Skip to main content

Cine Excess II: Surprise for Roger Corman

Actress Jane Asher, one of the stars of Corman's classic horror movies, Masque of the Red Death (1964), made an unscheduled appearance to present the 82-year-old film-maker with a life-time achievement award at the three-day event, organised by Brunel University, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, in Pall Mall, on Friday [May 2].

Corman, who has produced more than 300 movies and directed more than 50, including The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963), and launched the careers of Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorcese, and Jonathan Demme, to name just a few, appeared on stage twice: talking to conference organiser, Xavier Mendik, course director of the MA in Cult Film and Television at Brunel University, West London, and to critic Kim Newman.

Mendik told the conference that Corman “is as hip today as he was in the 1950s and 1960s“ and described him as “the man who created American cult movies.“

Cutting a thoughtful figure, Corman revealed that he is “not totally comfortable“ with being called “King of the B's… but if they want to call me that, what can I do?“

Though best-known for nil-budget horror flicks, Corman revealed that he most proud of “the only film that lost money,“ The Intruder (1961) starring the young, William Shatner (before Star Trek) as a white supremacist who comes to stir up mob violence in a small town in the American deep South on the eve of school integration.

Made during in a real Southern town during the American Civil Rights movement to critical acclaim (Corman said he shot it in five days - lengthy, by his standards - The Little Shop of Horrors took “two days and one night“) with $50,000 of his own money, it was also his only political film.

“I've been involved in politics on the left-liberal side,“ he explained, “which was one of the reasons I made The Intruder - the only film that lost money.“ He “felt it was too overtly political“ and from then on he concentrated on “subtext,“ ideas “beneath the surface for people to pick up on, if they were interested.“

Later, Corman appeared at the Curzon Soho, in Shaftesbury Avenue, London to introduce The Intruder and Masque of the Red Death in a midnight movie double-bill. He received a standing ovation as soon as his name was mentioned.

Keynote speaker Sir Christopher Frayling, chairman of Arts Council England, chairman of the Design Council and Rector of the Royal College of Arts, gave an entertaining talk about the late Spaghetti Western film director Sergio Leone, subject of Frayling's biography Something To Do With Death (2000).

About 50 academics from all over the world took part in the conference which included preview screenings of horror films, P2, Timber Falls, the UK premiere of Mind Flesh, and the re-edit of Summer Scars.