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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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957)

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ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1957 was a busy year for producer/director Roger Corman and this is another of his cult classics. This flick finds a group of scientists and navy men going to a deserted island to study the effects of H-bomb test fallout. One of the side effects of the nuclear dusting is some of the crabs have mutated to giants the size of Cadillacs and with the power to absorb the minds of their human food. Can this group survive as the colossal crabs decimate their number and steal their brains?

Giant mutated crabs would have been enough for most filmmakers during the 50s nuclear age cinema, but Corman had to give them the ability to absorb and use peoples minds, too. The sheer audacity of it alone may explain why this was a big hit for the producer. This was another movie Corman directed from a script by frequent collaborator Charles B. Griffith and once again he takes his subject matter seriously even though our main attractions are giant talking, brain sucking crabs. Corman gives this one a fairly fast pace, it is legitimately spooky at times and has a healthy does of intensity. The serious tone from both director and his cast…including future “Professor” from Gilliagan’s Island, Russell Johnson…helps the audience take our crustacean bad guys more seriously. As for the creatures, they actually don’t look that bad considering this is a low budget film and Corman keeps them hidden till the last act. As silly as the plot may sound, this is actually a decent horror flick despite the outrageous plot elements and Corman’s thrifty style makes good use of minimal sets and outdoor locations. There is also a bit of a charming cheese factor, but it’s a lot better than one might think and about the best a talking giant crab movie may ever get. One of Corman’s better low budget black and white efforts.

I was very amused by this one upon the revisit. It wasn’t as silly as it could have been and Corman took his audacious plot and ran with it. By the time we meet our villains they have been given enough of a threat factor to make them work, despite they are talking paper mache crabs. A fun and surprisingly effective atom age monster movie from Roger Corman.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 crabs pre-atomic mutation.

 

 

 

 

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. JONATHAN DEMME!

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JONATHAN DEMME 1944-2017

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It is with a heavy heart that MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse reports the passing of Silence Of The Lambs director Jonathan Demme. Demme got his start with Roger Corman directing such cult classics as Caged Heat and Crazy Mama and was an original visionary who came to direct one of the greatest thrillers of all time, one that earned him an Academy Award for best director. He also directed other renown films such as Stop Making Sense, Married To The Mob and Philadelphia. He was battling cancer when passed away today at age 73. A unique talent who will be missed.

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-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: Variety

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

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IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

I recently began reading Roger Corman’s autobiography How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime and it made me want to revisit some of his earliest films that I first saw on TV’s Chiller Theater and Creature Features as a kid.

One of Corman’s earliest flicks as a producer and director, this thriller tells the story of an alien invader from Venus, who isn’t particularly happy that earth has started sending satellites into space. It comes here to invade using bat-like creatures to take over people’s minds and with the help of bitter earth scientist, Dr. Tom Anderson (Lee Van Cleef) who believes earth needs ‘saving’ by this higher intelligence. Standing in the way of this nefarious plot is scientist Dr. Paul Nelson (Peter Graves) along with some feisty heroines and the usual soldiers and military types that populated films of this era.

Corman directs with a serious hand, from the script by Lou Rusoff and frequent Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith, despite that his creature looks like a combination of cucumber and crustacean. He shot it in about two weeks on a budget far lower than the average Hollywood flick of the time and the production looks better than one might expect due to Corman thriftiness. While the creature FX are cheesy and the dialogue equally so, it ads charm to a fun movie, all the more amusing for taking itself so seriously despite it’s outlandish plot and monster. Corman gets good work out of his cast, which also includes frequent Corman actress Beverly Garland (Swamp Woman, Not of This Earth) and Sally Fraser, who was in such cult classics as Earth vs. the Spider and War Of The Colossal Beast. The film, due to it’s small budget, does focus more on character drama than creature hi-jinx, but it’s atmospheric and keeps one interested till the military finally take on the alien dictator in true 50s creature feature fashion. There is also a very effective mood building score by Ronald Stein who composed for many a Corman classic. If you love the sci-fi flicks of this decade, this is one of the classics and an early example of the low budget entertainment that made Roger Corman one of the most successful producers of all time and an underrated director.

