Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses / Machete Maidens Unleashed
A double feature book / movie review.
Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses
"Roger Corman: King of the B Movie"
by Chris Nashawaty NYT review
Crab Monsters is book exclusively about Roger Corman following his career from his pre-movies engineer student at Stanford to his Oscar for lifetime achievement. It's a nicely printed coffee table book written by an Entertainment Weekly author transitioning from to book author.
For those unfamiliar with Roger Corman, as the book substitle indicates, he was a director and still produces low budget B movies. Over the years, the market for these has constantly changed, and he has changed with it. Originally many went to drive-ins where Hayes Code / MPAA ratings were not a big concern. Later he transitioned to straight to video production, and now he does a lot of movies for cable TV.
Corman has always been very financially stingy with his films. He has a great record of on-time and on-budget, and finding a way to make money off a film. That part I knew already.
Reading this, I learned some of his tricks. If it flops with one title, cut in a few more scenes from somewhere else and release with a new title. Repeat as needed. He is very formulaic with scripts and not terribly flexible on that account. Every ten minutes or so there needs to be some skin or some excitement to wake the audience up. Not too much profanity, though. He is very flexible in job roles however. James Cameron was hired off the street to a minor prop department position and promoted to art director within a single film. (Corman: "What's this?" Cameron: "It's a spaceship with tits." Corman: "This is it, that is exactly what I want. You build it." Film is Battle Beyond The Stars, budget of mil, released summer 1980 with a box office take of .5mil.)
In keeping with Nashawaty's past, the book is largely a simple structure, with very little text by Nashawaty. Instead he has tracked down more than sixty people who worked with Roger Corman, plus the man himself, to interview. The bulk of the book reads like a large conversation. On one page you'll have Sylvester Stallone, a couple of quotes later, Shatner, then Ron Howard, then Marky Ramone, then James Cameron, then Francis Ford Coppola.
The text is arranged into a few broad chapters and then roughly chronological within each topic. The extensive original sources make for interesting reading. Anytime you get bored of one point of view, there is another. The illustrations are good, using framegrabs and movie posters mostly, as Corman wasn't one to be making promotional stills. What the book lacks, and seriously needs, is an index. What movies are on what pages? And what pages have which people commenting?
Three girls out of a four girl Student Nurse formula.
The film half of this double feature review is about film making in the Philippines. Specifically films made for US release. Corman is one producer doing these, but not the only one. The Philippines where an excellent location for shooting low budget films in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Marcos military was glad to lend equipment and soldiers as extras. Extras and stunt men were cheap. Average annual salary of US00 or US00 to be the guy who falls out a second floor window. "Hit them, that's what they are being paid for" is the direction one actor gets during a fight scene. The jungle locations were also picturesque and made scantily clad women all the more plausible. And far from the health and safety or union official, things got done cheaply.
Like the book, this is structured in a chronological format with extensive interviews, intercut with trailers and film clips. The film is 88 minutes, but the DVD extras include approximately that amount of more interviews, plus complete trailers for several films mentioned.
One interesting thing I learned from this film was about Weng Weng, the midget who starred as a James Bond parody. All the clips shown are from For Y'ur Height Only, the complete film appears to be at Internet Archive or as a four minute trailer on Youtube. The Internet seems to have some other complete Weng Weng films, too.
Eight days out of a ten day shoot.
Final thought: has also just watched the Corman produced Ron Howard Grand Theft Auto