Recently at the 2006 Comic-Con International, I had the distinct pleasure of being able to sit down with the Godfather of not only independent cinema, but low budget, exploitation, sci fi and just about every other genre, Roger Corman. Having grown up in the Eighties and Nineties on a steady diet of Corman produced films, this was truly something I was looking forward to. He was on hand to promote his library of titles that in 2005 he sold to Disney. Having interviewed Roger Corman before (for the Rock 'N' Roll High School - Rock On Edition DVD), I relished the opportunity to chat with him again. In the months between interviews I had read his book How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime, and that is where we began our second discussion.
Roger Corman: I must admit that the publishers wanted to put that title on it. I said, "You know I did miss once or twice." And they said that, "Every title of every picture you make says exactly what's in the picture." So I said, "Call the book anything you want."
For someone who has been around as long as you have doing movie related things, what is your take on an event like Comic-Con?
Roger Corman: I am delighted with it. I really think that it's part of something new. Not only in motion pictures and comic books but in our culture. I think it reflects the people talking back to the creators. And I think the internet is part of the same thing. I think it's a major cultural switch. In that this started, as I understand it, just as some comic book aficionados, more people came each year and then suddenly the studios and the networks and so forth, became aware that this was an important event. Now they're spending huge amounts of money to come here and it all started from the people who loved comic books. Now it's people who love comic books, and special effect movies and so forth.
I think it's very good. I think it opens the gates so that it isn't just the people say, sitting in the studio who are creating things, they're going to the people who see the films and they're asking them, "What do you like?" "What would you like to see?" And so fresh ideas are coming in.
Are you here promoting some specific titles? Or the whole catalogue that you sold to Buena Vista?
Roger Corman: The whole catalogue. Some specific titles because it's Comic-Con, the science fiction titles. I have a picture called Scorpius Gigantus. It's going through Buena Vista within a couple of days it comes out. I have a couple of other films in the process that I'm making that will go through Buena Vista later on. I did a picture called DinoCroc a couple of years ago, that got the highest rating on the Sci-Fi Channel of their Saturday night shows. And I was talking with them and I said, "Do you want another one?" And they said, Yes. I said, "Well, here it is, DinoCroc 2!" And they said, which is something interesting, you can have a Pirates of the Caribbean 2 or a Batman 2, or whatever, but they find that when they put "2" on it it doesn't work so well.
They'd rather have a similar picture and I said, "Did I say, DinoCroc 2? I meant SuperGator." And they said, "Well do SuperGator." Now SuperGator is an example of where you're now looking at multiple audiences. It will go through the Sci Fi Channel on cable, then it will go through Buena Vista on DVD and then it will go somewhere on Video On Demand, because we've had a few of our titles that were just tested recently on Video On Demand and they did very well. It's a whole new market which is another very interesting point, at least to me and I think to everybody, that so many new markets, so many new ways of showing these films are opening up.
With so many new formats becoming available on HD-DVD and Blu-ray, what do you think is ultimately going to be the dominant format?
Roger Corman: I don't know. I think we're going to see, as I say, an opening up of different markets. And I'm inclined to think that all of the markets will remain. Theatrical distribution will remain. It will be a smaller piece of the pie than it is now. DVD will remain but it will be a smaller piece of the pie, and DVD may be delivered over the internet rather than going to Blockbuster or something like that. Video On Demand will be there and there will be new things coming up that I don't know yet. I'm inclined to see it as a fractured universe in which it breaks into fractions for each one.
It's a pie with many slices.
Roger Corman: Exactly.
Why do you think when you were getting started there weren't more events like Comic-Con? I could see people dressing up like the characters from Little Shop of Horrors or the monsters from some of your other films?
Roger Corman: I think the universe of science fiction, horror, fantasy, the fantastic was too small at that time. It's grown over a period of time. For motion pictures I can point to two films, Jaws and Star Wars. When Jaws came out Vincent Canby, the number one critic in the New York times wrote, "What is Jaws but a big budget Roger Corman film?" What he didn't say was it was not only bigger but it was better. I have to admit it, it was a better picture. And then right after Jaws, Star Wars came out.
And again, same thing. Same type of film but bigger and better and I think at that time the whole universe of what I and my compatriots, I surely wasn't the only one, like Bill Castle and George Pal and a number of other people, what we'd been doing on small budgets suddenly became big time. I think more people reacted to it and again this started with the people and it built until finally the industry took notice of it.
Having done everything you've done, what keeps you going after all these years?
Roger Corman: It's the ideas. I like coming up, as much as possible, with new ideas and I particularly like science fiction and fantasy because you can spread yourself more than reality. It's like the movement from traditional realistic painting to abstract painting. Suddenly, you've got a wider, bigger universe to work with.
Of everything that you've done is there one film that stands out to you to this day?
Roger Corman: There's no one. I've been asked the question before and it changes from day to day. I would say maybe The Trip. MGM sent out a DVD on it and they cut most of the psychedelic scenes because I had nudity in it. Why they cut, because there's nudity in so many other pictures and they really hurt that picture. The original Trip was the American Entry in the Cannes Film Festival and it did very well. The Trip, maybe? The Intruder which is a more realistic picture with Bill Shatner.
Is that coming out on DVD?
Roger Corman: Yes, that'll go through Buena Vista. Death Race 2000 I like because you don't always get a really original idea, and I think that one was a cross country road race in which the drivers were scored on two basis: How fast they could drive and how many pedestrians they can kill. I have to say, I believe that was original. You can never really say this was completely original because if you're speaking somewhere, some guy in the back of the audience will inevitable stand up and say, "You're forgetting the 1921 German, silent, expressionist film..." Then the guy will say, "Your film is so similar to that did you steal from this film?" I never heard of the damn film! (Laughs)
What are you currently working on now?
Roger Corman: I'm in production on SuperGator the followup to DinoCroc, and I start production in a couple of weeks on a picture called Green City. Which is a city of the future in which society is in ruins, the city is rubble and through technology and holograms the authorities have convinced the people, they can see it, that they're living in the greatest city in the world. It's the puncturing of that illusion that drives the story.
Scorpius Gigantus as well as many of Roger Corman's other films are available on DVD through Buena Vista Home Entertainment.