I had a fun time watching this again. It’s judged due to it’s cheesy creature, but the monster has become iconic, representing the creature features of the 50s and the film is better than it is given credit for. It obviously influenced future alien invader flicks, just look at Without Warning’s flying creature weapons as a perfect example and as usual with a Corman production, features future stars like Van Cleef and Graves. Corman is now a legend for making these kind of inexpensive but profitable features and who cares if it’s title monster looks like it could hide in a salad bar or seafood buffet. A fun example of what made the 50s era monster flicks so endearing. Also features frequent Corman actor, the legendary, Dick Miller as a soldier.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 alien vegetable/crustacean hybrids with a taste for megalomania.

 

 

 

 

 

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. ERIN MORAN!

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ERIN MORAN 1960-2017

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While most folks remember actress Erin Moran as Richie Cunningham’s spunky little sister, Joanie on Happy Days and it’s brief running spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, MonsterZero NJ will always fondly recall the actress for her role in the cult classic Corman flick Galaxy Of Terror as psychic, and very claustrophobic, Quest crew member Alluma. Sadly, the actress was found unresponsive in her Indiana home and the cause of death has yet to be determined. She was only 56.

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-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

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HAPPY 91st BIRTHDAY, ROGER CORMAN!

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The legendary director/producer of countless classic exploitation and B-movies turns 91 today! Happy Birthday, Roger Corman!

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If you haven’t picked up this great book about Roger Corman’s career, YOU SHOULD! (review HERE)


-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: EAT MY DUST! (1976)

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EAT MY DUST! (1976)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

A year before Smokey And The Bandit and a good three years before The Dukes Of Hazzard, Ron Howard led a cross county chase in this Roger Corman produced action/comedy. The story is simple…teen Hoover Niebold (Ron Howard) wants to impress beautiful blonde Darlene Kurtz (Christopher Norris) who has a love for fast cars. Hoover steals the fastest stock car on the track, belonging to local legend Big Bubba Jones (Dave “Mr. Kincaid” Madden) to take her for a ride. This joy ride turns into a hot pursuit as his sheriff father (Warren Kemmerling) leads the chase, followed by a posse of drunken stock car racers and inept deputies!

Car chase flick is written and directed by Charles B. Griffith who wrote a lot of scripts for Corman during the 60s, 70s and 80s, including many of his classics. It is a light, fun and fast paced effort that made a lot of money for Corman and New World Pictures. The film was part of a deal with Ron Howard, who had star power from Happy Days and was looking to direct. If he starred in this, he could make another film for Corman from the director’s chair, which would become Grand Theft Auto. The result is a good time with a lot of slapstick comedy and an almost non-stop chase with young Hoover outwitting his dad’s deputies and Big Bubba’s drunken buddies. As with most Corman films, there is a lot accomplished with a little and Griffith brings a light, breezy fun to the proceedings and keeps things moving quickly. It’s silly and goofy, but energetic and there is plenty of stunts and crashes for car chase enthusiasts to enjoy.

Howard plays Hoover much like a grown up version of his Opie Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show. He’s a bit of a country bumpkin, but is clever enough to outwit his pursuers. Howard has charm and is very likable as the rebellious teen willing to do anything for love. Christopher Norris is pretty and spunky as the object of Hoover’s affection, Darlene. The two make an endearing pair as they outwit the nitwits in their county. The supporting cast all have a good time playing their roles with over-the-top, slapstick efficiency, too and it’s fun to watch them. The film also stars Howard’s brother Clint, a known cult favorite character actor himself.

This film is now considered a cult classic and in an indirect way got Ron Howard started on a career as a prolific and highly regarded director. It’s silly, funny and loaded with plenty of chases and crashes. It was a successful film for Corman’s New World Pictures and predated the “redneck” car chase craze started by Smokey And The Bandit by a year. A fun little movie and another example of Roger Corman’s craft as a producer.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 rebel caps.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)

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STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Roger Corman produced flick finds a mysterious killer brutally murdering strippers. Pretty police detective Cody Sheenan (Kay Lenz) goes undercover in a strip club to try and catch the culprit. Her partner, Heineman (Greg Evigan) tries to keep a close eye on her, but with so many suspects, can he protect her if Cody becomes the next target?

Exploitation flick is directed by Katt Shea (as Katt Shea Ruben) who used to be an actress in some Corman productions. It is another example of Corman giving women a chance behind the camera when few others were doing it. It’s from a script from she and then husband Andy Ruben and started the actress off on a career behind the camera. As with most Corman productions there is a focus on nudity and there is plenty, including from leading lady Kay Lenz. But Shea manages to also portray a more sympathetic side to these ladies and not as just sex objects. The film may be a bit amateurish at times and the script, especially the dialog, could have used a bit of work, but first time director Shea does get some effective moments in and does make us feel for the targeted strippers. The death scenes are brutal and effective and the last act reveal/chase sequence between Cody and the killer is suspenseful and puts our heroine through the ringer. The film itself is very low budget and wisely sets a lot of it’s action in the strip club and overall, is a little thriller that shows a director’s potential and does it’s job as an exploitation flick though one with a bit of a sympathetic side towards it’s subject matter.

