Archive for Roger Corman

Women in Cages (1971) Review

Posted in Women in Cages with tags , , , , , on November 24, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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WOMEN IN CAGES

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- White Skin on the Black Market

Release Date- October 20th, 1971

Running Time- 81-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- James Watkins & David R. Osterhout

Director- Gerardo de Leon

Starring- Judith Brown, Roberta Collins, Jennifer Gan, Sofia Moran and Pam Grier as Alabama

Women in Cages released in 1971 is one of the early examples of Women in Prison movies a style of film that became quite popular in the 70s before starting to fade away in the 80s like many exploitation films. While this one may not feature the violence and sleaze this type of film is known for it still succeeds on both levels. It’s not always about showing the most, but how it’s done. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great example of a movie that is really graphic yet features very little gore, but yet many recall gore scenes from the movie since it was done in such a graphic way you think you are seeing more than you actually are. Women in Cages may not be the holy grail of the WIP movie, but in my opinion it’s one of the essentials of this style of film.

Women in Cages was produced by the legendary Roger Corman and if you’re a fan of his work you should know what to expect here. This film is from an era gone by and I really have a fondness for these films and the 70s rates as my favorite time for film of any genre, but the exploitation flick was just never the same after the 70s even if some good ones were produced in the 80s. Women in Cages only has a 4.3 rating on IMDb and while sure this isn’t exactly filmmaking at its very best it still has something to offer and what really makes this film for me is Pam Grier as the cruel Alabama. I’m a big fan of Pam Grier and this was a great performance and she looked stunning as well.

Carol Jeffries (Gan) is an American woman staying in the Philippines and is sent to prison after being set up by her boyfriend Rudy (Charles Davis) on a drug charge. Carol kind of naive is subjected to extreme conditions in the prison run by the cruel Alabama (Grier). While in prison Rudy gives Stoke (Collins) her fix and in return he wants her to kill Carol. Tired of the harsh conditions Carol hatches a plan with her cell mates to attempt to escape from prison, which many have tried before, but all have thus far failed.

The screenplay by James Watkins & David R. Osterhout is a lot of fun filled with entertaining characters and while most may not have a lot of depth they however for the most part add to the film. The plotting is fairly decent and I doubt people go into movies like Women in Cages for a deep and powerful script, but all things considered its a fairly well written exploitation film.

Director Gerardo de Leon delivers a fairly well paced film though despite running at only 81-minutes there are a couple of sluggish moments. As I mentioned this isn’t the most graphic WIP film in terms of violence or sexuality, but it has a good amount of both. The film also sort of has a mean spirit behind it as well. The final act is where a bulk of the action scenes take place and while fun, De Leon doesn’t stage them as strongly as other films. Odds are Women in Cages would have been better off with someone like Jack Hill, but when all is said and done Gerardo de Leon delivers a fun and somewhat mean spirited film.

Fans of 70s exploitation films and WIP films will no doubt recognize a good portion of the cast. While the writing for the characters like I said does lack depth, but the cast more than makes up for it. All the women are excellent in their roles however its Pam Grier as Alabama that elevates this film. I already mentioned Pam, but she deserves a ton of praise. This may not be Pam Grier’s best film, but a case can be made for this being her best performance. She’s a terrific and stunningly beautiful actress and she’s a joy to watch here.

Overall Women in Cages is a solid WIP film and while not the holy grail of this genre I do think its an essential. With a great cast and a mean spirited tone make Women in Cages a fun film with a very downbeat closing shot.

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The Big Doll House (1971) Review

Posted in Big Doll House with tags , , , , on November 19, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE BIG DOLL HOUSE

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Soft Young Girls Behind Hard Prison Bars

Release Date- April 30th, 1971

Running Time- 94-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Don Spencer

Director- Jack Hill

Starring- Judy Brown, Roberta Collins, Pam Grier, Brooke Mills, Pat Woodell and Sid Haig as Harry

Released in 1971 The Big Doll House by many is considered the film that started the new wave of Women in Prison films that were highly successful in the 1970s before fading by the end of the decade, but like always filmmakers will try and squeeze every last dollar out of something and a few were made in the 80s, but most weren’t very successful and the WIP film became a thing of the past. The Big Doll House wasn’t the first WIP film nor was it the first to feature the things these films would be known for. In 1969 99 Women was released, which was directed by Jess Franco and in someways that’s the film that started many of the cliches, but despite coming first it was the Roger Corman produced WIP films that kick started the genre and the Big Doll House is pretty much the film that got this genre going.

