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What if we told you that the man behind some of the cheapest, crappiest and most ridiculously named movies ever made (like Sharktopus, Dinoshark, Piranhaconda and 395 others) is also directly responsible for classics like The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Terminator 2?

How is that possible, you ask? Because the acclaimed directors behind those pictures all got their start making B movies with Roger Corman, and it changed the course of their careers.

So the next time you and your friends get drunk and settle in to make fun of some direct-to-DVD movie with crappy effects, gratuitous nudity and acting fit for infomercials, remember that if it weren't for Roger Corman, we wouldn't have directors like ...

6Martin Scorsese

The Struggling Nobody:

As every poor sap in film school eventually finds out, there's an astronomical difference between "finishing film school" and "actually working in film" -- especially if you're a director. Letting a kid who just graduated direct a real motion picture would be like putting a med student in charge of an entire hospital.

That was more or less the deal for young Martin Scorsese in the late '60s: Aside from a little-seen black-and-white film that took him three years to complete (he started it as a school project), his first job after graduating NYU was as an editor. Scorsese had his eyebrows set on directing, but who the hell would give a chance to a kid with no money, no connections and practically no resume?

Shockya
A man who directs films like Attack of the Crab Monsters isn't afraid to take risks.

The Sharktopus-Sized Break:

Enter Roger Corman. Scorsese had been a fan of Corman's work and met him to edit some of his films, since, you know, that's what Scorsese did back then. Corman, however, had other ideas: It was Corman who asked young Scorsese if he wanted to direct a sequel to one of his films called Bloody Mama. The only catch was that he had to do it for $600,000 and in 24 days. Also, he had to include some nudity at least every 15 script pages. But other than that, Scorsese would have complete creative freedom.

Scorsese said yes, and the result was Boxcar Bertha, a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style film starring David Carradine and a topless (at Corman's insistence) Barbara Hershey.

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*Sigh* We'll just wait here while you pull up GIS. Done? OK ...

The film was, in the words of Scorsese's mentor, John Cassavetes, "a piece of shit," but it put the young director on the map. After Boxcar Bertha, Scorsese asked Corman to produce his next film, but Corman would only do it if all the characters were black people so they could pass it off as a blaxploitation film.

Scorsese declined the offer and made the movie without Corman and on a smaller budget. The film was Mean Streets, the first "real" Scorsese movie, with all the usual elements like Italian people, violence and Italian people getting violent.


The artist hadn't yet entered his "oranges fucking everywhere" period.

The Result:

Mean Streets paved the way for the rest of Scorsese's career, but none of that could have happened without Corman. See, this is the magic of Corman's "Make it cheap and get that shit out the door" assembly line approach to filmmaking. Why not throw a talented kid at the helm of the project? What did he have to lose? It's a chance Scorcese might not have gotten elsewhere, and that crash course in movie making taught him everything he needed to know about getting movies done fast and under budget. You can bet that came in handy when he was directing Taxi Driver for $1.3 million.


Totally worth it, despite being forced to live off of his own fingernail clippings.

Hell, we'll just let Scorsese say it: He called working with Roger Corman "the best post-graduate training you could have in America at that time." And he's far from the only great director to reap the benefits ...

5Francis Ford Coppola

The Struggling Nobody:

After graduating from UCLA, it didn't take too long for young Francis Ford Coppola to find work as a director ... of shitty soft-core porn films. In 1962, he directed two underground films called Tonight for Sure and The Bellboy and the Playgirls, both of which failed to impress porn cinema patrons.

But at least he was directing his own movies, right? Yeah, if by directing you mean "turning other people's movies into porn." Bellboy, for example, was actually an already existing nonpornographic German film that he was hired to recut and sex up (or "to Coppola," as it's known in the industry). And, for all we know, that could have been his job for the rest of his life -- that's not the kind of work that makes studio big shots take notice.

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It takes two things to get noticed in the film industry: beard and scarf.

The Sharktopus-Sized Break:

It was perhaps this complete lack of shame that got Coppola the attention of Roger Corman, who hired him to "Americanize" a Russian sci-fi film he'd acquired the rights to. Part of Coppola's job was to redub the dialogue, even though he had no idea what the Russian actors were saying, which meant he had to come up with an entirely new plot from scratch. Corman also asked him to replace all the names in the credits with American-sounding ones and shoot inexplicable scenes of foam monsters duking it out on the moon. Coppola said yes to all these things.

Via Wikipedia
Look real close at that monster's chest. Yep -- it's a vagina.

Coppola ended up doing various other jobs for Corman's company in the following year, ranging from dialogue director to associate producer to sound man. He also washed Corman's car, literally.

Then, when they were wrapping up a movie in Europe, Corman noticed they still had a little money left in the budget and told Coppola (still working as a sound man at this point) to make another movie with it. Like, right now.

