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Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

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Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood RebelFeaturing Roger Corman, Julie Corman, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Robert De Niro, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda, William Shatner, David Carradine, Dick Miller, Eli Roth, Paul W.S Anderson, Joe Dante, Pam Grier

Directed by Alex Stapleton


“The difference between the image you present to the world and what is going on inside in your subconscious mind is significant. I’ve been told that my image is somewhat of a clean-cut kind of guy; clearly my subconscious mind is something of a boiling inferno.”– Roger Corman

Dismissed as a schlockmeister and purveyor of B-movie trash by some film snobs, Roger Corman is the subject of Alex Stapleton’s affectionate and engaging documentary entitled Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, which examines the legendary producer’s astonishing six-decade long career while also underlining his importance in the formation of modern Hollywood – both for independent cinema and the studio blockbuster system alike.

On the surface it’s easy to see how the industry wrote off Corman as an exploitative hack of Z-grade movies who has no artistic integrity of his own to speak of over the years, but then that wouldn’t justify the deep-seated admiration the iconic producer and director has acquired by some of the most renowned talents in Hollywood throughout his impressive career.

In Stapleton’s brilliantly entertaining and insightful documentary, the filmmaker reaffirms Corman’s legacy in the industry by somehow managing to summon such sought after interviewees as Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Robert De Niro, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda, William Shatner, John Sayles, Gale Anne Hurd, Dick Miller, Eli Roth, Paul W.S Anderson, Joe Dante, Pam Grier and the late David Carradine – most of whose careers took off as a result of Corman’s films. Simply put, without Corman their careers may never have happened. There’s a contagious admiration throughout everyone’s interviews regarding Corman’s involvement in their early beginnings in Hollywood, and it was nice to see even some Hollywood heavyweights pay their due to the master.

As a long-time fan of Corman’s Poe films, it was great to see Corman’s World explore that as a storyteller Corman was really beginning to master his craft around the time he was helming films like House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tomb of Ligeia, which also turns out to be Scorsese’s favorite Corman flick of all time. There wasn’t much time overall spent on dissecting these films but rather demonstrating how they impacted cinema as a whole, and while I would have loved to hear more about these movies in particular, Stapleton smartly keeps everything moving forward in her doc, never lingering too long on any one aspect of Corman’s legacy in cinema.

That being said, the lesser known and surprising facts revealed during Corman’s World ended up being the most telling and entertaining about the iconic independent filmmaking pioneer. From tidbits about his involvement with distributing foreign films by directors like Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa to how movies like The Wild Angels and The Trip were inspirations for the classic 1969 flick Easy Rider, Corman’s World digs deep into why Corman still remains influential today without taking the easy route and just offering up a lot of empty praise for the filmmaker- Stapleton clearly did her homework on every aspect of Corman’s career and influence, and it definitely shows here.

While Corman’s World celebrates all the positives to the filmmaker’s career, it certainly doesn’t shy away from the tough lessons Corman learned in the industry throughout his decades-spanning career either. Stapleton spends a sizable amount of time in the doc dissecting Corman’s highly controversial 1962 film The Intruder that boldly explored segregation in the South during a time of civil unrest in the country (The Intruder is also noteworthy for being Shatner’s first film role ever) and ended up being the only movie that never made a dime for Corman.

Then when Jaws arrived in theaters in 1975, it forever changed creature features within the genre world with fans now wanting more serious fare than films like Attack of the Crab Monsters or Creature from the Haunted Sea, making Corman’s way of producing horror movies a thing of the past. A few years later when Star Wars debuted in 1977 and changed the entire entertainment industry, all while boasting Corman-esque concepts and lavish budgets, the filmmaker found himself left completely in the dust. We see Corman calling George Lucas’ $30+ million budget “obscene” in response during an interview segment from that time as well as the palpable pain on the filmmaker’s face as he defends his way of filmmaking.

Corman’s World ends on a high note with the “schlockmeister” collecting his honorary Academy Award surrounded by many of the movie industry’s finest during the Governors Awards ceremony in November 2009, further demonstrating that Corman’s influence on Hollywood is far bigger than just the sum of the over 400 movies he directed or produced during his 60+-year career. It’s a great moment to watch Corman, the man who never got the respect he deserved for valiantly (and successfully) bucking against the Hollywood system, finally getting his due and humbly sharing his moment with those whose careers he launched.

As a lifelong genre fan, it’s nothing short of absolute bliss to finally see a doc like Corman’s World do justice to the legacy of this indie movie maverick (Bucket of Blood being one of my earliest horror movie watching memories). And surprisingly, Nicholson (who’s first film was Corman’s The Cry Baby Killer in 1958) ends up being the biggest admirer out of “The Corman School of Film” with entertaining anecdotes ranging from tongue-in-cheek put-downs (“By mistake, Roger would actually make a good picture every once in a while…but I was never in it”) to deep admiration that leaves the legendary actor choked up and teary-eyed when expressing his gratitude for Corman’s influence on his career.

It’s no surprise that Corman’s World will delight genre fans everywhere who are familiar with the iconic filmmaker’s work, but what’s even more remarkable is that this documentary is surprisingly accessible to mainstream audiences as well- there’s a lot for everyone to enjoy even if you’re only a casual filmgoer at best. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more intelligent, entertaining, thought-provoking and inspiring documentary this year than Stapleton’s Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 16th.


4 1/2 out of 5

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Review – A Haunting Mixture of Psychological Turmoil and Brutal Supernatural Horror

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Starring Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Brendan McGowan, Jake White

Directed by James S. Brown

We all like to think of ourselves as being surrounded by friends, but let’s face it, if we were to ever truly hit hard times, there are probably very few, if any, people we could truly rely on. So on some level, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film we can all relate too, as it deals with this very issue.