The Corman produced WIP films feature some violence as well as nudity, but they aren’t very sleazy with perhaps Women in Cages being a slight exception. That may have been a little sleazier than the others, but nowhere near the level these films would later reach. Filmmakers such Jesùs Franco & Oswaldo de Oliveira would very much up the ante on the sleaze factor, but while the Corman WIP films may be a little tame when compared to such films as Franco’s Sadomania or Oliveira’s Bare Behind Bars, they still very much deliver what fans of the WIP films expect to see and even if they lack the graphic nudity on sex they are in my opinion the best the WIP genre has to offer. The Big Doll House was a solid if not flawed film and my personal favorite film of this genre would be the sequel of sorts the Big Bird Cage (released the following year in 1972), but the Big Doll House is still a highly entertaining film.

Unhappy with the harsh conditions where torture is frequent and wanting freedom several women hatch an escape plan from the prison they’re being held in.

The screenplay was written by Don Spencer and its light on plot as the escape plan doesn’t enter to about the midway mark. The beauty of the WIP film is plot isn’t really required, but in someways it does hinder the script as it has no real identity or point for that matter. However the Big Doll House is still fairly well written as it features fun and highly entertaining characters (the excellent cast helps that) and the script is just a lot of fun even if it does feel like random scenes were written. Despite the flaws I have no issues with Spencer’s script that keeps me from enjoying it as again despite the lack of plot its made up for in the fun factor.

Director Jack Hill crafts a fun film that at 94-minutes does feel a little overly long due to the lack of plot, but to Hill’s credit he manages to always keep the film fun despite the pacing issues. While the film features all the aspects the WIP film is known for it also is a little restrained in content, which is why the Corman productions are my favorite of this genre. As much as I enjoy the WIP film and love the exploitation film as a whole too many filmmakers tried to up the ante by adding graphic nature, which I have zero problems with, but at times it did feel a little forced. That’s not to say the Big Doll House was tame, but Hill never takes the film too far to where it even becomes absurd like Franco’s Sadomania (which however was a blast). The Big Doll House very much earns its R-rating and again the film isn’t tame, but Jack Hill is a good enough filmmaker that he doesn’t need to resort to shock value for the sake of it. Overall Jack Hill delivers an excellent and fun film and while I did have issues with the pacing at times as I mentioned I was never bored though. This was Hill’s first WIP film and in my opinion he would master it with the Big Bird Cage, but when all is said and done flaws and all, Jack Hill delivers an exploitation classic.

The Big Doll House features a terrific cast and fans of 70s exploitation films should recognize most of the cast. Judy Brown also appeared in Women in Cages and her last credit was in 1986 with an episode of Falcon Crest. Roberta Collins also appeared in Women in Cages and appeared in another Corman WIP film Caged Heat and was also in Death Race 2000. Of course Pam Grier and Sid Haig need no introduction. The Big Doll House was Pam Grier’s first starring role. The previous year in 1970 she had a role in Beyond Valley of the Dolls, which was written by Roger Ebert. Grier would work with Jack Hill several times on such films as Coffy and Foxy Brown and the Big Bird Cage all of those, which also starred Sid Haig and they would later both appear together in the Tarantino classic Jackie Brown. Sid Haig also starred in Spider Baby, which was Jack Hill’s directorial debut.

Roberta Collins sadly passed away on August 16th, 2008 at the age of 63 from an accidental overdose from alcohol and drugs. After the suicide of her son she fell into a deep depression.

Overall the Big Doll is a highly entertaining film with an excellent cast and while the lack of plot in someways does hinder the film it is made up for in the fun factor. The following year with the Big Bird Cage, which is a sequel of sorts (though no connection between the films) is for me the better of the two, but the Big Doll House still isn’t to be missed for fans of the WIP film.

The song in the opening Long Time Woman is sung by Pam Grier. Not only incredibly beautiful and a great actress, but a very good singer as well.

