Melbourne Cinematheque June Round-up: Fast And Cheap With Roger Corman
Welcome back to my ongoing coverage of the Melbourne Cinematheque's fantastic program for 2013. From 12 to 26 June at ACMI, the focus is on B-movie king Roger Corman's 'vulgar auteurism' in the retrospective Fast, Cheap & Under Control.
Stupendously prolific, Corman has directed more than 50 movies and produced over 300 - his distinctive voice was recognized early by progressive critics. His most acclaimed films may be his cycle of eight Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, but he brought to all his films a unique visual style, a knowing playfulness towards genre conventions, and a critical vigour in his use of subversive themes and charged symbolic schemata.Corman has had, in critic David Thomson's words, "an admirable record as a sponsor of new talent". Directors who worked for him include Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese.
The Melbourne Cinematheque has picked nine of Corman's many films into their showcase, highlighting his most productive and successful 'middle' period. This week has already seen the first three films screened, The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) and Rock All Night (1957). Here's a look at what is remaining.
The Intruder (1962)
This disquieting look at American race relations sees a charismatic young man resplendent in white (William Shatner) stride into a sleepy town just as desegregation is spreading through the South. Using calculated appeal to stir up a hornet's nest of small-town tension.
This film was unusually mature and complex for its time, contradicting the often patronizing approaches of other films of the 1950s and 1960s to the subject of race.
X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Scientific hubris, leading to severe punishment as Ray Milland plays the scientist bent on attaining knowledge beyond human reckoning, driving the film to its intense, Sophoclean conclusion. "Milland grows through his debasement, and the production offers plenty of it", wrote critic Dave Kehr.
Creature From the Haunted Sea (1961)
This cult classic is an ultra low budget, high-camp thrill. Corman paid extras $1 per hour, shot the film in Puerto Rico in under a week after completing Last Woman on Earth, and crafted a creature from Brillo pads, pipe cleaners and ping-pong balls.
This kind of approach to sci-fi and horror cemented Corman's legacy and there is no better worse example than Creature from the Haunted Sea.
A Bucket of Blood (1959)
Don't let the name fool you, this is an affectionate satire of the late 1950s Southern Californian Beatnik scene. A mediocre artist working in a cafe accidentally kills a cat and subsequently discovers that his lifelike "sculptures" make him a celebrated figure on the local art scene. His struggle for new material quickly leads to murder.
Although Corman produced this film on a small budget and completed filming in five days, it remains one of his most enduring works, providing a now fascinating portrait of Beatnik culture.
The Wild Angels (1966)
Corman's wildly exploitative initial entry in the 1960s motorcycle-gang cycle is one of his most influential works. Peter Fonda leads a California chapter of the Hells Angels on an odyssey that incorporates beatings, orgies, rapes, drug taking and numerous other antisocial and countercultural activities.
The film is now also remarkable for the array of talent who worked on either side of the camera: writer Peter Bogdanovich, Monte Hellman, Michael J. Pollard, Bruce Dern and Nancy Sinatra.
The Trip (1967)
Corman's most infamous foray into the world of LSD is an early experiment in the use of a baroque, psychedelic filming style to simulate the wildly euphoric and hallucinatory effects of drug taking. The film's bizarre blend of sensorial urgency and hypnotic intensity is accompanied by an improvisational jazz and blues-infused score (The Electric Flag).
Please check the Melbourne Cinematheque guide for a more detailed account of the films comprising Corman's marvelous season at ACMI in June. I will return in July to discuss some lesser known docos from Werner Herzog! See you then.