R.I.P. Roger Corman, King of B Movies and Absolute Indie Icon

Roger Corman, the producer of close to 500 feature films and the director of over 50, has died at the age of 98.

You can read obituaries and appreciations about his career from:

A common theme amongst the pieces is not only how prodigious his filmography is, but how various films within it represent “the break” for a nontrivial amount of filmmakers from directors like Francis Ford Coppola to Martin Scorsese to James Cameron as well as actors like Jack Nicholson to Dennis Hopper to Robert DeNiro. His thrift in maximizing sets alone should be worthy of mandatory study… and not just by indie filmmakers who need to need to cut corners and save not only pennies, but farthings in order to get their film made. In fact, save some of those farthings for props. We can use them in version of Great Expectations we’re gonna start filming tomorrow.

That’s the thrift we’re talking about and more.

Through all the thrifty filmmaking and careers launched, there’s two other trends you’ll pick up on: one was an almost Gallifreyan ability to re-invent his business through successive corporate structures and another was a quietly subversive way of giving opportunities to folks regardless of attitudes on race or gender contemporary at the time. And amid it all, amid the clear entrepreneurial machinations to ring out a profit from this film or that, there’s a pure love of cinema on display. How else can you explain the time Corman screened art house emperor Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers… at a drive-in? Evidently, the distribution did okay, money-wise, Corman had a framed letter from Bergman in his office thanking him for introducing the film to an audience usually not targeted by such fare (that and other stories are covered in a retrospective for when Corman was a spry 75). As mentioned in another older piece in Wired, he put his thumb on the scale of filmmaking forever.

But again, he absolutely loved film as an art form, something that comes out when he visits Criterion’s famous closet:

When you consider the notion that art can say many things at once or Whitman’s idea that people contain multitudes, there is no better embodiment than Roger Corman for the latter and his filmography for the former. I doubt I will count any of his many, many films among my favorites. Let’s be honest, MST3K is a straight shooter: many of them are objectively terrible. But have I watched them and learned things as an indie filmmaker? Have I seen the pure joy of cinema peak through the frames? Have a seen films that found –and still find– an audience? The answer to all those questions is a resounding “Yes!” That’s the mark of a consummate filmmaker who absorbed the lessons of Hollywood many in Hollywood still fail to grasp.

May his memory be a blessing… but, y’know, film your remembrances fast because we only have this set ’til the end of the week.

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