Filmmaker Roger Corman to be toasted by the Telluride Film Festival

Posted by · 7:08 am · August 31st, 2012

TELLURIDE – What else can one say about Roger Corman? He may think his influence on the film industry has been “overrated,” but when future stars like Jonathan Demme, Curtis Hanson, Jack Nicholson, John Sayles, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone cut their teeth under your wing, your mark on the form is undeniable.

That idea was explored in an interview I conducted with Corman last year on the occasion of the documentary “Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel.” It was on the heels of a David O. Selznick award from the PGA in 2006, Honorary Oscar recognition in 2009, a Fantastic Fest fete in 2010 and a Los Angeles Film Festival tribute in 2011. Indeed, it’s become rather posh to toast the maverick filmmaker, whose 400+ features may be on the fringes of cinema, but whose impact on some of its most successful artists simply means his fingerprint will always be on the industry.

And this year, Telluride is joining in on the fun, as Corman was the last unknown tribute to be announced when this year’s festival program was revealed yesterday. And perhaps it will be a good opportunity to see where the filmmaker wants to go next.

Judging by that interview in the fall, the internet is, in his view, the future of the medium. “These are poor times for the independents,” he told me at the time. “But…good times are coming. What did they say in the Depression? ‘Prosperity is just around the corner.’ Good times are just around the corner and it’s going to be the internet.”

He then noted that plans are in place to transfer his vast catalog of material to the web for instant access, really a brilliant move for a maverick like him.

Getting back to that legacy, there’s a great feature in the festival’s “Film Watch” program guide with thoughts and remembrances of Corman from the likes of Ron Howard, William Shatner, Joe Dante and the late Dennis Hopper. Naturally, one of the most thorough considerations of Corman as a directorial voice is Martin Scorsese’s blurb, which follows:

“I was aware as a filmgoer of his low-budget movies, whether it was ‘Teenage Caveman’ or ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ or ‘She Gods of Shark Reef’ or ‘Attack of the Crab Monsters.’ They were different from other B- or C-movies at the time. They may not have all been great films, but we knew that there was something happening behind the camera. They got our attention. So when the Poe films hit we saw something even more unique — a personality emerging from the Corman factory. Golng from ‘The House of Usher’ to ‘Pit and the Pendulum’ to ‘The Tomb of Ligea,’ which is my favorite, and ‘Masque of Red Death,’ this really set him up as a major filmmaker and a great voice. He was a great stylist

“I met Roger, and he asked if I would do a sequel to ‘Bloddy Mama.’ And I said I would like to very much. I think I got paid scale, but it didn’t matter, because basically you were getting the chance to learn how to make a film. Later, I brought ‘Mean Streets’ to him. He said if you could swing and make the characters black, I’ll give you a could hundred thousand dollars, and you can shoot it in New York. And I said I would think about it. But it would have changed the whole thing. I was disappointed, because I knew that I couldn’t make the changes.”

And on that last bit, it would have been a big deal for Scorsese to shoot the film in its Gotham setting. Alas, one of the things revealed (it was new to me, anyway) at his Santa Barbara American Riviera Award tribute in January was that the film was shot mostly in Los Angeles.

But I digress…

The 39th annual Telluride Film Festival will toast Roger Corman’s career today at 6:30 at the Sheridan Opera House. He will be receiving one of the Silver Medallion Awards during the fest and the program will be repeated again Saturday morning. Additionally, “The Masque of Red Death” will screen tonight.

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