I admire filmmakers who can do a lot with a little.
I like the ragged energy Alex Orr got in his $25,000 "Blood Car." And what Shane Hagedorn and Michael McCallum can get for less -- maybe $20-some,000 less -- than that in "Handlebar" and other movies. And for the artistry Nathaniel Nose has inserted in his handmade, homemade films.
I admire the best of the genre films (both written by John Sayles), "Alligator" and "The Howling." And, of course, I admire the giant of the cheapie-film world, Roger Corman.
Now Corman has an Academy Award and -- coming Saturday on Syfy -- a new movie. Here's a story I sent to papers; a different version has also run, as part of an Oscar-preview package:
By MIKE HUGHES
Roger Corman – master of the
micro-budget movie – is back.
His “Dinoshark” debuts Saturday on
cable, continuing his life of killer creatures. Corman, after all, is
the producer of “Carnosaur,” “Piranha,” “Night of the Blood
Beast” and “The Monster From the Ocean Floor.” Not to mention
“Attack of the Crab Monster” and “Attack of the Giant Leeches.”
This one, however, adds a distinction:
It can be touted as from Oscar-winning producer Roger Corman.
During the Academy Award ceremony
Sunday, viewers saw Corman, 83, beaming in the audience alongside
another honorary-Oscar winner, Lauren Bacall. They also saw a glimpse
of the honorary awards dinner, held in advance, with Ron Howard
saying what Corman once told him: “If you do a good job on this
picture, you'll never have to work for me again.”
Corman has repeated that often, during
a career that launched many Oscar-winners (Francis Ford Coppola,
Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Jack Nicholson, Howard) and
nominees. That's a prime reason he was considered for his own award.
“I actually said to a friend of mine,
'There is no way I'll win … They're not going to give an Academy
Award to someone who makes low-budget movies,'” Corman said.
They did, though. And six days after
this year's Oscars, he's back in his element.
In 2004, Corman's “Dinocroc”
debuted on what was then the Sci Fi Channel. “It was their
highest-rated film of the year and we did extremely well in DVD's and
foreign sales,” he said.
At a meeting, he suggested “Dinocroc
II” and was told that sequel titles don't do well on TV. “I said,
'Did I say “Dinocroc II”? I meant to say “Supergator.”'”
That thrived in 2007 and now comes
“Dinoshark.” By one count, it's the 387th Corman
Like most of his recent movies, it:
– Was filmed overseas, in this case
Mexico. “You get a different look to the film,” Corman said.
– Hired locals, with a few exceptions
– director Kevin O'Neill, actors Eric Balfour, Iva Hasperger and
Corman himself. “Some people feel the best can only come from
Hollywood,” he said. “I go (almost) totally with the local
– And generally used only two or
three takes per scene.
Other filmmakers share that approach,
Corman said, including Jean-Luc Godard. “His thinking was that you
get the most spontaneity in the first or second take.”
Then there's the flip side. Corman told
of Stanley Kubrick taking Jack Nicholson through 120-plus takes of
one “The Shining” scene. “Jack's a good guy and he went along
with it. Afteward, he told him, 'I … get to peaking in my 70th
or 80th take.”
Nicholson's first movie was Corman's
“The Cry Baby Killer”; his third was the original “Little Shop
of Horrors,” which Corman directed in his unique style.
As Beverly Gray tells it in “Roger
Corman” (Renaissance Books, 2000), Corman budgeted $27,500. He had
the sets from another movie for two days, so he shot most of the
scenes then. For exteriors on Skid Row, extras were paid a dime
apiece. Chuck Griffith received only $800 for his script,
supplementing that with two acting roles. And in the costliest
saving, Corman didn't bother to get a copyright.
This is classic Corman, Gray (a former
employee) wrote fondly. “Roger Corman and the Academy Awards are
not usually mentioned in the same breath.”
Except that now he has an Oscar of his
own. “I thought, 'Do I put it in a prominent place so everyone can
see it or do I put it somewhere else to seem humble?'”
He put it on his living room piano, for
all to see. At 83, Corman doesn't really need to feign humility.
– 9 p.m. Saturday on Syfy (formerly
Sci Fi); CBS' 2005 “Spring Break Shark Attack” reruns at 7