Nov 5, 2013



It's easy to sift through the producing career of Roger Corman and wonder why anyone gives a hootenanny about the man who brought us some of the most ridiculously titled, conceptualized, and realized films of all time. But dig a little deeper. Start doing some clicking. Start realizing he was the one to give some of Hollywood's biggest names their first break. You want actors? Try Jack Nicholson or Sylvester Stallone. Directors? Perhaps you've heard of Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, or Joe Dante. And believe me, this list keeps going. A man known for releasing decades upon decades of schlock has proven himself to be an invaluable asset for struggling filmmakers - a conduit between the oblivion of the obscure and the world of the mainstream. 

Everyone has their favorite Corman flick. If I had to pick mine, it would be a toss-up between the original versions of Death Race 3000 and Piranha. There is an undeniable power to these and many of his other films. As Wes Craven once said, some filmmakers have the power to scare you, but there are some other filmmakers that feel "dangerous" to audiences, and who can't be entirely trusted to stop at that line between acceptable cinematic horror and beyond it. Roger Corman has the power to infuse his own directorial body of work with that feeling of danger, as well as finding other filmmakers to find that same line and obliterate it. 

Three films comprise Roger Corman's Horror Classics: Vol 1: A Bucket of Blood and The Terror, directed by Corman, and Dementia 13, directed by a young Frances Ford Coppola. Yes, of The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation. For the first time ever on home video, each film has been digitally remastered and appears here in a high definition. Who'd've thought such films made on the cheap could look so fantastic?

Or at least varying degrees of fantastic. Given their age and original budgets, only so much could have been done. A Bucket of Blood might look the best, due in part to its original black and white format. Except for a few artifacts and mild blemishes, it looks pretty good. And watching Dick Miller in a rare leading role about a coffee shop busboy slowly losing his mind as he desires to become a heralded artistic genius is always a fun time.

Dementia 13 might be the selling point of this set, if only because of the man behind the camera: Frances Ford Coppola. One of his earliest efforts is about a woman who covers up the death of her husband by getting rid of his body, only to find herself forced to mingle with members of his family in an effort to keep up the illusion that he's just fine. (For the inheritance, you see.) One of these family members turns out to be fairly crazy, and they have an ax to prove it. Dementia 13 looks a little muddy at spots, but then quickly alternates to looking pretty smooth. Overall it looks great; a victim of multiple public domain video releases by distributors looking for a quick buck on a recognizable title, it might be at its best looking here.

The Terror, never a favorite Corman flick of mine, probably yields the least impressive results. Quite possibly another public domain titles for many years, it's one that's never appeared anywhere with a laudable transfer. I'd wager that while this is probably the best it's ever looked, it's not going to knock your socks off, either.

If you're one of the lucky few who's just had a spiritual awakening and realized the horror genre is your thing, and if you've heard the name of Roger Corman and want to start there, this recently released collection by Film Chest is your perfect prerequisite. A collection that shows off the traits for which Corman would become famous - gothic horror and morbid humor - awaits you with Roger Corman's Horror Classics: Vol 1.


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