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Haunted Palace (1963) Review

Posted in Haunted Palace with tags , , , , on November 17, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE HAUNTED PALACE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- What Was the Terrifying Thing in the Pit That Wanted Women

Release Date- August 28th, 1963

Running Time- 87-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Charles Beaumont (Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft)

Director- Roger Corman

Starring- Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Frank Maxwell, Leo Gordon and Lon Chaney as Simon

When it comes to the career of Roger Corman he’s quite legendary in B-cinema and while he has plenty of directing credits its as producer that he’s most prolific. To most Corman is just some guy that produces B-films, but I don’t think people realize the impact that Roger Corman made not just in B-cinema, but film as a whole. It was Corman who launched the careers of many Hollywood superstars and resurrected the career of Boris Karloff. When you produce as many low budget films as Roger Corman has you’re bound to have a whole lot of poor films and since the Hollywood monster grew and grew in the mid 90s the good portion of Corman’s films have been poor (though some are fun in a silly way, but not like those in his prime). While Roger Corman produced some very popular cult films (though not always credited) such as The Big Bird Cage and Women in Cages. While not the first WIP (Women in Prison) films they were the ones that paved the way for what followed. Even in slasher films Corman made an impact with films such as Slumber Party Massacre and of course monster films with films like Humanoids from the Deep. Nobody will mistake Corman’s work for Oscar worthy caliber films, but he is an icon in the film industry even if your average person doesn’t realize it. As I stated he launched the careers of many big players such as Jack Nicholson and Francis Ford Coppola. Back in the 60s when Roger Corman was an active director he actually made some very solid films and not silly B-Movies, which while a lot of fun don’t showcase fully how talented he is. However regardless if the film is good or a so bad its good film there is good reason why Roger Corman’s career has spanned as long as it has. And as I mentioned not making Oscar caliber films, Corman has an Oscar for his achievements in film and while some may disagree, but I think it was very warranted.

The Haunted Palace is actually based off the work of H.P. Lovecraft rather than Poe, but there was more marketing in Poe’s name and this was very common in the 60s to have all these films based off the work of Poe, but the film had little or nothing to do with his work. Actually not only the 60s, but even in the 30s with some of the Karloff and Lugosi films based off Edgar Allan Poe stories had nothing to do with them. It’s sort of like the based on a true story, which in reality has very little of the true story its inspired by. Regardless of the fact, The Haunted Palace is an excellent film in the careers of Vincent Price and Roger Corman and while I can’t say for sure its my favorite Price/Corman film it is easily a contender.

Joseph Curwen (Price) was an evil warlock that was burned at the stake by villagers, but just before he puts a curse on future generations of the villagers. Now 110-years later Charles Dexter (Price in a dual role) inherits the palace. Curwen possesses the body of Charles and seeks revenge on the ancestors of those who killed him while also trying to bring his dead wife back.

The screenplay by Charles Beaumont is generally well written with solid characters and for the most part the Haunted Palace is well plotted, but certain things just sort of happen with no real explanation, but with that said it never hurts the film. Outside of some minor flaws Beaumont’s script is quite well done.

As director Roger Corman shows here he’s more than just campy films. The Haunted Palace is well made with a great an eerie gothic look. Corman delivers a well paced film with plenty of suspense and again eerie atmosphere. As I mentioned Corman is more prolific as a producer and he’s produced some excellent films with many being silly and campy fun, but a lot of his directorial efforts weren’t silly nor campy and he deserves far more credit as a director than he gets. While he may not be on the level of say John Carpenter, Roger Corman in my opinion is still one of the great horror filmmakers.

The Haunted Palace is a great showcase for the talents of Vincent Price as he’s equally great as both the villain and good guy. Price was such a terrific actor and is one of the horror genre greats and in many ways reminds me of Boris Karloff as each brought a touch of class to their films regardless on quality of the film and both could play the good guy and villain and be great in each role. It’s always great to see Lon Chaney who was far better than given credit for and while Chaney is seen as a horror icon he was always in the shadow of his father and than later Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I always preferred Chaney, Jr over Sr and I like Lon Chaney, Jr as much as Lugosi (Karloff will always be the king of the genre for me). This film was released when Chaney’s best roles were behind him and this was probably the best film he’s made in years and possibly his last great role.

Overall The Haunted Palace is a terrific gothic horror film that has quite a creepy feel with a terrific performance by Vincent Price and Lon Chaney. It’s films like Haunted Palace that really showcase the talents of Roger Corman.

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Big Bird Cage (1972) Review

Posted in Big Bird Cage with tags , , , , , on November 11, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE BIG BIRD CAGE

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Women So Hot with Desire They Melt the Chains That Enslave Them!

