The Mondo Esoterica Guide to:

Roger Corman

  About Roger Corman:

Born July 1926 in Detroit, MI, Corman studied engineering in University. Getting a behind the scenes job at 20th Century Fox, he learnt the skills of the film trade, producing his first film, the low budget monster flick Monster from the Ocean Floor in 1954 and making his directoral debut with Swamp Women in 1955. He continued to shoot and produce low budget drive-in fodder throughout the 1950s, often completing films in only a few days, until coming to the attention of Samual Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson who founded the production company AIP (American International Productions) which distributed low budget American and imported horror films as well as producing their own low budget cheapies. Although initially only distributing Corman's pictures, they soon hired him to work as a producer and director for the company.

A big change came in 1960 when he rejected AIP's plans for another double bill of black and while cheapies, instead suggesting that they pool the money to shoot one big project. Hammer Films were breaking box offices in the USA and making the gothic horror popular again - based on a popular story by Edgar Allan Poe and with a strong leading role from Vincent Price, House of Usher (1960) proved very popular and Corman went on to shoot 8 more gothic horrors for AIP, uniting Price with some of the icons of the earlier Universal Horror era, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Lon Chaney Jr. At the same time, Corman continued to direct his own low budget films including gangster film The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), WW2 flick The Secret Invasion (1964) and early Robert De Niro film Bloody Mama (1970), as well as producing a variety of movies, including Francis Ford Coppola's directoral debut Dementia 13 (1963) and the sci-fi horror Queen of Blood (1966) which was written around special effects shots 'borrowed' from a Russian film. In the 1970s Corman retired from directing and focused entirely on producing, and was responsible over the next 30 years for literally hundreds of low budget productions, with such highlights as Sylvester Stallone vehicle Deathrace 2000 (1975), early Martin Scorsese film Boxcar Bertha (1972) and 'Seven Samurai in Space' Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Twenty year later, Corman returned to the directors chair to direct the poorly received Frankenstein time-travel twist Frankenstein Unbound (1990) and still continues to produce and distribute low budget movies.

   DVD Reviews: Films directed by Roger Corman
The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)
MGM Region 1 DVD
Cleverly adapted from Poe's story, this film is the first of the AIP Poe adaptations and has a wonderful atmosphere.
Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
USA 20th Century Fox Region 1 DVD
Roger Corman's gory take on Frankenstein contains some interesting ideas, but is terribly rushed and underdeveloped.
Not recommended except to Frankenstein or Corman fans.
The Haunted Palace (1963)
MGM Region 1 DVD
Based on Lovecraft this is a return to the more serious gothic horror, and is a solid film with some strong direction.
Partly recommended.
Masque of the Red Death (1964)
MGM Region 1 DVD
The highlight of the AIP horror cycle and often rightly acclaimed as Corman's best work.
Highly recommended.
Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
MGM Region 1 DVD
The well written, acted and directed second of the AIP Poe films is let down by a poor soundtrack.
Partly recommended.
Premature Burial (1962)
MGM Region 1 DVD
An interesting story is let down by a poor climax but Corman is solid as usual and Ray Milland makes an interesting lead in this AIP horror.
Partly recommended to fans of the series.
The Raven (1963)
MGM Region 1 DVD
A clever twist on the classic poem gives a good backing to this well directed film with a good trio of lead performances.
Recommended to AIP gothic and Karloff/Price fans.
The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)
MGM Region 1 DVD
The last chapter in Corman's Poe cycle is this disappointing entry, lacking the character of the earlier films.
Not recommended
The Tower of London (1962)
MGM Region 1 DVD
A change from the AIP Gothics is this atmospheric adaptation of Shakespeare, with good direction, but suffering from a low budget.
Partly recommended to Price fans.
Tales of Terror (1964)
MGM Region 1 DVD
A triple bill of Poe in this varied anthology film starring Vincent Price.


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All text in this site written by Timothy Young - March 2006/January 2007.
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