- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: AZ Ferris Publications; 3rd edition edition (August 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0988579820
- ISBN-13: 978-0988579828
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,384,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers: 3rd edition 3rd edition Edition
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"...an absorbing peek into a unique era in motion picture history . . . a must for anyone who loves movies." -- Mel Welles, actor in several Corman films
"Beverly Gray nails both sides of the complex Corman, the tame and the wild, the cheap and the generous..." -- Chuck Griffith, screenwriter for Little Shop of Horrors
"Gray's sensitive combination of scholarly detachment and firsthand observation have made [Corman] come alive in all his wily brilliance." -- L.A. Weekly
"Kudos to Gray for her exhaustive work on the pop-culture icon who's given us all years of guilty cinematic pleasure" -- Total Movie
"[Corman's] supreme talent is a rare ability to liberate talent in others. He liberated an excellent film historian in Gray." -- L.A. Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Roger Corman, director/producer of hundreds of low-budget, popular and influential genre films and cult classics, appears in all his tawdry splendor in Beverly Gray’s deftly told unauthorized biography.” --Carl Rollyson, Wall Street Journal
"For a more thoughtful account of the tensions in Corman's career - he was, it turns out, as committed to hiring women in positions of power as he was to filming them nude - check out Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers, a recently updated insider's account by Beverly Gray, who worked for him." -- Jason Zinoman, New York Times Sunday Book Review
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In the late 90's, having been out of his employ for four or five years, Ms. Gray went to work on a biography of Roger Corman. Catching wind of it, he summoned her to a meeting. In that meeting he advised he would only participate in the book's writing if the end result would cast him in a mostly favorable light. Ms. Gray advised she was going to follow advice he'd once given her and use her own best judgment. And so she did. She proceeded with the book - ending up with a fair and balanced look at Roger Corman - his strengths, his idiosyncracies; his foibles, and even his feet of clay.
Meticulous research and interviews with dozens of people who worked for Corman across his decades in the film business make up the bulk of the book - and it's a pretty fascinating story for anyone remotely interested in independent filmmaking or the production of what are now thought of as "B movies" - an appellation that Roger Corman would be quick to scoff at in most cases - as he still believes pretty much the only true B films are those that played as the second feature to a larger budgeted A picture in movie theaters of the 30's and 40's. I think he's softened on this a bit in more recent years as the meaning of the phrase has shifted through use (or misuse). The resulting biography came out in 2000, and sold very well, landing high on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list in its first week of publication. The paperback edition sold well too.
Now, a dozen years later, Ms. Gray has gone back and reworked the original book into an expanded ebook - with new information and interviews conducted as recently as October 2012 figuring into the expanded edition.
Ms. Gray's writing is terrific - taking us from Corman's birth through his reception of an honorary Oscar in 2009 and the recent Syuh-Fyuh channel movies he's been cranking out the last couple of years. There was obviously a boatload of work that went into the research and interviews - and what's really cool is that nearly every quotation is on the record and attributed - with only a half dozen or dozen quotes (out of hundreds) that are assigned to "a New Concorde staffer" or "a veteran of the New World days." This alone presents a solid picture of the book's balance in its representation of Mr. Corman's life and career. If the book was a hatchet job - there would be far fewer names quoted in the book and much more anonymous attribution.
Unfortunately, Mr. Corman did not agree with this assessment - and after Ms. Gray's refusal to let him edit the manuscript of anything he felt to be negative or derogatory - he apparently spread the word that the book was to be a hatchet job, though it seems to have prevented few of his former employees from sitting down with Ms. Gray. He also wrote off whatever friendship they had at that point - though Ms. Gray still expresses warmth and respect for her former boss - he does not share that warmth. She indicates that their few happenstance meetings since the book's publication have been cordial - but it's also true that two different interviews with Ms. Gray about her former boss - one for a Corman documentary and one for a DVD special feature - have been cut from the finished projects at Mr. Corman's - or his office's - insistence.
If anyone were to ask me what to read to know more about Roger Corman - I would absolutely recommend this book - and I'd offer the suggestion (as does Ms. Gray) to pair it up with Roger Corman's own memoir - How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime - as the two books together do offer the most indepth portrait of an intensely private man that you're ever likely to get. (I would also offer Ms. Gray's advice to enjoy Mr. Corman's book with a grain of salt, as his own recollections of his past actions might be skewed a bit by his ego and memory - which can get a bit fuzzy at times according to others present at the time.)
Currently the book is only offered in Kindle format - if you don't have a Kindle - there are computer and smartphone app versions that would still allow you to purchase and read this terrific biography - so what are you waiting for?
Reading about Roger Corman is like reading about America. For this engineer-turned-producer-turned-director, it’s all about the money. He does have other thoughts now and then, sometimes an artistic thought (as in House of Usher), sometimes a political thought (as in 1967’s The Wild Angels), sometimes a countercultural thought (as in 1969’s Gas-s-s-s!), sometimes an anti-racist thought (as in 1962’s The Intruder), but he mostly thinks about how to squeeze the most money out of a production.
Corman promises various talent (directors, actors, writers) a share of the profits, but unless they have it in writing, it later comes to, “Oh, I was joking,” or “I didn’t say that.” And he’s always stepping in at the last minute to make a film more commercial by cutting in another ax murder (as he did in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13) or naked bodies or shots of cocaine (as he did in The Final Comedown), and invariably screwing up the plot.
Still, you have to remember that Corman’s schlock studio churned out movies that inspired many (The Raven, The Intruder, Little Shop of Horrors) and gave many great young filmmakers their start, including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Nicolas Roeg, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, Robert Towne, Paul Bartel, and Peter Bogdanovich. Lots of prominent actors worked with Corman, too, including Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, Diane Ladd, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Robert De Niro, David Carradine, Peter Fonda, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Nancy Sinatra, and Sandra Bullock.
This 2013 edition has a new section called “The Internet Years,” covering 2004 (when the book was originally published) to 2013 (when the updated book was published), as Roger moved into new media, including the Internet, Netflix distribution, the Sundance Film Festival, Showtime, a multiple-endings experiment, Roger’s old age, and the end of some stories that hadn’t concluded by 2004. It’s always satisfying to read what finally happened to projects and people. And she finds more stingy anecdotes, such as film festivals sending Roger a first-class ticket to attend and Roger always cashing them in, pocketing the difference, and flying coach. You end up just shaking your head.
However, I will admit to slight disappointment in that it didn't cover his movies in as much detail as I wanted. I'm not sure what I was expecting because it's a biography, not just a movie listing with cute little facts. What WAS extremely fascinating was often the mindset behind the Corman productions. Not just the little stories about troubles or amusing tales, but why movies were chosen, how people rose in the company, how people came to direct (the story behind Cameron's rise on Battle Beyond the Stars stuck out to me in particular), and so on which really added to the book. It truly is unique.
I couldn't give the audio five stars, though it is very easy to listen to, because in the beginning the narrator was pretty rushed with hardly any pauses between sentences. That, and you can tell where they made additions or corrections as the sound quality changes here and there. Very soon after the beginning though, the narrator finds her stride and has a very pleasant voice, suited perfectly for the audio book, and the corrections are few.
Overall, if you are a Roger Corman or movie fan, I highly suggest getting this book or audio book. It was a great listen.