Subtitled ‘Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel’, this lively documentary portrait of legendary B-movie writer-director-producer-guru Roger Corman is hobbled by the fact that his remarkable life and work are simply too incident-packed to squeeze into 95 short minutes. From his early days as a reader for 20th Century Fox, through his years as a producer and director of beach party flicks and cheapo horror, all the way up to his foundation of exploitation-meets-arthouse distribution outfit New World Pictures, Corman was at the forefront of every major trend in American independent cinema.
But though his work as a director was often remarkable – his Poe adaptations are unique, while race-hate drama ‘The Intruder’ is nothing short of a masterpiece – it’s for his work as a talent scout that Corman is most famous. And that’s how this film views him, lining up icons from Martin Scorsese to Ron Howard to pay their respects. Sometimes it pays off: a shot of Jack Nicholson bursting into tears while describing their years together is moving. But too often, it feels as though director Alex Stapleton is trying to justify his interest in this lowbrow legend by showing off Corman’s famous pals.
The results are solid and educative. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that Corman deserves recognition as an artist in his own right, rather than just as a money man and mentor.