to this day. General public appreciation for Corman peaked with his 2009 Honorary Academy Award and the celebratory documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011).

Book-Length Studies

Di Franco 1979, Naha 1982, McGee 1988, Frank 1998, Whitehead 2003, and Nashawaty 2013 comprise the bulk of the book-length works on Corman and are celebratory in tone, devoted to valorizing Corman as an individualistic and defiant filmmaker; a similar sensibility is displayed by the documentary Corman’s World. Morris 1985, Silver and Ursini 2006, and Aleksandrowicz 2015 are more scholarly, with Will and Willemen 1970 marking the beginning of Corman’s academic appreciation. Corman and Jerome 1990 is an engaging memoir and Gray 2000 a revealing unauthorized biography by a former employee.

  • Aleksandrowicz, Pawel. The Cinematography of Roger Corman: Exploitation Filmmaker or Auteur? Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2015.

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    This scholarly treatment locates Corman within the traditions of exploitation filmmaking and argues that he is a definite if uneven auteur director with consistent thematic preoccupations and stylistic traits.

  • Corman, Roger, and Jim Jerome. How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime. New York: Random House, 1990.

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    An entertaining and often informative memoir, interspersed with thoughts an impressive array of others, including directors, producers, actors, and personal friends.

  • Di Franco, J. Philip, ed. The Movie World of Roger Corman. New York: Chelsea House, 1979.

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    This book has extensive text by Corman himself about his career, testimonies from critics and collaborators, and many publicity images from Corman’s films.

  • Frank, Alan. The Films of Roger Corman: ‘Shooting My Way Out of Trouble.’ London: BT Batsford, 1998.

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    A celebration of Corman’s works, providing a production history of each film and detailing something of its reception.

  • Gray, Beverly. Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Biography of the Godfather of Indie Filmmaking. Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 2000.

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    Written by a former assistant of Corman’s, this is a less celebratory, more humanized treatment of his career than most.

  • McGee, Mark Thomas. Roger Corman: The Best of the Cheap Acts. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1988.

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    A non-academic resource, McGee’s book provides an overview of Corman’s career, details all of his careers both as a director and as a producer and lists his stock company of actors.

  • Morris, Gary. Roger Corman. Boston: Twayne, 1985.

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    An auteurist scholarly treatment of Corman’s filmography that emphasizes his “violently antiromantic, existential view of life” (p. 14). Morris sorts Corman’s films thematically into apocalyptic films, criminality, encounters with the Other, and the Poe series, as well as examining Corman’s critical reception.

  • Naha, Ed. The Films of Roger Corman: Brilliance on a Budget. New York: Arco, 1982.

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    An illustrated survey of Corman’s career, which also provides a film-by-film analysis of a few pages’ length.

  • Nashawaty, Chris. Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman: King of the B-Movie. New York: Abrams, 2013.

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    A glossy, fan-friendly celebration of Corman’s career, Nashawaty’s book includes examinations of select Corman features.

  • Silver, Alain, and James Ursini. Roger Corman: Metaphysics on a Shoestring. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press, 2006.

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    A film-by-film study of Corman’s films as a director, including quotes from Corman about each film.

  • Whitehead, Adam. The Pocket Essential Roger Corman. Harpenden, UK: Pocket Essentials, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    A concise handbook to Corman’s career, largely as a director.

  • Will, David, and Paul Willemen, eds. Roger Corman: The Millennic Vision. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Film Festival, 1970.

    E-mail Citation »

    The groundbreaking if decidedly dated first academic book on Corman, a collection of five essays (by David Pirie and Lynda Myles as well as Will and Willemen). While probably the most space overall is given to the Poe films, Will and Willemen’s collection spans Corman’s career up to this point and gives an unusual amount of space to the gangster films.

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