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 OceanFloor 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.
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Roger Corman production is most famous for being the first mainstream movie to star notorious underaged porn star Traci Lords after her scandal broke in 1986. It was also made on a dare as director Jim Wynorski (The Lost Empire, Return Of Swamp Thing) bet Corman he could remake his 1957 original with the same budget and on the same shooting schedule. The result follows the original’s plot with nurse Nadine Story (Lords) as she is asked to be a live-in caretaker for the mysterious and apparently fatally ill Mr. Johnson (Arthur Roberts). Little does the sexy angel of mercy know that Johnson is an alien visitor whose planet is dying and needs the blood of the human race to survive.
Flick is a goofy but fun exploitation flick that is purely tongue in cheek and never tries to be anything more than it is. Wynorski rolls out the jokes and boobs, especially that of his star, who is paraded around in a sexy nurses outfit, bikini or less. It’s pure junk food but it does amuse and what do you expect from a remake of a cult classic made on a dare? There is a lot of stock footage from earlier Corman flicks, including an entire sequence lifted right out of Humanoids From The Deep with a re-filmed climax that uses a completely different actress. Low Budget filmmaking at it’s finest! And what makes this work as well as it does, as with laughably cheesy dialogue and over-the-top performances, is that you can tell the cast and director were just having a good time. It does spread to the audience and it is entertaining in a ‘so bad it’s good’ way. Production wise it looks cheaply made and makes no effort to hide it and has a great 80s electronic score from frequent Wynorski composer Chuck Cirino.
Lords was looking to go straight after being outed as an underaged adult video performer and costing the industry millions as all but one of her films had to be destroyed. Typical of the crafty Wynorski and Corman, they took advantage of her notoriety and actually got her a start in what has turned out to be a prolific mainstream film and television career. She’s not bad in this and one of the few cast members to play it straight and she makes a good heroine despite the nonsense going on around her. Arthur Roberts also plays it straight as the alien Mr. Johnson who is like Mr. Spock meets Count Dracula. In support Ace Mask as Dr. Rochelle, Lenny Juliano as small time hood turned chauffeur, Jeremy and Rodger Lodge as Nadine’s cop boyfriend, all ham it up with an appearance by 80s icon Kelli Maroney in a small role as Nurse Oxford. A cast obviously having a good time.
I like Wynorski’s flicks, this one included. Sure, on one hand they are silly junk, but they have their heart in the right place and are unapologetic when it comes to what they are and what their intent is. Not Of This Earth is a goofy flick made on a bet and simply to be enjoyed with a six pack on the couch…and that’s just fine with me.
MonsterZero NJ Personal Nostalgia: In 1986 I was working in a Palmer Video when my boss frantically came in one morning and ordered us to remove all of Traci Lords’ films from the adult video room stock. He told us why and of course we went through the stock and did as he asked. I remember all that day we kept getting people calling and coming in asking if we had any of her movies to rent. Sadly, we had to disappoint them. Another fond memory of my days in the long gone era of the video rental store.