BOOK REVIEW: HOW I MADE A HUNDRED MOVIES IN HOLLYWOOD AND NEVER LOST A DIME by ROGER CORMAN

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I know this is the Movie Madhouse but, I will review a book now and then, one that I really loved or one that pertains to the movie world….and what pertains more than a book by one of the greatest producers that ever lived… Roger Corman!

HOW I MADE A HUNDRED MOVIES IN HOLLYWOOD AND NEVER LOST A DIME by ROGER CORMAN with JIM JEROME

In the pages of this autobiography from legendary film producer/director Roger Corman, he tells firsthand of his journey to becoming one of the most successful filmmakers of all time. He details his humble beginnings in Detroit to his family’s move to Beverly Hills then on to college and his first job at a major studio where the film-making bug first bit. He shares with us how he cleverly financed his first film The Monster From The Ocean Floor and thus began his prolific…and sometimes tumultuous…career as a director and producer. Corman takes us on a fun ride of clever financing, seat-of-your-pants film-making, world travel, giving first opportunities to many future stars and legends and even some of the lovely ladies he met making movies, including his wife Julie. It’s a vastly entertaining book from the man himself detailing how he was able to beat the Hollywood system and become the film geek, household name that he is. The book traces his life and career up to the point where he returned to directing after a long hiatus to helm Frankenstein Unbound, which, as of now, stands as his last full length feature as a director.

As a huge fan of Corman, I had a blast with this book. The master producer details how he produced films his way and rarely had a box office disappointment in his illustrious career. He gives generous details on the making of such early classics as It Conquered The World and Not of This Earth to some of the New World classics such as Death Race 2000 and Piranha. We get anecdotes from some of the talents who got their start with Corman and went on to be legends themselves like Joe Dante, Francis Ford Coppola and Sylvester Stallone and also from Corman regulars like Dick Miller, Chuck Griffith and Beverly Garland. It’s a humble telling of a fascinating life from the man who lived it and a host of people who had the honor of working for/with him. If you are a fan of Roger Corman and his films, it is a must read. If you are simply a fan of movies and the film-making process, I still highly recommend you hear these great tales about one of Hollywood’s greatest maverick film-makers from the man himself and some of those who joined him on his ongoing journey.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Corman creatures!

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MORE SAD NEWS AS CULT FILM DIRECTOR JIMMY MURAKAMI HAS PASSED AWAY!

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Teruaki “Jimmy” Murakami  1933-2014

Fans of both Roger Corman films and animation also receive sad news as the helmer of the cult classic Battle Beyond The Stars, director and animator Jimmy Murakami, passed away earlier this month with word only reaching us today through Roger Corman himself. Not only did Murakami direct Corman’s delightfully campy answer to Star Wars, but was the un-credited director of the additional footage for Corman’s Humanoids From The Deep when Corman felt that film’s initial cut needed more of the ‘Corman touch’. Murakami was also known for his work as an animator on films such as When The Wind Blows and most recently Christmas Carol: The Movie featuring the voices of Kate Winslet and Nicolas Cage. Murakami, who was also an artist and designer as well, literally worked on films all over the world and will be missed by those fortunate enough to have experienced his talent.

-MonsterZero NJ

battle_beyond_stars_poster_01  Humanoids poster

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BOOK REVIEW: ROGER CORMAN: KING OF THE B MOVIE

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I know this is the Movie Madhouse but, I will review a book now and then that I really loved and pertains to the movie world and what pertains more then a book about one of the greatest producers that ever lived… Roger Corman!

CRAB MONSTERS, TEENAGE CAVEMEN, AND CANDY STRIPED NURSES-ROGER CORMAN: KING OF THE B MOVIE by CHRIS NASHAWATY

For fans of the films of B movie auteur Roger Corman, this book is a real treat and a blast to read. Tracing his career and a good number of his most famous…and infamous…films from his beginnings as a messenger in the 20th Century Fox mailroom to one of the most prolific producer/directors in film history, author Nashawaty wisely lets the stories come from the mouths of Corman himself and the talented people whose careers he gave start to. We get quotes and anecdotes about this legend of filmmaking from legends in their own right like Jack Nicholson, Joe Dante, John Landis, Sylvester Stallone and Peter Fonda to name a scant few. Obviously we also hear from Corman himself, his wife Julie…who once went into labor on the set of a film she was producing for her husband…and brother Gene. Some of the stories are downright hilarious as we read first hand accounts of Corman thriftiness in action. We get fascinating tales of the making of some of Roger Corman’s most famous and successful productions from the low budget horror Attack Of The Crab Monsters to his Star Wars inspired Battle Beyond The Stars. Among some of the delightfully fun stories is one from Titanic’s James Cameron. The future director of The Terminator tells about his method of having all his workers go on break when Corman arrived at the studio for the production of Battle Beyond The Stars because, if Roger didn’t see anyone working on the sets, he assumed they were done and didn’t get angry that they were actually running behind schedule. But whether it’s stories of the relationships between Corman and the future stars that worked for him, or of Corman thriftiness and inventiveness, this fun book is a very entertaining look at the amazing career of an amazing man who beat the Hollywood system again and again. A man who still is ahead of his time and still stays one step ahead of the latest trends. If I was to have a complaint about this wonderful book about one of my favorite filmmakers, is that it isn’t long enough. Despite all the fun stories and the informative look at some of his most classic films, I closed the book wanting even more…and now that I think of it, that is more of a complement then a complaint! A great read and a MUST for Roger Corman fans or fans of his films.

3 and 1/2 Corman creatures!

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A SPECIAL PLACE: THE ORITANI THEATER IN HACKENSACK, N.J.