Coppola hammered out a script in two days, and the result was a sexy supernatural horror film called Dementia 13. Ironically, Corman wasn't satisfied with the amount of sex and violence in the movie and hired another director to Coppola Coppola.

Via Amazon
"Not bad, but can we draw more boobs on her? Maybe turn the grass into a field of dicks?"

The Result:

Even though he had disagreements with Corman toward the end and didn't work for him again, Dementia 13 meant that Coppola finally had something other than porn to put on his directing resume. The film made a decent amount of money, and soon Coppola moved on to direct more personal projects, including The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, which are widely considered to be even better than Dementia 13.

To prove there weren't any hard feelings, he even gave Corman a cameo in The Godfather: Part II, and admits that he made the 1992 version of Dracula as a tribute to his old mentor.


Which might explain the boobs on Dracula's head.

4Jonathan Demme

The Struggling Nobody:

At least the last two guys had studied film and presumably knew their way around a camera -- Jonathan Demme, on the other hand, started as a college dropout who reviewed films for small-town newspapers to survive. Demme worked as a press agent for an independent studio for several years, but he had as many chances of actually directing a film as the guy who made the coffee.

One of the worst parts of doing publicity for films has to be being assigned to some shitty B movie and having to figure out how to make this look like something people might actually want to watch. In Jonathan Demme's case, however, an assignment like that changed his life.

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No, we totally understand. Smile it up there, String Tie.

The Sharktopus-Sized Break:

Demme met Corman while working as a publicist for one of his films, a low-budget aviation movie. At the time, Corman was starting a new company and needed to make eight movies as fast as possible. When he found out Demme had written film articles and been involved in producing commercials, Corman thought "Close enough" and hired him to write and produce some films for him.

Again, this could only have happened with Corman, because who else on earth gives that little of a fuck? After a couple of years of working together, Demme asked Corman if he could direct a movie. Corman said "Sure, whatever" and put him in charge of a sexploitation number called Caged Heat. It is exactly what it sounds like.

Via Wikipedia
If this isn't what you immediately thought, you're dead inside.

While women-in-prison films are usually just an excuse to show a lot of girl-on-girl sex and girl-on-girl violence, Corman allowed Demme to use Caged Heat as a vehicle for social commentary. Social commentary, with titty shots (this wasn't optional). The movie was actually pretty well-reviewed, and to this day it remains one of the highest-rated films in its genre.


Which, when you think about it, is like winning a race against yourself.

The Result:

Demme directed two more films for Corman before moving on to his own work. Said work now includes critically acclaimed movies such as Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and, more recently, Rachel Getting Married. Some critics see in Caged Heat many of the same themes Demme would tackle in his later work, like sex, repression and female leads that spend a great deal of the movie in jail cells talking to creepy motherfuckers.

As thanks to his mentor, Demme has cast Corman in five of his films -- he played the FBI director in Silence of the Lambs.


"Moths? No, no, no. If you want to sell a movie, you need tits."

3Ron Howard

The Struggling Nobody:

In the mid-'70s Ron Howard wasn't exactly a nobody, but some would say he had it even worse: He was a 23-year-old former child star whose boyish good looks were beginning to fade out. Keep in mind that he comes from the same genetic material as this:

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Clint Howard, pictured at age 50, is what Ron Howard will look like at age 270.

It's easy to see Howard disappearing from show business altogether, like the kid from ALF (or sinking into drugs and illicit sex, like ALF), because Hollywood doesn't really have a lot of use for kid actors who no longer qualify for the "kid" part. What Howard really wanted to do was direct movies, but, as he later admitted, "No one in the industry was lining up to take a 20-something ex-sitcom kid and put that person in the director's chair."

Why, to get an opportunity like that, you'd need to find a Hollywood big shot who just didn't give any kind of a fuck ... wait a second!

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"You should definitely try a goatee, Ron. It's the boobs of facial hair."

The Sharktopus-Sized Break:

Enter Roger Corman, with his mix of incredible generosity and low standards. Corman promised Howard he would get a shot at directing his own film if he'd first star in something called Eat My Dust. Luckily for Ron, it was a car chase film and not some elaborate fetish movie. Afterward, Corman kept his promise and allowed Howard to direct his own film -- as long as it also involved cars and chasing. The result was a comedy called Grand Theft Auto.

Like Scorsese's Boxcar Bertha, Howard's first movie was made on a budget of only $600,000. Unlike Boxcar Bertha, it grossed an impressive $15 million, single-handedly turning Richie from Happy Days into a bankable director.

Via Wikipedia
Sorry, no bludgeoning of hookers in this flick.

The Result:

Howard went on to direct Oscar winners like Cocoon and A Beautiful Mind, plus the ones where Tom Hanks investigates a conspiracy, goes into space and bangs a mermaid.


Hanks is like a surrogate for everything Ron Howard secretly wanted to do, including fish.

