Watch Three Films by the Immensely Prolific & Widely-Admired “B‑Movie” Filmmaker, Roger Corman

I just caught a clever dou­ble-bill: Going Attrac­tions, April Wright’s doc­u­men­tary on the his­to­ry and future of the Amer­i­can dri­ve-in movie the­ater, and Demen­tia 13, Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la’s 1963 dri­ve-in-geared fea­ture debut (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture). Going Attrac­tions fea­tures a good deal of com­men­tary from Roger Cor­man, the inter­na­tion­al­ly respect­ed and immense­ly pro­lif­ic film­mak­er whose career has defined the very con­cept of the high-qual­i­ty “B‑movie.” In fact, so Wright revealed at the Q&A, Cor­man nev­er went to dri­ve-ins him­self, so appalling did he find their sub­stan­dard audio­vi­su­al pre­sen­ta­tions of his pic­tures, made cheap­ly but not with­out painstak­ing efforts to look and sound expen­sive. Still work­ing after over 50 films to his cred­it as direc­tor and near­ly 400 as pro­duc­er, the Detroit-born, Oxford-edu­cat­ed, Los Ange­les-based Cor­man, as well as mak­ing such revival-house clas­sics as Soror­i­ty Girl, The Wild Angels, and sev­er­al not­ed adap­ta­tions of Edgar Allan Poe, launched the careers of not just Cop­po­la but oth­er auteurs like Mar­tin Scors­ese (Box­car Bertha, 1972), Monte Hell­man (Beast from Haunt­ed Cave, 1959), and Peter Bog­danovich (Voy­age to the Plan­et of Pre­his­toric Women, 1968).

Cor­man also worked with actors now as famous as they come, as in 1960’s Lit­tle Shop of Hor­rors at the top, which fea­tures a young Jack Nichol­son. 1962’s The Intrud­er, just above, stars William Shat­ner in a sto­ry that con­fronts racism with a frank­ness unchar­ac­ter­is­tic of that era. 1963’s The Ter­ror, below, brings back Nichol­son, team­ing him with San­dra Knight and Boris Karloff. Accord­ing to a 1967 pro­file by Roger Ebert, Cor­man “shot all of Karlof­f’s scenes in two days to save on the pay­roll. Then when he got into the cut­ting room with his film, he real­ized to his hor­ror that his hor­ror film made no sense. Karloff was gone. What to do? Cor­man called in two of the bit play­ers, shot them in close-up (the sets had already been torn down or had fall­en down), and had one ask the oth­er: ‘Now tell me what all this means.’ And then the oth­er one did. Along the way, work­ing quick­ly and impro­vis­ing a lot of his scenes, Cor­man devel­oped a dis­tinc­tive, per­son­al style with­out think­ing much about it.” Yet such seem­ing­ly laugh­able tech­niques have served the man well: he titled his auto­bi­og­ra­phy How I Made a Hun­dred Movies in Hol­ly­wood and Nev­er Lost a Dime. What film­mak­er at any lev­el of crit­i­cal regard can say the same? You can find Cor­man’s films in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Demen­tia 13: The Film That Took Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la From Schlock­ster to Auteur

Tro­ma Enter­tain­ment, the Mak­er of Acclaimed B‑Movies, Puts 150 Free Films on YouTube

Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Out­er Space: “The Worst Movie Ever Made,” “The Ulti­mate Cult Flick,” or Both?

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, lit­er­a­ture, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Face­book page.

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