Roger Corman, indie pioneer and B-movie godfather, dies aged 98

by 24britishtvMay 13, 2024, 3:01 a.m. 24
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Roger Corman, a pioneer of low-cost independent filmmaking and the godfather of B-movies who produced hundreds of genre films in a career spanning eight decades, has died. He was 98.

During a prolific career that started in the 1950s and encompassed all genre, Corman directed the 1960 original The Little Shop Of Horrors – reportedly shot in two days – as well as The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, The Trip, The Wasp Woman, The Masque Of The Red Death, House Of Usher, and The Raven – the last three counting among a number of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.

Dubbed ’the Pope of Pop Cinema’, he produced such cult classics as Death Race 2000, Cannonball!, and The Wild Angels, among many, many others.

Oscar-winning producer and Picture Perfect chairman and CEO Patrick Wachsberger told Screen on Sunday: “Roger was a beacon for the industry; a pioneer and an amazing guy. I used to buy a lot of movies from Roger many years ago… I saw him three months ago. He looked frail but his mind was very sharp. The industry has lost someone really important and unique.”

In a statement Martin Scorsese said, “Roger Corman gave me my start in movies. He set the guidelines, and then he gave me tremendous freedom within those guidelines. In essence, he taught me how to actually make movies. If I hadn’t worked with Roger, I wouldn’t have known how to make Mean Streets or, when it comes right down to it, any of the pictures that followed.

”It was the same for many, many other filmmakers of my generation. I admired Roger, I loved him, I loved the pictures he directed (especially the Poe adaptations) and the spirit of his filmmaking. And I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me, and the education. I will always be proud to say that I graduated from the school of Roger Corman.”

Born in Detroit in April 1926, Corman moved to Beverly Hills. After getting his degree in engineering from Stanford and quickly realising that was not a career path he wished to pursue, he started out in the business as a messenger at 20th Century Fox, where he became a story analyst.

After a brief stint studying English literature at Oxford, Corman returned to Hollywood and began making films, eventually launching the legendary New World Pictures in 1970 with his brother Gene.

Corman helped a number of world-famous filmmakers and actors get their big break, hiring Francis Ford Coppola, who makes his grand return to Cannes this year with Megalopolis, to shoot his debut on Dementia 13. Jonathan Demme got his directorial debut break on Caged Heat, as did Ron Howard on Grand Theft Auto, while Martin Scorsese directed his second film, Boxcar Bertha for Corman.

Jack Nicholson got his lead acting debut on The Cry Baby Killer in 1958, and appeared in eight Corman films in total.

Corman’s family confirmed he died at his home in Santa Monica on Thursday. “He was generous, open-hearted and kind to all those who knew him,” they posted on Instagram, adding: “His films were revolutionary and iconoclastic, and captured the spirit of an age. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, ‘I was a filmmaker, just that.’”

He is survived by his wife Julie, and daughters Catherine and Mary.
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