And The Oscar Goes To “The King Of The B’s”
The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it will be awarding an honorary Oscar to Roger Corman, the director/producer with a vast array of low budget horror films including The Attack Of The Crab Monsters (1957) and Not Of This Earth (1957). Also among his long list of achievements are loose interpretations of many Edgar Allen Poe‘s novella’s as The Pit And The Pendulum (1957) and macabre poems such as The Raven (1963). The films were often over the top and frequently starred the late Vincent Price as the demented protagonist.
So many of Corman’s films are considered B- classics, produced on a low budget, shot in several days and elevating exploitation to an art form that it’s easy to forget the list of distinguished directors and actors who were mentored by him such as Martin Scorsese, Frances Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme , John Sayles, James Cameron, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, David Carradine, Peter Fonda, Talia Shire, Dennis Hopper and so many more. These filmmakers got their first break as members of the elite Roger Corman School of Film Making. All genres owe a debt of gratitude to his visionary form of schlock.
One of his most intriguing works and a personal favorite is the prophetic 1960 pre bot-ox tour de force, The Wasp Woman starring Susan Cabot in the title role as Janice Starlin, the owner and CEO of a cosmetic firm at a time when women did not mingle in the business world let alone run corporations. When sales of her beauty products began to slide as her consumer base realizes she is aging, she was motivated to become the chief patron of a scientist who had devised a method to extract enzymes from the royal jelly of the queen wasp that can reverse the aging process. Starlin agrees to fund further research provided she can serve as his human subject. Displeased with the slowness of the results, she breaks into the scientist’s laboratory after hours and injects herself with extra doses of the formula, causing an unanticipated side effect, transforming her into an angry woman with the head and arms of a wasp resulting in quite a buzz, aggressively killing all the men on the board of trustees of Starlin Enterprises, sacrificing everything for a youthful appearance. A perfect character study for aging actors and actresses obsessed with reversing the effects of time.
Corman’s last directorial achievement for American International Pictures was Gas-s-s-s (1971), also known by the title, It Became Necessary To Destroy The World In Order To Save It. A dark comedy of a post-apocalyptic gas leak at a military installation that kills everyone on Earth over the age of 25. Look closely for the performances of Ben Vereen, Cindy Williams, and a young Talia Shire.
The noted producer/ director was once quoted as saying, “I can make a film about the fall of the Roman Empire with two extras and a sagebrush,” also appeared in minor acting roles in such films as The Silence Of The Lambs, Apollo 13 and Philadelphia and was given the title, “King Of The Bs,” a reference to over 400 films he has been associated with. The bad news is that the Academy has opted not to present any of the honorary awards during the live telecast, but will give them at the governors award dinner on November 14th. The other honorary awards being bestowed are to actress Lauren Bacall and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
For a complete list of Roger Corman’s cinematic achievements follow the Idbm link