If you’re like me, the end of the summer movie season means it’ll be at least nine months before your next chance to see a superhero on the big screen trading deathblows with an alien. If you need an off-season fix for a blockbuster, you might instead try a shlockbuster. With their indecipherable plot lines, bad acting, and dialogues seemingly written by Google translator—these B-movies will make it feel like the summer never ended.
For a healthy dose of low-budget goodness, it’s best to go right to the source. Known as the king of the B-movie genre, Director Roger Corman has directed dozens (and produced hundreds) of bargain-basement flicks with such classic monikers as: Attack of the Crab Monster, Teenage Caveman, and the 1955 motion picture, Swamp Women.
Watch a mini bio of Corman:
To be fair, Corman never set out to make masterpieces. He worked with no-name actors, blazed through 10-day production schedules, and routinely spent less on a film than most people do on a luxury sedan. His moviemaking style had the pragmatic efficiency of an engineer—an area in which he earned an undergraduate degree from Stanford. When he graduated in 1947, the Detroit-born Corman got a job as a bike messenger at 20th Century Fox Studios. He sold his first script—a desert chase movie culminating in a shootout—and used the $5,000 to help fund his first film Monster from the Ocean Floor. His place in Hollywood history had begun.
Despite often lacking minor details like good lighting, credible special effects, and, sometimes, set furniture, Corman’s films have amassed a cult following among moviegoers for decades. And the best thing (if you don’t include teenage cavemen or crab monsters) is the fact that Corman mentored and helped make famous many up-and-coming actors and filmmakers who would later ascend to Hollywood royalty.
Take his 1960 film Little Shop of Horrors, which Corman spent only two days to shoot. The film was only a modest success during its time, but it slowly gained a foothold at midnight screenings and college campuses. Later, it would spawn a Broadway musical and a 1986 remake. But above all that, the 1960 version is possibly best known for featuring a young, wide-grinned actor by the name of Jack Nicholson.
Nicholson in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ trailer:
Decades before he was King of the World, director James Cameron was a 26-year-old model maker, working in the special effects department on Corman’s sci-fi film Battle Beyond the Stars. Midway through the film, Corman noticed Cameron’s careful eye for detail and promoted the future Avatar director to head of special effects. Battle Beyond the Stars might not have a copious supply of unobtanium or legions of tree-hugging Na’vai, but what it lacks in cinematography it makes up in generous helpings of George Peppard, hot-dog eating aliens, and spaceships handcrafted by Cameron himself.
Watch the ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ trailer:
Corman also worked with tough guys. For those of you who’ve seen the 1975 cinematic blood-fest Death Race 2000, which Corman produced, you know that there was a future boxing champ in the works by the name of Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (a.k.a. Sylvester Stallone). It would be a year before the Italian Stallion would break through in the movie Rocky.
Can you find Sly?
Corman’s list of illustrious former coworkers goes on. The vivacious 86-year-old also helped catapult into stardom Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and William Shatner. Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and Francis Ford Coppola also received tutelage from Corman before becoming Hollywood brass. Considering his track record, it’s no wonder he’s still being paid to make movies. Recent years have given him a resurgence, with the release of such modern classics as Dinoshark, Supergator, and Sharktopus. Say what you want about the trashy sheen of his films, Corman’s unique eye for talent and unwavering commitment to lowbrow art has stood the test of time.