Release Date- July, 1972

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- R

Writer/Director- Jack Hill

Starring- Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Candice Roman, Vic Diaz, Andy Centenera

When it comes to the exploitation film Roger Corman is one of the biggest names though more often than not he’s not always mentioned outside of the hardcore exploitation film fans. Roger Corman has been involved with 100s and 100s of films and though he may not always have an onscreen credit, but for me he’s one of my biggest influences and not only was he a pioneer in exploitation films, but he also helped launched the career of several notable actors and filmmakers. When it comes to the Women in Prison genre, Corman may not have started it, but he did however probably make the biggest impact on future filmmakers of WIP films. When you look at the career of Roger Corman when you are involved with as many films as he was you’re bound to have a lot of poor films, but Corman also produced (as well as written and directed) many upon many cult classics and the Big Bird Cage is one of my favorite Corman films and probably my favorite Jack Hill film.

WIP films are often known for violence and sleaze, but the Corman WIP films are a bit tamer than what would follow. The Big Bird Cage features some violence and nudity, but its not as graphic as other films within the genre, but that doesn’t make the film any less effective. This film is sometimes billed as a sequel of sorts to the Big Doll House, which was released the previous year. While the Big Bird Cage has some of the same cast and crew as well as being shot in the Philippines, but outside of that there really isn’t much of a connection and I personally don’t see it as a sequel at all. While the Big Bird Cage may not be the best WIP film ever made it easily though rates as one of my favorites. This is one of those films you can just sit back and have a good time with. The Big Bird Cage has been labeled a satire of WIP films and I suppose there might be a couple of satirical moments I wouldn’t label it one. Not every exploitation film that plays up to camp value is a satire. This film is quite campy and funny and it really makes for such an entertaining viewing.

Blossom (Grier) and Django (Haig) are revolutionary fighters and to start the revolution they hatch a plan for Grier to be sent to prison with Django breaking her out.

The screenplay by Jack Hill might be light on plot, but more than made up for in the fun factor. Hill’s script is often funny and while the characters might lack depth they are however a lot of fun. Hill’s script is quite clever and a bit different than most WIP films. As I mentioned this film is sometimes labeled a satire and while there might be a few satirical aspects, the script is simply meant to be fun and campy and Jack Hill very much delivers.

As director Jack Hill delivers an excellent and well paced film. From the very start until the closing shot, The Big Bird Cage runs at a smooth and fun pace. There are also so,e really great action scenes in the final act and made more impressive when taking into account the low budget. I’ve seen a few films by Jack Hill and this would probably be my favorite. It’s just a really fun film with strong pacing, characters and action scenes. The Big Bird Cage is just a real fun time and at 95-minutes it actually feels way shorter. If you’re into WIP films, this one comes highly recommend. Jack Hill crafts not only one of my favorite WIP films, but one of my favorite exploitation films.

There are some truly funny scenes here and Vic Diaz as a gay prison guard is a riot and is many of the more memorable scenes. And he even gets raped by one of the sexually frustrated female inmates. There isn’t anything in the least offensive since everything is so campy and another highlight is Sid Haig posing as a gay prison guard, which will have you rolling in laughter. Sid Haig did plenty of exploitation films and worked with Jack Hill a few times and this in my opinion was their best outing. Pam Grier as Blossom is a joy to watch and seriously was there a woman finer than Pam Grier back in the 70s? Like Sid Haig, Pam Grier also worked with Jack Hill many times and again this would be my favorite film they did together.

Overall the Big Bird Cage is one of my favorite WIP films. We have Roger Corman, Jack Hill, Sid Haig, Pam Grier, beautiful women and really what more can one ask for? This was just a really fun film with plenty of great comedic moments and excellent action scenes.

Shout Factory released this on DVD and blu-ray as the Women in Cages Triple Feature along with Women in Cages and the Big Doll House. I have the blu-ray and I must say The Big Bird Cage looks incredible in HD. Due to the age and budget of the film one cannot expect perfection. Grain levels are never overpowering and there is some minor print damage. Clarity is excellent and the Big Bird Cage looks great. There are a few shots here and there where quality drops, but for the most part the film looks wonderful and retains its gritty exploitation look. The audio was also quite strong as well and this was a top notch release from Shout Factory.

