Roger Corman: The Little Shop of Horrors cult B-movie director dies ...

28 days ago

Roger Corman died at his home in Santa Monica in California last Thursday, his family said. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Roger Corman - Figure 1
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Roger Corman, who directed a series of cult films including 1960's The Little Shop of Horrors, has died aged 98.

His family told industry publication Variety that he died on Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, California.

"His films were revolutionary and iconoclastic, and captured the spirit of an age," their statement said.

Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro are among the actors he helped develop. Directors James Cameron and Martin Scorsese cut their teeth on his films.

Many of his films became cult classics and he became famous for the speed at which he worked, often making two films at the same location and at the same time, in order to save money.

Roger Corman was born in Detroit on 5 April 1926. His father, William, was an engineer and he had intended to follow in his footsteps.

However, while studying at college, he became attracted to film-making and after a spell working for General Motors quit his job and went to work at 20th Century Fox as a messenger boy.

Having failed to make much progress, he set off for Europe where among other things, he briefly studied English literature at Oxford. He returned to the US with ambitions to become a screenwriter.

He sold his first script, The House in the Sea, in 1953 and it was filmed as Highway Dragnet the following year with Corman being credited as co-producer.

However, he was so upset by the changes made to his story that he scraped together some cash and set himself up as a producer.

Corman began directing in 1955 with Swamp Women and over the next 15 years he made more than 50 films, gaining a reputation for the speed with which he could turn them out.

Roger Corman - Figure 2
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It became something of a joke in the film industry that Corman could negotiate a contract from a public phone, shoot the film in the phone box and pay for it with the coins in the change slot.

The 1960 release, The Little Shop of Horrors, which featured a brief appearance by a young Jack Nicholson, took just two days to shoot with Corman using the set of a previous film, Bucket of Blood.

A still from The Little Shop of Horrors. Photo: Archives du 7eme Art/ Photo12 via AFP

A stage musical based on the film opened in 1982 and would itself spawn a second film version four years later.

Corman decided to widen his horizons with a series of films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe and featuring Vincent Price as the lead in all but one of them.

The House of Usher was released in 1960 and was followed by a string of others including The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death and The Tomb of Ligeia.

His 1962 film, The Intruder, which examined racial tensions in America's Deep South, featured a young William Shatner and won an award at the Venice Film Festival.

Despite this, the film flopped at the box office and became Corman's first film to make a loss, prompting him to remark that he'd stick to making films that entertained rather than carried a social message.

For a time he became part of the 1960s counter-culture, making biker film The Wild Angels, which starred Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra.

He also directed The Trip, which was written by and starred Jack Nicholson. The film was seen as the precursor of Easy Rider, with both Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper featuring in the cast.

In the late 60s he set up his own production company, New World Pictures.

As well as continuing to make budget movies, he also began handling films made by distinguished foreign film-makers, including Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini and introducing them to an American audience.

He sold New World Pictures in the 1980s but went on to form two more production companies. He also returned to the director's chair in 1990 with the film Frankenstein Unbound.

Based on a Brian Aldiss novel, it starred John Hurt and Bridget Fonda and featured a brief appearance by Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of the Australian band INXS.

In 2009 he received an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement and continued to work well into his eighties, producing the 2010 films Dinoshark and Sharktopus for the Syfy TV channel.

The sheer quantity of films on which he worked is almost without precedent, as was his ability to find and nurture new talent.

Many of his films have taken on cult status and few directors have been so successful at making popular pictures on such tight budgets.

When asked how Corman would like to be remembered, he said, 'I was a filmmaker, just that,'" the family said in their statement.

This story was first published by the BBC.

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