Monday, August 23, 2021

Seven Things to Know About Roger Corman

Roger Corman
(photo by Angela George)
1. Roger Corman produced Martin Scorsese's second feature-length film Boxcar Bertha (1972). In Corman and Jim Jerome's book How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, Scorsese recalled: "He once said, 'Martin, what you have to get is a very good first reel because people want to know what's going on. Then you need a very good last reel because people want to hear how it turns out.' Probably the best sense I have ever heard in the movies."

2. Corman offered the lead role in his motorcycle gang picture The Wild Angels (1966) to George Chakiris, an Oscar winner for West Side Story. However, Chakiris could not ride a motorcycle and withdrew from the film, so Corman promoted Peter Fonda to the lead role. Fonda accepted on the condition that his character's name be changed from Jack Black to Heavenly Blues (a type of Morning Glory flower). Fonda's previous role, that of the doomed gang member Loser, went to Bruce Dern. The Wild Angels cast also included Nancy Sinatra, Dern's then-wife Diane Ladd, Michael J. Pollard, Gayle Hunnicutt, and Corman regular Dick Miller.

A young Tom Selleck in Terminal Island.
3. In the mid-1960s, Roger Corman interviewed several UCLA and USC graduates for an assistant position. He eventually hired Stephanie Rothman, who had a master's degree in film from USC. She later became a producer, writer, and director responsible for drive-in cult classics like The Student Nurses (1970) and Terminal Island (1973). Corman interviewed UCLA grad Julie Halloran, but didn't hire her. He did start dating her and they were married in 1970. Julie Corman became a successful film producer, too.

4. Corman tried working for a major Hollywood studio on a couple of occasions. His year-long deal with Columbia Pictures in the 1960s proved fruitless. Corman wanted to produce an adaptation of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Columbia wasn't interested. However, his deal with Twentieth Century-Fox yielded The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967). The one million dollar budget was the largest of Corman's directorial career. The director originally wanted Orson Welles for the role of Al Capone, but the studio convinced him otherwise. So, he had Jason Robards switch parts from Bugs Moran to Capone.

5. One of Roger Corman's most cost-effective hits was Tidal Wave (1973). It was originally a three-hour Japanese movie called Submersion of Japan. Corman bought that film, had it edited down to 72 minutes, dubbed the dialogue, and included new footage of Lorne Greene as a United Nations ambassador. Corman said: "It surprised all of us and made money...Tidal Wave was probably the most outrageous example of re-editing a film for domestic release."

Jack Nicholson in The Terror.
6. The Terror (1963) is often described as a horror film made by Corman in two days with the leftover sets from The Raven (1963). The reality is that it was the longest film ever made by Roger Corman. With barely a script and Boris Karloff available for only two days, Corman shot as much footage as he could. Then, over a period of several months, he had five different directors shot sequences of the film. Those directors included Francis Ford Coppola and Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop). Jack Nicholson, who co-starred in The Terror, commented to Corman that "everybody in this whole damned town's directed this picture" and asked if he could direct the last day. Corman said: "Sure, why not?"

7. Today, Roger Corman is 95. His last film credit was as executive producer of Death Race: Beyond Anarchy in 2018. In 2009, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences gave Roger Corman an honorary Oscar "for his rich engendering of films and filmmakers."


  1. DICK MILLER!!! Cuz you have to give him a cameo here.

    Corman did start filming A Time For Killing at Columbia. But the cast rebelled at the number of setups he did per day.

  2. Another shout out to Dick Miller whom my daughter points at and says "that guy!"

    Corman's career accomplishments are unique and impressive. Plus a testament that doing what you love must be good for your health and a long life.

  3. Love Corman:

  4. I love the advice about the first and last reels. That makes a lot of sense.