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Tales of Terror (1962) Review

Posted in Tales of Terror with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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TALES OF TERROR

** Out of 5

Tagline- A Trilogy of Shock and Horror

Release Date- July 4th, 1962

Running Time- 89-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Richard Matheson

Director- Roger Corman

Starring- Vincent Price, Debra Paget, Maggie Pierce with Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone

After the success of House of Usher in 1960, Roger Corman directed several films based off the work of Edgar Allan Poe and many of these films starred Vincent Price with a few written by Richard Matheson and all three are together again in the 1962 release of Tales of Terror an anthology based off the work of Edgar Allan Poe. Besides having the talents of Corman, Matheson and Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone also star however despite the amount of talent involved I quite honestly found Tales of Terror rather dire and I’d probably rate it as the worst of the Roger Corman films based off the work of Poe. However Tales of Terror also gets a lot of positive reviews, but for me it just wasn’t working and I found it a bit of a chore to get through. In 1993 Dario Argento and George A. Romero would team up for Two Evil Eyes, which was meant to be a TV series based off the work of Poe and in Two Evil Eyes, both filmmakers would direct a segment. Argento had the Black Cat and Romero the Strange Case of Mr. Valdemar and both those stories were also used in Tales of Terror. Two Evil Eyes never became a series, but regardless I found it far better than Tales of Terror.

All three segments were written by Richard Matheson who was an excellent novelist and screenwriter, but in my opinion this wasn’t one of his best scripts. The first story is Morella and after not seeing his daughter since she was a child Lenora (Pierce) returns to see her father Locke (Price). A few months after Lenora was born her mother died and she blamed Lenora as does Locke. While the story itself was interesting I’m not sure if it was interesting enough for a segment and this is something better off as a short story. While the ending was solid everything else just felt like filler. The 2nd segment the Black Cat has Montresor (Lorre) after Fortunato Luchresi (Price) for an affairs with his wife. This segment is silly and campy, but the problem is everything feels too forced and in my opinion this was the worst of the anthology. The last segment the Case of M. Valdemar has Carmichael (Rathbone) a hypnotist trying to prolong the pending death of Ernest Valdemar (Price). The last segment was the strongest in terms of writing, but it also kind of lacks. By this point the film kinda lost me, but the Case of M. Valdemar was overall the strongest.

Roger Corman was an excellent director and people tend to forget how good he was, but Tales of Terror isn’t the film to showcase that. Pacing is sluggish and the films just lacks the excitement. Morella just sort of lacks any sense of direction and Black Cat was a total camp fest, but like how the writing felt forced so did the direction. With a better script, Corman gets things on track in the final segment, but by this point I really didn’t care as I zoned out, but pacing was generally stronger.

The saving grace were the performances, which were excellent. Vincent Price like always is terrific and while I strongly disliked the Black Cat the only redeeming factor was the performances by Price and Peter Lorre who worked wonderfully together. Basil Rathbone also gives a great performance and if only everything else was better this could have been something special.

Overall Tales of Terror in my opinion was rather poor and more often than not I was quite bored throughout. Tales of Terror would probably rate as my least favorite film Corman made based off Edgar Alan Poe. As I mentioned a lot of people tend to like this one, but for me it was a total waste.

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Masque of the Red Death (1964) Review

Posted in Masque of Red Death with tags , , , on November 5, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH

**** Out of 5

Tagline- Look Into This Face, Shudder, at the Blood-Stained Dance of the Red Death! Tremble to the Hideous Tortures of the Catacombs of the Kali! Gasp at the Sacrifice of the Innocent Virgin to the Vengeance of the Baal!

Release Date- June 24th, 1964

Running Time- 88-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Charles Beaumont & R. Wright Campbell

Director- Roger Corman

Starring- Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston

Released in 1964 the Masque of the Red Death is the 7th film of 8 directed by Roger Corman based off the work of Edgar Allan Poe. The final film The Tomb of Ligeia would be released in the UK in 1964 and in the States in 1965. Everybody seems to have a different opinion on, which of the Corman films based off Poe is the best. If I had to pick one it would probably be the Haunted Palace though that film is based more off H.P. Lovecraft. Masque of the Red Death however is a very strong contender as its an excellent film. Of the 8 films the only one I personally disliked was Tales of Terror, but while Corman is known more as a producer despite having 56 directing credits and he’s also more known for his films as producer and director being more on the campy side (nothing wrong with that), but he’s also made some terrific films that are played straight with perhaps a little comedy and its Corman’s films based off Poe, which showcase what a terrific filmmaker he was.

