Roger Corman is best known as the B-movie maverick behind such cult favorites as “Death Race 2000” and “Piranha,” in addition to his role in mentoring talented filmmakers ranging from Martin Scorsese to James Cameron. At 91 years old, Corman hasn’t stopped producing low-budget exploitation movies — the direct-to-DVD “Death Race 2050” came out earlier this year — and he’s still keen on injecting his projects with pointed social commentary about modern times. The next project he’s developing may be his most topical in years.
While President Donald Trump has been recently assailed for inviting Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, Corman has already been cooking up a movie inspired by the controversial figure, whose anti-drug crackdown has led to a reported 7,000 extrajudicial killings. Tentatively titled “Death Squad,” the movie focuses a post-apocalyptic world in which a tyrannical ruler orders extrajudicial killings supposedly to alleviate crime, which leads him to start killing anyone who disagrees with him.
“It’s the most interesting story that I’m working on,” Corman said over the weekend in an interview at the first edition of The Overlook Film Festival, a new horror festival in Mount Hood, Oregon.
In town to receive a visionary filmmaker award, Corman said he’d been working on a proposal for the Duterte-inspired project for some time. “He’s simply decided that the judicial system was corrupt and all these criminals were getting off. So he put together his own squad and said, ‘We know who the criminals are. Why bother going through the courts? We’re just going to go out and kill them?’” Corman said about Duterte. “The interesting thing is that Filipino public seems to be with him.”
Corman described the lead character in his proposal as a “quasi-dictator, but not that bad a guy…he’s shaded little bit toward the black than shades of gray. He comes to the same conclusion [as Duterte], that the judicial system is corrupt, and he’s going to kill the criminals because he knows who they are.”
That conclusion leads to a dangerous second act. “As he gets into it, he finds there’s an opposition to what he’s doing and he starts to say, ‘Well, that guy is against me. I think he’s a criminal. Let’s kill him,’” Corman said. “He starts saying he’s going to kill the criminals and ends up saying I’m going to kill anybody who resists me, but in his mind, it’s the same rationale…he’s expanding his interpretation of what a killer is.”
Corman said he was considering the possibility of pitching the idea for a bigger budget than his last few credits, though he remains comfortable working on a smaller scale. “Death Race 2050” was released day-and-date on DVD and Netflix through Universal. Corman said the studio has already asked him to produce another cheap installment, which he has proposed the working title “Death Race to the Finish,” in the hopes that it will be the final entry in the series.
“It’s been my feeling that you don’t want to push a franchise too far,” he said. “You have to know when to stop. [This title] fits the storyline I’m working on. It says, ‘We’ve had a good run. It’s time to move on.’”
Stay tuned for more from IndieWire’s interview with Roger Corman later this week.