Stephanie is an emotionally unstable young woman who strangles her boyfriend to death after he insults and breaks up with her. She calls her friends to help her dispose the body out in the Joshua Tree National Part area, and instead of reporting her to the police, they reluctantly comply. As their car breaks down, the four friends find themselves alone at night in the Californian wilderness with the rotting corpse in need of disposal. Given their dire circumstances, they begin to become more and more aggressive towards each other, and this was where the film was really at its best. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how far the limits of their friendship could be stretched, and who would be the first to crack and turn on the others.

Anyway, their body disposal endeavor soon proves to be a mistake, as Stephanie’s ex rises from the grave as vengeful zombie demon thing with claws as long as knives. I’ll admit, I first I thought Friends Don’t Let Friends was going to be a movie purely about the limits of trust, so I was pretty surprised when the supernatural elements came into play. And when they did, the trust and friendship elements of the plot were somewhat downplayed in favor of a more traditional horror approach, and while it was still entertaining, I still would have preferred for the film not to have strayed from its initial path. At least the ending came as a shocker. I won’t go into spoilers, but let’s just say the even the most attentive viewers probably won’t see it coming.

As you can probably guess from a psychologically-driven film of this kind, the performances were top notch, with Brittany Anne Woodford being on particularly top form as the manipulative and unstable Stephanie, a character who revels in the revels in the power she felt when ending another human life.

With its mixture of psychological turmoil and brutal supernatural horror, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film I would certainly recommend, but keep in mind that it may make you think twice when confiding in people who you think of as being your friends.

8 out of 10.

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Coulrophobia Review – One of the Most Entertaining Killer Clown Films in Quite Some Time

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Starring Pete Bennett, Warren Speed, Daniella D’Ville, Roxy Bordeaux

Directed by Warren Speed


The word ‘Coulrophobia’ refers to the fear of clowns, and if you happen to suffer from it, you might want to avoid director Warren Speed’s film of the same name. However, if you can stand the sight of clowns with gaping wounds in their manly parts, then you’re in for one heck of a fun time.

An all-female hockey team get lost deep in the Scottish woods on their way to a match (don’t ask), and are captured and forced to participate in a series of horrific games by the Grock family of clowns. All of the members of said family are absolutely fucking insane, but the one that really stood out was Twitch (Pete Bennett), who wears jester cloths and it said to have a short attention span. He longs to be a violin player and wishes he could blend in with normal society like the other members of his family. And you almost feel sorry for him, even though he’s a mad killer with bells on his head.

Director Warren Speed also appeared as Milo, a grunting mute who had his tongue cut out when he was a boy. As mentioned above, we see a close-up shot of a open wound in his penis being stitched up, which is not an image that will be leaving your mind anytime soon. Speed is clearly fearless when it comes to his art.

Inter-spliced with all the torture and mayhem, we also see documentary-style telling the sad history of the family involved, and this was where the film unfortunately faltered, because these scenes seemed out of place and just didn’t flow with the rest of the plot.

Ultimately, however, Coulrophobia almost seems like a film Rob Zombie might have made before he lost his way and started churning out trash like 31. Comparisons to House of 1000 Corpses are inevitable, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. This is one of the most entertaining killer clown films in quite some time.

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User Rating 3.1 (10 votes)
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The Gatehouse Review – What Is Found in the Woods Should Be Left in the Woods

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Starring Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft

Directed by Martin Gooch


Now while no one will sneeze at the prospect of bringing up a bit of a rebellious child alone, it’s those damned kids that like to tempt fate by pissing off creatures in the woods…oh kids, they do the funniest things, don’t they?

In Martin Gooch’s moderately spooky presentation, The Gatehouse, a struggling writer named Jack (Willis) finds himself behind the 8-ball following the tragic drowning death of his beloved wife, and if that isn’t enough to torque your drawers, his young daughter, Eternity (Rayner) is becoming quite the salty soul herself. Unfortunately the little one has been finding herself bullied at school, and her recourse of sorts is to simply toss attitude around as if it was pleasantly acceptable. Her pastime has become lonely wanderings in the deep woods, digging for hopeful treasures…and we all know what problems reside in the woods, don’t we, horror fans? Well, Eternity’s father is attempting to re-start his writing career with a frightening backstory – taking the reigns on a novel that was abruptly ended when the author committed suicide, and supposedly the tome is quite the dark piece of literature.

Eternity’s never-ending quest for fortune and glory in the forest leads her to a most interesting (and ultimately) dangerous discovery (don’t sweat it – I won’t spill it for you). Bottom line here is this: the little girl has taken possession of something that should have been left in the friggin’ woods, and now someone (or something) wants it back PRONTO. What follows is a lackluster series of “spooky” events, and far be it from me to say, I’ve seen creepier stuff watching the evening news. Gooch then tries to bombard the audience with a plethora of instances and swerving plot direction – it’s fun at the beginning but can grow a bit tiresome over a duration.

Performance-wise, both Rayner and Willis play the perfect combination of mentally-shot dad and determined-to-be-independent daughter – their scenes are ripe with subtle contempt, and the right amount of indecision. Overall, the film is best suited for those fans of fantasy/fable-like horror, and while it might not scare the pants off of you, it definitely will give us all another reason to stay the hell out of the woods once and for all.

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Summary

Children in a forest-setting don’t always add up to cutesy-pie encounters with furry creatures – this one’s got a few scares to keep fans of coppice-horror appeased.

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User Rating 3.38 (13 votes)
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