So what did Corman's "Here's the movie, you'll figure it out as you go" method of filmmaker training do for Howard? Well, Howard has said that working with Corman taught him "the logistics of filmmaking, the language of film, how to develop a story and make it work for an audience." He even borrowed from Corman the trick of measuring audience reactions with a graph during preview screenings and then cutting the lowest points (which were then stitched together into The Dilemma).

2Peter Bogdanovich

The Struggling Nobody:

Bogdanovich is known for critically acclaimed films like The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon (and playing the therapist's therapist in The Sopranos), but before all that, he was actually just a guy who did interviews for Esquire magazine. When Bogdanovich decided he wanted to be a director, his method of breaking into the film industry without experience consisted of heading to LA and crashing as many screenings and industry parties as he could.

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"So ... anybody in the mood for a little coke, maybe a script read?"

The Sharktopus-Sized Break:

At one of those screenings, Bogdanovich randomly met Roger Corman, who offered him a job right then and there. Corman had apparently read an article written by Bogdanovich and was so impressed by his ability to put one word after another that he hired him as his assistant on his next project, a biker film called The Wild Angels. During the filming, Bogdanovich somehow found himself promoted to second unit director -- or as he put it, "I went from getting the laundry to directing the picture in three weeks ... I haven't learned as much since."

Bogdanovich directed two other movies for Corman: One was a Russian sci-fi film that he Coppola'd and retitled Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, adding new footage of telepathic blondes wearing shells for bras (who never meet the astronauts). It's currently in the public domain, because no one bothered to renew the copyright.

Via Classicscifi.blogspot.com
We don't know why -- that title alone is worth the ticket price.

The other one, however, was a thriller called Targets, which came about entirely because Boris "Frankenstein" Karloff owed Corman two days of work. Corman wasn't willing to let those two days go to waste and told Bogdanovich to come up with something they could put Karloff in. For two days.

The Result:

While Targets didn't make a lot of money, Bogdanovich credits it with getting him noticed by the studios. In only three years, he went from making B movies with Roger Corman to being nominated for eight freaking Oscars at the same time.

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Which made Peter so excited that it blew out his entire emotional response system.

Bogdanovich rarely directs films anymore (instead enjoying the occasional Simpsons cameo), but in the '70s he was a crucial part of the "New Hollywood" movement of young directors that pretty much changed the way studio movies are made -- none of which could have happened without Roger Corman, according to Bogdanovich.

1James Cameron

The Struggling Nobody:

You've probably heard the story of how James Cameron was working as a truck driver when he saw Star Wars and decided he wanted to make films.

It turns out they don't just hand cameras to truckers and give them $200 million so they can make Titanic, though. In fact, at that time the only job Cameron could get in the film industry was making miniature models for crappy B movies.

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Here he is, posing with his greatest piece: Christopher Titus' hair.

The Sharktopus-Sized Break:

Those crappy B movies, as you've probably guessed, were made by Roger Corman, and that simple fact made all the difference.

Corman's company hired Cameron to make models for a low-budget Star Wars ripoff called Battle Beyond the Stars, but he didn't stay in that job for long -- through the course of shooting that film, Cameron managed to get involved in other areas like art direction and visual effects basically by sticking his nose anywhere he could.

Corman, who didn't give a shit who you were or where you came from, made this truck driver a production designer on his next movie. While he was at it, Cameron convinced Corman to let him become second unit director on that film, Galaxy of Terror, a sci-fi horror flick featuring rapey space worms and zero-gravity boobies.

Via Wikipedia
"Making the aliens look like dongs? You, sir, are a GENIUS!" -- Corman

Cameron's work on Galaxy of Terror (particularly the performance he got out of the worms) got him the attention of the producers of Piranha II: The Spawning, a shameless sequel to Corman's shameless Jaws spoof. Cameron was working as an art director in that film when the actual director was fired -- at Corman's suggestion, the producers quickly replaced the guy with Cameron and kept shooting. It was his first directing job ever, and although Cameron himself had a falling out with the producers before he could finish the movie, at least he got to create some kickass flying piranhas.


Which, honestly, may be the greatest screenshot we've ever posted on this site.

Also, and perhaps more significantly, the hellish experience produced a fever dream about red-eyed killer machines from the future, which inspired Cameron's next film: The Terminator.

The Result:

The Terminator, of course, was a huge hit, followed by a succession of even bigger hits, including some of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Cameron later said about that dream, "I should kiss the feet of the scumbags who were responsible for me being in that dark and depressing state of mind." When Corman saw The Terminator, he asked Cameron how he was able to make such a great-looking picture, and Cameron said, "It was easy. We did the same thing we did when we worked for you. We just got to do it with more money."

And fewer boobs.

For more unexpected sources of creation, check out 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About and 6 Hit Songs Written By the Last Person You'd Expect.

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