Roger Corman: Still "King of the Bs"

Roger Corman, the exploitation filmmaker and, yes, Honorary Academy Award winner!

"War of the Satellites" was a classic B Movie, as the dubious dialogue and not-so-special special effects probably make clear. It takes a special breed of director to churn out B movies year after year . . . and our Mo Rocca has tracked him down:

At 85, Roger Corman is still making movies his way. "Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader" (in 3-D!) is just the latest in the filmmaker's 50-year career.

He told Mo Rocca he has directed about 60 films.

And produced? "Now that's a question I've been asked and I don't know," he laughed. "Because I think it's around 350!"

If on the off-chance you never saw "Attack of the Crab Monsters" or "A Bucket of Blood," or "Sharktopus," that may be because they're all independent films, made very quickly for very little money.

"I really worked rather efficiently," Corman said. "I planned very heavily in advance."

"Efficiently" is an understatement.

A typical major studio film can take 12 to 18 months to shoot. Corman shot "Machine Gun Kelly" in just 10 days.

Is there a creative upside to working fast and cheap? "Sometimes there is," he said. "You can solve a problem with money, or you can solve it creatively."

In that 1958 film newcomer Charles Bronson led a bank robbery. But Corman didn't have a bank set to shoot in. So it was all done with shadows.

"It was done only because I had no interior. But one of the French critics said what a brilliant idea to show only the outlines of the robbery!" Corman said.

And necessary, too. Corman has always worked on a shoestring budget, refusing to work for anyone but himself.

"I do have a hard time with authority," he admitted. "I was in the Navy for two years. They were the worst two years of my life. Any rule they set out, I felt it is my duty to break that rule."

Early on, his rebellious spirit was reflected in the stories he told about teenagers. "Movies for teenagers were generally innocuous teenage comedies - Walt Disney specialized in a number of films of that sort," Corman said.

"And I understood that youth is not that frivolous. So I dealt with more serious subjects, frankly somewhat exploitation. I had teenage crime, teenage hotrod pictures and so forth. But they

were tougher films. And they succeeded very well. The teenagers liked those films."

Corman's movies are first and foremost meant to entertain, he says - the meaning buried in subtext. And yet . . . "I'm willing to say there are a few of my films in which there was NO level of meaning underneath the entertainment whatsoever," he laughed.

Those would be the many Corman "exploitation" films.

"What IS an exploitation movie?" Rocca asked.

"You are exploiting a subject matter," the director explained. "You are taking something, making it exciting, and presenting it in such a way that the audience will come. So the word exploitation doesn't bother me in any way."

"Does it mean sensationalizing?"

"It can mean sensationalizing. It can be done in subtle ways, and it can be done in outrageous ways."

"Outrageous"? Sure, if you think women dressed as strippers firing machine guns is "outrageous."