A retrospective of the films of B-movie maestro Roger Corman is currently underway at New York’s Anthology Film Archive and “in time for Halloween, Anthology reminds us that there’s much to admire about Corman the drive-in auteur—indefatigable ringleader of biker-, gangster-, and monster-movie mayhem—with, in 14 of the films he directed from 1960 to 1970 (the year in which he started his full-service production and distribution company, New World Pictures), him trading the director’s chair for the mogul’s,” according to the Village Voice’s Scott Foundas.
“Not surprisingly, Anthology’s Corman showcase focuses on somewhat tonier fare—specifically, the seven Edgar Allan Poe–derived films he directed for American International Pictures honchos Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson, from whom Corman inherited much of his carnival-huckster panache,” Foundas notes. “(An eighth film, ‘The Haunted Palace,’ marketed by AIP as part of the Poe series, was actually adapted from H.P. Lovecraft.) Extravagant by Corman standards—at least until you realize you are seeing the same, slightly redecorated castle and cobwebbed dungeon over and over again—these color-saturated CinemaScope fables range from the scrupulously faithful (‘House of Usher’) to the freely inventive (‘The Raven,’ which uses Poe’s melancholic narrative poem as a jumping-off point for . . . a farcical battle of wands between rival sorcerers Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff!).”
“Along with the seasonal favorites from the successful Poe series that Corman directed back in the early 60s, the showcase includes the unsettling social drama ‘The Intruder’ (1962),” writes Rex Doane at WNYC. “This surprisingly compelling story stars William Shatner as a white supremacist stirring things up in a small Southern town. Shanter’s stunning performance here is more than enough to forgive him for his futures sins (namely, those annoying Priceline.com commercials). Corman never grows tired of telling people that ‘The Intruder’ was his best film and the only one he never made an immediate profit on.” WNYC also has a podcast with Doane and Soterios Johnson discussing Corman’s work.
Watch a clip from “The Intruder” on YouTube.
The A.V. Club’s Simon Abrams picks five “surprisingly solid” Corman films, including 1966’s “The Wild Angels.” “Filmed three years before Dennis Hopper’s watershed counter-culture classic ‘Easy Rider,’ Corman’s ‘The Wild Angels’ features Peter Fonda as a tough-as-nails, Swastika-wearing Hell’s Angel,” writes Abrams. “Rather than strictly condemning Fonda and his biker gang for having no greater ambition than to party, piss off ‘The Man’ and party some more, Corman warily sympathizes with their need to take to the open road (see the excellent final scene where Fonda buries his friend alone, exclaiming ‘There’s nowhere to go’ to no one in particular). The film’s initial long take of the gang thundering down an open stretch of highway and the subsequent fatal chase scene with the Fuzz is not to be missed.”
Watch a brief (but endlessly quotable) clip from “The Wild Angels” on YouTube.
Abrams has more on the series at the New York Press.
Over at The L Magazine, Andrew Schenker highlights “The Raven” (which screens tonight at 7pm). “The first and funnier of the two early-60s teamings of the so-called triumvirate of terror (Vincent Prince, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff), Roger Corman’s ‘The Raven”…represents the comedic center of the director’s 8-film Poe cycle,” writes Schenker. “While other entries in the series veer toward the humorous, with this 1963 offering, Corman places the horror setting at the strict service of the comic.”
Watch a clip from “The Raven” on YouTube.
The New York Times’ Dave Kehr: “Roger Corman’s reputation as a roguish producer of exploitation films (and early supporter of talents like Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Nicholson) has eclipsed his very real gifts as a director. Those skills are emphasized here in a timely series that concentrates on Corman’s most creative period, the early 1960s, when he was chewing his way through the work of Edgar Allan Poe, transforming Poe’s gothic tales into allegories of generational conflict.”
More on the series from the New York Post’s V.A. Musetto.
IFC’s Vadim Rizov runs down what Corman’s been up to recently.