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Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman, King of the B-Movie Hardcover – 1 Sep 2013
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About the Author
Chris Nashawaty is a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly. During his seventeen years at the magazine, he has become one of America's foremost movie writers. Nashawaty was a finalist for the Luce Award for his provocative 2007 profile of Wesley Snipes on the eve of the actor's federal tax trial (an article that nearly got the writer subpoenaed in the case). He has written for Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Fortune, and also reviews movies on NY1, New York's 24 hour cable network.
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Amazon claims that many of the images are rare and new, and the promised behind-the-scenes photos are certainly there, but nothing special. A fair number of the illustrations are frame grabs, and I have to say that many of the posters reproduced are very familiar.
This honestly doesn't matter.
This is hardly the first book about the man, and there have been good, bad, and indifferent. While the interview comments are interesting and bite-size readable, those already familiar with his work will learn little that is new. There are no surprises, and no seriously critical or negative comments, although to be fair, this sort of book isn't the place for them. Those with an axe to grind--and there are some--will find no wheel here, and while the cynics might have something to say about that, I'm inclined to agree with the quote that suggests the ones who grasped the brass ring, rather than those who complained about the fact that it wasn't silver or gold, are the ones who went the furthest in their careers. However, I can't help pointing out that once more, the massive contribution of Paul Blaisdell has been neglected, if not completely airbrushed out of existence yet again.
What this book has going for it is that firstly the images that have been chosen represent his entire output, and not just the sci-fi stuff, so there's as much about the bikers and nurses etc. as the usual suspects, and secondly it goes right up to date with the magnificently mental DinoCroc vs. SuperGator. What this book isn't is a reference source, but it doesn't pretend to be. It is, however, a great overview for newbies seeking an introduction to Corman (they can get the detail later), and a wonderful wallow for us jaded old folk. There is a lot of information that isn't in here, but what there is appears to be accurate at first glance, and with Corman, it's the pictures tell the story. Take a look at the lobby cards for the crappy Creature From the Haunted Sea, and tell me you don't want to see that film. This is the Corman magic at work.
Thoroughly illustrated with beautifully reproduced film posters (and wow, they knew how to sell movies then!) and clear screen grabs, this is effectively an oral history of the Corman "factory", told by the people involved. From Corman himself, his wife Julie and brother Gene, through writers and directors and actors and crew personnel, this is frank and often amusing and never less than illuminating. Working to tight budgets (and often tighter schedules), Corman pushed people to be creative and yes, whilst some of the output is stupid, it's often very entertaining. He also served as a kind of unofficial film school, giving the first chances to many people who are now Hollywood A-listers - from Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Dern, through Ron Howard, Joe Dante and Jim Cameron, Gayle Ann Hurd, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Bill Paxton, all of them have their say and none of them utter a bad word about their mentor (other than how cheap he was).
The book is broken down into 5 chapters, each dealing with a different decade and I have to confess that my favourites were the sixties and seventies and moving into the early eighties - that's when the format seemed to hit its stride, when the talent being supported (Dante, Nicholson, Dern, Howard et al) was on the cusp of greatness and when they seemed incapable of doing a bad job, even when the material wasn't always as good as it could be. The later eighties is interesting (I was a happy supporter of the burgeoning home video market myself and loved scanning the shelves in our local video shop) but the nineties and to the present day is a bit more sobering, with the market drying up and a stream of films that seem to be directed by the same two blokes (contradicting everyone else's mantra that once you got your start, you moved on). From what I read, none of the SyFy films currently being made will stand up in 30+ years time, as something like Joe Dante's "Piranha" has. In fact, I was so impressed by the write-up in the book of that film, I bought it on DVD and watched it with my wife and we both loved it.
Roger Corman is a legend, finally recognised by the Oscars for his contribution to films and he's shaped a lot of culture that we now readily accept today, believing in genre films even when others didn't appear to. This book does him perfect justice, a thorough, wonderfully written and researched slice of movie history that I think is essential reading for those who like their films (on occasion), to be on the cheap, cheerful, sleazy and gruesome side. I loved it, I wish it was twice as long and I highly recommend it.
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No clue about films and and B-movies - bought the book, because of the other great reviews.Read more