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Independent Film Icon, B-Movie King Roger Corman Passes Away At 98

May 12, 2024 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Roger Corman Bloody Mama Image Credit: American International Pictures

The world of independent film has lost a titan in Roger Corman, who passed away late last week. Deadline reports that Corman, one of the most influential filmmakers in history and a master of B-movies, passed at his Santa Monica on Thursday at the age of 98.

Corman was a formative voice in independent cinema, with a 70 year career that began in 1954. He was known for his B-movies, many of which have become cult classics, but also for his impact on cinematic history by mentoring and launching the careers of such names as Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Dante, James Cameron, Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Dianne Ladd and many, many more.

Born in Detroit, Corman decided to go into filmmaking after four days working as an engineer, a career he went to college for. His younger brother Gene was an agent and Corman began his work in the industry in the mail room of 20th Century Fox. Corman eventually worked his way up to the job of story reader, but left Fox after he received no credit for ideas he contributed to the 1950 Western The Gunfighter.

Working on his own, Corman sold his first script (for Hollywood Dragnet) and used the money to finance his first film as a producer. That was 1954’s Monster from the Ocean Floor, which did well enough that he decided to continue producing. his next film was the 1955 racing thriller The Fast and the Furious, whose title would be licensed decades later for the Vin Diesel-starring film that kicked off a blockbuster franchise.

Corman would continue to produce and also got behind the camera to direct, his first such film being the 1955 Western Five Guns West. That was the first of over 70 films that he would direct in his career, including the original 1960 version of The Little Shop of Horrors, 1959’s comedy horror film A Bucket of Blood, and seven films in the 1960s in which he adapted Edgar Allen Poe works: House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Premature Burial, Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Haunted Palace, and The Masque of the Red Death. Vincent Price starred in each film except The Premature Burial.

As extensive of a directing career as he had, Corman will always be known primarily for his producing with 300 such films to his credit. His reputation for giving many top names in front of and behind the camera was affectionately known as the “Roger Corman Film School.” Ron Howard said that Corman told him while directing Grand Theft Auto, “If you do a good job on this film, you’ll never have to work for me again.”

In addition to the previously-mentioned names, “graduates” of Corman included influential producers Polly Platt and Gale Anne Hurd, directors Declan O’Brien and Curtis Hanson, and stars Charles Bronson, Michael McDonald, Tommy Lee Jones, Talia Shire, Sandra Bullock, Robert De Niro, and David Carradine. Many of Corman’s proteges ended up paying tribute to him by having him cameo in their films; his acting credits included The Godfather Part II, The Howling, The Silence of the Lambs, Apollo 13, Philadelphia, Scream 3 and Body Bags.

While his status as the King of B-Movies perhaps kept him from getting the proper recognition he deserved from the industry, he was honored with a number of awards throughout his career including an honorary Academy Award in 2010, a Life Career Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (aka the Saturn Awards), and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the likes of the American Cinema Editors, the Bram Stoker Awards, the Satellite Awards, and the Producer’s Guild of America. He is in several Hall of Fames including the Visual Effects Society and the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends, and world of fans of Mr. Corman’s. Cinema would not in any way, shape or form be the same without him.

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Roger Corman, Jeremy Thomas