Prince Prospero (Price) is safe in his castle from the red death plague he takes in some of the locals not to keep them safe, but to have fun at their expense. The screenplay was written by Charles Beaumont & R. Wright Campbell and its well plotted with some terrific characters. There’s nothing in particular I can cite about the screenplay that stands out, but its just a very well written film.

Director Roger Corman crafts a well paced film that looks excellent from a visual side. This is a different kind of horror film from Corman and while there is some suspense it doesn’t really play up to that aspect like some of the past Poe adaptions. The Masque of the Red Death is one of Corman’s stranger films as this has a few bizarre scenes. While this wouldn’t rate as my favorite Corman film I can easily see why some would list it as their favorite.

Overall the Masque of the Red Death is a solid film with a truly terrific performance by Vincent Price who really brings a touch of class to all his films. While Masque of the Red Death is quite odd at times it still makes for an excellent viewing.

Nicolas Roeg who would later go onto direct the cult classic Don’t Look Now served as the Cinematographer.

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Roger Corman-Vincent Price- William Castle Month Vol. 1

Posted in Roger Corman-Vincent Price- William Castle Month Vol. 1 with tags , , , on November 3, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

The entire month of November will be Roger Corman, Vincent Price and William Castle month here at LRR. Some of the Price films featured were directed by Roger Corman with the others having no involvement from Corman. When it comes to the Corman films I decided to mix it up. Some of the Corman films covered will be as producer.

And as a little bonus I’m gonna add at least 1 William Castle film. This is the first volume. At some point I’ll have another month dedicated to all three.

(The Corman produced films he may not actually have an onscreen credit)

Here’s the lineup for the Cormam and Price, Castle films I will review. (They’ll be posted in random order not the order listed here).

(Corman produced)

Women in Cages
The Big Bird Cage
The Big Doll House

(Corman directed with Price)

Haunted Palace
Takes of Terror
Masque of the Red Death

(Vincent Price only)

Abominable Dr. Phibes
Witchfinder General
The Last Man on Earth
House of Long Shadows
Comedy of Terrors

(Castle directed with Price)

House on Haunted Hill

An Editorial on Roger Corman and New World Pictures

Posted in New World Pictures: An Editorial with tags , , , on June 9, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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(New World Pictures logo used during Roger Corman’s time at the company, 1970-1983)

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New World Pictures logo more familiar to audiences used after Corman sold New World in 1983. (1983-1989) Logo continued to be used as New World Communications until 1997

By John Blythe, Guest Editorial for Last Road Reviews

Like most independent film producers out there in today’s world, one would have to be reminisced if they did not pay homage to a man who helped shape the direction of independent filmmaking into what it has become today. That man of course was Roger Corman and his indie film studio, New World Pictures which he had formed in 1970.

Just a few months ago, I had the pleasure of going to Mr. Corman’s old New World office on San Vicente Blvd. in Brentwood which is now his New Horizons Pictures Corp headquarters. To any typical passerby or even a B-Movie fan, you would never know that a small little two story office building belonged to Roger Corman. There was not even a sign on the building that said New Horizons. My colleague from England and I sat there talking about a particular project to his development executive when this tall old man came out of his office to look around. That was him. Roger Corman! The man who revolutionized low-budget filmmaking.

Roger Corman is a man who certainly knows how to produce a movie with very little resources. According to James Cameron, he once said that he could make a movie about the fall of the Roman Empire with “two extras and a sagebrush.”

So very prophetic of a statement that has become to legions of independent filmmakers who have learned from Corman’s craft and also a learn lesson to the handful of now-well established actors, writers and directors such as Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Joe Dante and Martrin Scorsese who came out of the Roger Corman Film School.

Corman’s desire to work in the field of motion pictures regardless of all obstacles started in the 1950’s. After a brief stint working for 20th Century Fox, he went out and directed his own films “Swamp Women” in 1955 and “The Little Shop of Horrors” in 1960 which eventually became a cult classic.

Corman’s fast paced ability to write, produce and direct movies eventually received the attention of Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures (AIP) which had really been one of the first major distributors of low-budget B-movies.

Adapting a handful of Edgar Allan Poe stories, Corman directed “House of Usher”, “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Raven” all starring Vincent Price. The effort paid off. Corman became an established “jack of all trades” in the film industry.

