Roger Corman's New World Pictures (1970-1983): An Oral History Volumes 1 and 2
by Stephen B. Armstrong
Reviewed by Lee Sobel (12/6/20)
5 out of 5 Stars
Roger Corman turns 95 next April 5 and to say he is an elder statesman of filmmaking would be a huge understatement. As a young director who made better low budget movies than anyone on the planet, he gave the world cult favorites like The Little Shop of Horrors, A Bucket of Blood and the entire Edgar Allan Poe cycle of films. There have been numerous books about and by Corman (all of which I recommend) but Stephen B. Armstrong has focused on 1970-1983 when Corman shifted his focus
from directing to producing and built an empire called New World Pictures, a scrappy little company that made mostly exploitation movies that were almost always very profitable. Among the company's incredible output were early movies by directors who went on to build a name for themselves, including Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, and many others.
At first glance, I noticed two things about these books. The first is that while I guess you could call them an oral history, really what they are is just a collection of interviews with directors, actors, writers, and other behind-the-scenes people (one per chapter) who worked on these movies. The second thing is that each book is slim enough that they could have just put them together as one book. That said, there is a ton of fun reading here. A few nuggets that made me chuckle included:
* One of Roger Corman's only failures was a movie called Cockfighter, which, unlike the usual New World picture lacked sex and violence. When the movie performed poorly, Corman recut the movie's trailer, adding in nudity and car chases from other films his company had made. The director felt it was unethical to have scenes in the trailer that would not be shown in the movie so Corman made him add them to the movie. There was no place to cut the scenes in so the director added in a dream sequence with cars careening around corners and nurses exposing their breasts. Apparently it didn't help Cockfighter at the box office.
* There are many anecdotes of Corman that are priceless. At a sneak preview of one of their movies, Corman didn't like one audience member laughing at his serious sci-fi movie so Corman went up to him and punched him in the face. When Corman didn't like the poster for one of their movies, he changed the artwork to a woman being raped on a rock by a monster, even though it had nothing to do with the movie. You can't make this stuff up!
So...if you like Roger Corman movies -- the ones he produced, not the ones he directed -- you will have a lot of fun reading these two volumes.