The acting varies in a low budget flick like this. Leads Kay Lenz and Greg Evigan are vets of TV and movies and are fine. Lenz in particular has both a toughness and a soft side to her Detective Sheenan. Another TV vet, Norman Fell, is appropriately sleazy as club owner Ray, yet he’s not portrayed as an outright bad guy and does seem to have some affinity for his performers. The rest of the supporting cast do well enough as various strippers and suspects and our killer is very effective once revealed.

While far from a perfect flick, Stripped to Kill gets the job done. It gives the targeted audience the nudity and violence they came for and yet Director Katt Shea does portray her stripper characters with a sympathetic eye. There is also some disturbing scenes and some suspense, especially in the last act and leading lady Kay Lenz not only is a likable heroine cop, but is surprisingly not shy with the nudity required for the role. A very successful flick for Corman and the start of a prolific directing career for Katt Shea, including the cult classic thriller Poison Ivy with Drew Barrymore.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 pumps.

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WARNING: This is the RED BAND trailer NSFW!

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BARE BONES: DEATH RACE 2050 (2017)

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DEATH RACE 2050 (2017)

Leave it to Roger Corman to remake his own classic. After a lackluster redo in 2008 with Jason Statham, simply titled Death Race, Corman returns to the source material for a more faithful remake of his classic Death Race 2000. The result is a silly flick that finds an overpopulated United Corporations of America initiating the annual Death Race to trim the population and entertain the overcrowded masses. The #1 driver of this cross country demolition derby of carnage is Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who not only has to deal with new rival Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead), who wants his crown, but a rebel movement that wants his head. Can the cyborg star driver survive the race, the rebels and his own hot co-pilot with her own agenda, Annie (Marci Miller)?

Corman produced flick is directed by G.J. Echternkamp who co-wrote the script with Matt Yamashita. The result is a silly, and sometimes amateurish effort that doesn’t come close to the original classic, though feels more like a Death Race 2000 remake than the 2008 version. It does have an infectious delirious energy and leads Bennett and Miller are appealing, but the direction and script are too lackluster and goofy to really make this flick a treat. The original 1975 version blended the violence and satire perfectly and this version needed a more deft hand behind the camera and some more genuine wit in the script. There is plenty of gore and there is a nice chemistry between Frankenstein and Annie, but the film ultimately falls far short of what it is trying to emulate. Also stars Malcolm McDowell as The Chairman and Yancy Butler as the rebel leader.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE HALLOWEEN SEASON DIRECTED BY WOMEN!

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While we watch numerous horror classics during the spooky season, from the likes of Carpenter, Cronenberg and Hooper, let’s not forget the contributions made by the ladies who have broken boundaries in a male dominated genre. More female directors are making their voices known than ever before, but there have also been some pioneers who broke down walls long before today’s female talents got behind the camera! So, here are 12 female directed horrors perfect to add to your Halloween playlist!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP
  2. THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE
  3. SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE
  4. PET SEMETARY
  5. AMERICAN PSYCHO
  6. NEAR DARK
  7. DANCE OF THE DAMNED
  8. AMERICAN MARY
  9. SEE NO EVIL 2
  10. THE BABADOOK
  11. HONEYMOON
  12. TALES OF HALLOWEEN

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And who could talk women in horror without evoking the name of the late Debra Hill, who produced (and frequently co-wrote) a number of John Carpenter’s classic films, including horrors such as Halloween (and a number of it’s sequels), The Fog and produced David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone. A true pioneer producer/writer in the horror genre! We lost Debra to cancer in 2005, but she has left a legacy of film that will live on!

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Debra Hill 1950-2005

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Also, head over HERE to read how legendary producer Roger Corman was instrumental at giving women filmmakers a voice in horror at a time when it was practically unheard of!…

FROM FINAL GIRLS TO FILMMAKERS: HOW ROGER CORMAN HELPED GIVE WOMEN A VOICE IN HORROR!

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An erotic thriller directed by Kat Shea for Roger Corman.

-MonsterZero NJ

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