In 1997, a documentary came out about four seemingly-ordinary gentlemen with extraordinary careers entitled Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. The title had always bugged me (and still does) because I felt it had been assigned to the wrong damn project. In my eyes, there was only one man — one — whose story fit such a heading. His name was (and still is) Roger Corman, and he had been a personal favorite of mine (as well as hero) since I first saw Pit and the Pendulum (1961) for the first time on VHS in the ‘80s. I joyfully thumbed through his autobiography in high school, learning various tidbits about his life and career, but I had always felt there should have been a movie about one of the most revered revolutionaries of exploitation filmmaking.
It never came to pass in 1997, obviously. Or 1998. 1999 wasn’t rewarding for me, either. Actually, when you stop to consider how long Roger has actually been making his famous brand of independent low-budget movies (since 1954, kids), and how many different careers he launched just by saying “Yeah, sure, come onboard” (Corman was the first to employ many a famous actor and filmmaker), a movie about this prolific filmmaker has been overdue for far too long. Strangely enough, though, nobody had ever felt the urge to do something about it, apart from the odd foreign documentarian.
As such, you can imagine the breath of relief I expelled upon hearing about Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. The 2011 documentary is the brainchild of writer/director Alex Stapleton, and is brought to us via heartfelt anecdotes and humorous yarns from his various friends, protégés, and Roger’s ever-loving wife (and producing partner) Julie, too. Touching, funny, and intimate, the film can only afford to give us a small glimpse at some of the more notable periods in the director/producer’s career, whose notoriously cheap working values and hurried productions (he shot 1960’s The Little Shop of Horrors in just two days!) have ensured him an everlasting place in the Hall of Fame, if for the fact that he never lost a dime on a single one if nothing else.
Spliced in-between some classic grindhouse and drive-in film fodder made by the maestro himself (as well as some behind-the-scenes production footage from 2010’s Cable-TV cheesefest, Dinoshark) are stories from the likes of Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, Robert De Niro, Peter Fonda, Joe Dante, Paul W.S. Anderson, brother Gene Corman, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Jonathon Haze, Dick Miller, Pam Grier, Quentin Tarantino, Polly Platt (who also co-produced), Eli Roth, John Sayles and more. Stapleton obviously started work on his project several years before, as the late David Carradine (who died in 2009) and Irvin Kushner (who passed in 2010) are also interviewed here — and Carradine’s final message to Roger is a particularly haunting one to hear now.
Anchor Bay brings this delightful documentary to Blu-ray and DVD in a beautiful transfer with an energetic 5.1 soundtrack and optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles. Special features include several “Extended Interviews” (with some participants who weren’t included in the finished product) and “Special Messages to Roger” (which also features some folks who didn’t make the final cut). A trailer for this wonderful film is also included, as are some previews for other (often less-interesting) titles.
Yes, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel has certainly been a long time coming. But the end result has been well worth the wait. I’m sure there’s a heap of footage containing even more interesting information that went unused, and I would certainly not object to someone else trying their hand at making another documentary on Tinseltown’s greatest independent filmmaker (hey, Ken Burns, how ‘bout it?). They might even be able to call it Fast, Cheap & Out of Control — I’m sure that enough time has passed so that no one will really remember the title had already been taken. That certainly wouldn’t have stopped Roger Corman!