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The Oritani Theater: 300 Main St. Hackensack N.J Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection

A SPECIAL PLACE: THE ORITANI THEATER IN HACKENSACK, N.J. by MonsterZero N.J.

Everyone has a special time and place in their lives that they will always remember. For me it was the Oritani Theater in Hackensack N.J. during the late 70s and early 80s. A place which was an important part of my youth and played a large role in developing my tastes in movies and my love of movies in general. Since I will probably mention this special theater quite often on this site, I might as well tell you a little bit about it and why it is special to me…

Grind-house is a term used to describe a movie theater that showed low budget exploitation films as opposed to more mainstream movies. The Oritani triplex in Hackensack N.J. could definitely be described as a grind-house, presenting badly dubbed martial arts, horror, and raunchy low budget comedies. I was fortunate enough to have experienced seeing a lot of great exploitation films on it’s screens before the video age killed the grind-house and these movies went direct to videotape and now DVD.

My first visit to the Oritani Theater was in 1976. It was still a single auditorium theater at that point and my parents took me there to see the cheesy rubber monster-fest, “At The Earth’s Core” which was on a double feature with the sci-fi/horror “Bug”. It was an odd double feature and a herald of things to come. I would venture there a few more times to see delightfully cheesy fair like “The Incredible Melting Man”, but it wasn’t till a few years later when visiting the Oritani would become an almost weekly occurrence.

I started high school in 1979 as a new kid in Ridgefield Park N.J., a small town where everyone grew up together. My parents had divorced and my mother remarried and we relocated there to live with my new stepfather. I was an outcast at first and it was the other outcasts that I bonded with as friends. My pals Roger, Ray and Dorian all held similar interests and movies was one of them. Ray especially was a big horror and gore movie fan and I wonder if he still is. We weren’t old enough to drive and Hackensack was in walking distance, so Friday and Saturday nights were spent walking along the railroad tracks that paralleled the Hackensack River into town and onto Main St, where the Oritani theater was located. The Oritani was now split into a triplex, so there was at least three movies to choose from each week, more with the occasional double feature. If the weather was bad, Ray’s grandfather drove us, so we were there almost every weekend, sometimes twice. There was always something playing there to catch our interest. Worse came to worse, there was the Fox theater across the street, which showed it’s share of exploitation flicks, too.

Obviously what we saw there was a mixed bag. I remember seeing the classic “Shogun Assassin”, as well as, one of my all time favorites, “Escape from New York”. But for every future classic, there was a “Final Exam” or a “Revenge of the Shogun Women in 3D” which evoked more laughs and mockery then chills and thrills. I discovered the films of David Cronenberg watching “Scanners” there. My first exposure to Cronenberg’s work and he has become one of my favorite filmmakers. Got to see some early Charles Band productions there like “Laserblast” and “The Day Time Ended” before he embraced DTV and started making films specifically for the home video market. I also saw “Mad Max” there starring a then unknown Mel Gibson, which was on an odd double feature with “Humanoids from the Deep”, another great B movie from Roger Corman, whose movie productions I love. I saw Corman’s answer to “Star Wars” and “Alien” respectively, “Battle Beyond the Stars” and “Galaxy of Terror” at this special theater, too. Both had production design by a then unknown James Cameron who went on to direct “Terminator”, “Aliens” and “Titanic”. Future memories formed watching future stars. You’d be surprised how many acclaimed actors and filmmakers had their start in these movies…whether they acknowledge it or not.

The audience at the Oritani was as diverse as the selection of flicks and these movies brought everybody together to laugh and shout comments at the screen as one audience. Whether it was to challenge a master’s skill in “Kill and Kill Again” or question the threat factor of one of “The Boogens”, the audience became part of the film. Some of the comments heard were better than the film viewed and I will never forget them. When the film broke before an epic battle in “Shogun Assassin” and restarted after the fight ended… well, you had to be there. I’m glad I was. Even when I revisit that B-movie classic today, it doesn’t seem quite the same with that jarring bit of missing footage now intact.

Unfortunately, video tape came along and exploitation film studios realized it was cheaper to release things directly on tape than to spend money on prints and advertising. The grind-house died and the Oritani died with it. There are now a couple of stores standing where the Oritani used to be and I can’t name one of them. Don’t care to. I wish I could name the last thing I saw there*, but in it’s final run, the Oritani tried to save itself by becoming more of a mainstream movie house, so we stopped going. By then we were old enough to drive and could see these mainstream movies on a newer, bigger screen with better sound. I remember one night coming out of the Fox theater, we might have gone there to see John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, and I gazed across the street to see the Oritani marquee and feeling sad that “E.T”. was playing there and not some cool exploitation flick or low budget horror. Maybe in my heart I knew at that moment that those days were now gone and to an extent, so was the Oritani I knew and loved. And sadly, it was. The Oritani closed in 1983, the year I graduated high school. Perhaps a bit symbolic of the end of my youth, or at the very least, the end of an era. I will never forget this special theater nor the impact it had on me as a movie lover. I cherish the memories of all the great B-Movies I discovered there, seeing them on the big screen where they belong. The spirit of the Oritani Theater still lives within this movie geek, though and on many a quiet Saturday night I get a six pack of my favorite brew and pull some of the great B-movies first seen there from out of the collection and relive some of the memories of that very special place.

The Oritani Theater  1922-1983.

*UPDATE 2/8/2015: After a lot of deliberation and checking of release dates, I have come to believe that “Friday The 13th part 3 in 3D” may very well have been the last film I saw at the Oritani Theater. If correct, Friday 8/13/1982 is the last time I was at this great theater and special place…and the 3rd “Friday The 13th”, the final film. -MZNJ
-MonsterZeroNJ
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