Director Alex Stapleton's entertaining and informative 2011 documentary about this now 86-year-old wonder works its way chronologically through Corman's remarkable career. Corman's World begins with Corman's life before his immersion in the movie world, and Corman comments on his two years in the Navy ("the worst two years of my life") and his education at Stanford as an engineer, explaining that he spent a total of four days working at that profession before getting a job as a script reader at Fox. Honest to the bone, Corman explains why he recommended rejection of script after script and details the reason he left Fox after he received no credit for his additions to The Gunfighter.
The 95-minute documentary then settles into its focus on the life's work to which Corman whole-heartedly devoted himself with love and passion. Replete with short film clips, especially from Corman's early work, the real meaning of "Hollywood rebel" becomes clear as Stapleton seamlessly weaves into the story's flow numerous interview comments from many of the amazing people Corman supported through their lean times. Most remarkable and appreciative is Jack Nicholson, choking back tears at one point, in his praise of the man who alone kept him working in the first 10 years of his career.
Also included are Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese, Peter Fonda, Joe Dante, John Sayles, Peter Bogdanovich, Ron Howard, and Pam Grier, among others. Their substantive comments do more than pay homage to the legend; without ever inflating the quality of Corman's work, they describe his significant contributions. Equally impressive, they identify Corman's socially progressive subtexts, noting his uncanny ability to take the pulse of the social milieu. For example, he led the way when it came to promoting integration in The Intruder (1962), a fascinating case study that starred newcomer William Shatner, who adds his perspective. About the racism deplored in that film, the only one of his that lost money, Corman says, "Someone had to say this isn't the American way." For his commendable stand, lives were threatened and he was called a Communist.
Many of the film's highlights come courtesy of Corman's own observations about his life and career. His fine sense of humor, his calm demeanor, and his total lack of pretense would recommend him as an admirable individual even without his astonishing legacy. As George Hickenlooper says, "There's only one Roger Corman." And getting to know him better through this film is a pleasure.
The St. Louis premiere of Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel takes place at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 9th through Sunday, March 11th. For more information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.