By 1969 however Corman was disappointed with distributors handling his films. Leaving AIP, Corman set up New World Pictures, an independent film production company that doubled as a distribution company in 1970.

From here, New World rode the wave of exploitation releases throughout the 1970’s and became serious competition for his old boss at AIP. Among a handful of releases included “The Big Bird Cage” starring Pam Grier; “Boxcar Bertha” starring David Carradine; “I Escaped From Devil’s Island” starring Jim Brown and Christopher George; Ron Howard’s “Grand Theft Auto”; “Humanoids of the Deep” starring Vic Morrow and “Galaxy of Terror” starring Eddie Albert and the bio-pic “Capone” starring Ben Gazarra.

“Piranha” is probably the most remembered film that Corman was associated with during his time running New World. A “Jaws” clone in style with a dash of humorous tongue-in-cheek, Joe Dante’s tale of carnivorous fish featured an ensemble cast including Bradford Dillman, Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele and Keenan Wynn and managed to become New World’s most successful release of 1978.

By the early 1980’s the competition in the indie competition had begun to dry up. AIP had become a public company bought by Filmways; Allied Artists had been consolidated and Avco Embassy Pictures had also been merged into a larger conglomerate. New World Pictures remained the only real viable indie studio in the market arena. Corman began seriously considering selling New World Pictures and moving back into the world of producing and directing.

His fortune turned bright when in 1983, an investment group consisting of Hollywood attorneys Lawrence L. Kuppin, Harry Evans Sloan and Larry Thompson bought New World from Corman for $16.5 million. Corman retained the existing New World library and agreed to a contract for New World to distribute his films for two years and serve as consultant.

Eventually Thompson resigned from the company the following year and Kuppin and Sloan brought in Robert Rehme as CEO who ironically had been New World’s vice president in charge of sales from 1975-1978. Rehme had also just recently left his post as President of Universal Pictures Theatrical Motion Picture Group and wanted to return to independent film. Having also ran Avco Embassy Pictures from 1978-1981, Rehme wanted to apply the same strategy of independent film marketing and distribution at the ‘new’ New World by taking the company public.

Corman felt rather uneasy about the indie studio’s new management. Realizing that his films were not getting distributed first exclusively by New World, Corman sued his former company in 1984. New World in turn counter sued accusing Corman of trying to sabotage New World’s public offering. Eventually, they settled out of court. Corman was released from his contract with New World and allowed to exclusively produce his own movies and New World was allowed to move forward with its public offering.

Under the new regime of Kuppin, Sloan and Rehme, New World Pictures became a publicly held company and more diversified. In 1986, the company changed its name to New World Entertainment, reflecting its now many units including New World Pictures, New World International (handling film distribution outside of the U.S.), New World Video (which helped revolutionize ancillary distribution during the VHS boom) and New World Television (which produced several TV shows including the NBC series “Santa Barbara”). That same year the growing company also bought Marvel Comics and Learning Corporation of America.

New World substantially maintained the same level of B-movies but with slightly larger budgets: Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” was the first film released by New World after Corman left the company. As CEO of New World, Robert Rehme declared that indie films could be successful with budgets of under $3 million. For the most part, he was correct. A handful of horror, comedy and sci-fi films were successful: “Black Moon Rising” starring Tommy Lee Jones; “House” starring William Katt; the enormously successful “Hellraiser” films which included its first sequel “Hellbound: Hellraiser II”; “Flowers in the Attic” starring Louise Fletcher; George Romero’s “Creepshow 2” and “Soul Man” starring C. Thomas Howell.

But from 1985-1988 while New World released nearly 100 films, most of them were unpopular at the box office, though some of these dismal failures including “Wanted: Dead or Alive” starring Rutger Hauer; “Dead End Drive-In”; “Return to Horror High” which was George Clooney’s debut and Robert Altman’s underrated “Beyond Therapy”, have since developed cult followings.

Sadly the ‘new’ New World could not sustain its aggressive ability to market and distribute films, let alone over-expanding far too quickly as a mini-major studio. By 1989, facing major financial setbacks, New World began selling its assets including Marvel Comics and dramatically cut back production and closing its home video division altogether. The same year, Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti which had taken control of New World’s primary competitor at the time Cannon Films, announced that he wanted to buy the company.

Instead, New World accepted a much better offer from investor Ronald Perelman for $82.5 million and steered the company into television operations until 1997 when it became a holding company of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp when the New World name disappeared for good.

