You could listen to Roger Corman talk for hours. His calm, practical demeanor makes the business of film sound fascinating. I also like that he calls movies “pictures.” You get about 90 minutes of Corman, and his very famous protégés, in the new documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, from director Alex Stapleton. I got four questions in when Corman gave interviews for the documentary, so those were my few minutes with the legendary independent producer.
CraveOnline: There’ve been a few documentaries reflecting on your work, whether it’s ‘Corman’s World’ which is all about you, or ‘Machete Maidens Unleashed’ which features a lot of your films. Why do you think now is the time to look back at your work?
Roger Corman: The years have gone by and now it may be fair to assess what has taken place. I hope that it hasn’t ended. I’m still making films but I would think that the majority of the career is there. I think Alex did a really excellent job of summing it up.
You never made a movie like ‘The Intruder’ again. Why didn’t you want to try another movie with social themes, at least every once in a while, over the years?
Well, The Intruder got wonderful reviews. One of the New York newspapers, I still remember the review, it said, “This motion picture is a major credit to the entire American film industry.” It was the first film I ever made that lost money and I thought about it. I thought there’s a reason. Maybe I was ahead of my time shooting a picture about racial integration when people didn’t want to hear about it, but also the audience is the final arbiter. I thought I have made my social statement too clear on the surface. This picture was not enough of an entertainment. It was more of a lecture. I thought I will now make films on two levels. The surface level will be the entertainment. The picture will be advertised for its entertainment value and I will deliver that. But subtextually beneath the surface, there can be a statement of something I believe in, but it will be very subtle. And I have to admit, in some pictures it’s nonexistent, but in most of the films it’s there to be found if you’re looking for it. But it must never interfere with the entertainment.
When you first cast Pam Grier in a movie, did you know you were creating a phenomenon?
No. Pam Grier had the second lead I think in the first of the women in prison pictures done by Jack Hill. She had the second lead and for this type of film, you don’t get much fan mail. We were startled [at] the amount of fan mail we got for Pam Grier and we suddenly realized that Pam has somehow touched the audience. So Pam became our star in a number of films and then she went on to star for really much more money in bigger films, including going back to American International where I had started. They used Pam in a number of films.
What did you think of the big budget ‘Piranha 3D?’
I didn’t see it but I heard it was not as good. I’m happy to say people tell me it was not as good as the one we made.