After New World, Roger Corman started up Concorde/New Horizons Pictures (now simply referred to as New Horizons) which has done a handful of B-movies throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s including “Frankenstein Unbound”, “Carnosaur” and “Death Race” to name a few. His production operation has produced a handful of both film and television product for The Sci-Fi Channel as well… yes, I still refer to it as Sci-Fi, not SyFy!

As for Harry Sloan and Robert Rehme? Following New World’s demise, Sloan started a very successful broadcasting company in Europe before coming back to the film industry to run MGM studios from 2005-2009. Rehme went on to became a major Hollywood producer in the 1990’s on films such as the Harrison Ford blockbusters “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger”. He also served two terms as president of the Academy Awards.

It is a shame New World Pictures was not able to fully integrate itself into a major distributor of independent films. It certainly had the potential to continue to grow and prosper much like how New Line Cinema eventually evolved.

I often wonder why New World did not receive this opportunity. I think there were two issues. The first being that Roger Corman had formed a very successful distributor of B-movies but that when he left the company, he retained the library and New World already had trouble getting off its feet. Secondly, it seems that Sloan and Rehme may have jumped the gun too quickly when they made New World into a public company. While New World was certainly a busy mini-major with production, television, theatrical and VHS ancillary distribution, I think it is fair to say that they grew the company far too quickly and could not anticipate that New World’s expenses compared to revenues would be greater than projected.

And so goes the story of New World Pictures. While the company does not exist anymore, its many movies have formed a growing base of fans who appreciate the level of commitment and passion that Corman put into them, as did Sloan, Kuppin and Rehme.

I’ll go on record to say that I’m one of those fans too!

[John Blythe is an independent film producer and entrepreneur. He is president of the production company Film Regions International which has produced several feature films including the critically acclaimed, award winning groundbreaking documentary “My Amityville Horror” which was distributed by IFC Films. He has also worked in various capacities managing business/financial affairs on independent films in the United States, Canada, Britain and South East Asia.]

Sorority House Massacre II (1990) Review

Posted in Sorority House Massacre II with tags , , , , , , on February 7, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II

*** Out of 5

Tagline- It’s Cleavage Vs. Cleavers and the Results are Delta Deadly

Release Date- 1990

Running Time- 77-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Mark McGee, J.B. Rogers & Bob Sheridan

Director- Jim Wynorski

Starring- Robyn Harris, Melissa Moore, Stacia Zhivago, Michelle Verran, Dana Bentley and Peter Spellos as Orville Ketchum

Some people seem to be a bit confused as this movie is called Sorority House Massacre II, but clips from the Slumber Party Massacre are shown and some thought maybe there was some kind of mistake or something along those lines. Roger Corman was involved with all 3 Slumber Party Massacre movies as well as both Sorority House Massacre movies. This is a sequel by name only since there is no connection to the original film. The house the girls are staying at was the site of gruesome murders where a man killed his family, which would sort of fit in with Sorority House Massacre, but as the story is told in this film about the murders it strays from the original than of course the clips shown are of Slumber Party Massacre and obviously the story told in this movie wasn’t the plot of Slumber Party. I never read up on this, but I would assume this was billed as a sequel simply for marketing reasons since Corman was involved with the first film and since Corman also again has the rights to all the Slumber Party Massacre movies for whatever reason clips of that film are shown to further set up the story. It might have made more sense to show clips of Sorority House Massacre, but hey this is a B-movie so logic goes out the window.

This isn’t the first time Corman has used footage from his other films to further set up the plot. He also did that with the Boris Karloff starring Targets in, which Karloff plays a horror actor Byron Orlock and to advance the story of Orlock, clips of other Karloff produced Corman movies are shown.

Days of the B-Movie are seemingly gone as most low budget films are Z-grade cinema and Sorority House Massacre II is a fun time trip to another era. I first saw this movie when I was about 11 or 12 and I loved it. For a pre-teen boy this has it all. Hot women wearing as little as possible if anything at all. The 30 something in me, well the film doesn’t hold up quite as well, but with that said there is still plenty of fun to be had. The film was directed by Jim Wynorski and if you know his work you should know exactly what you’re getting into. This isn’t a Martin Scorsese film, but Wynorski isn’t attempting to be him and just simply makes silly, but highly entertaining movies.

5 women purchase the old Hoksteder place for their new sorority house, which was the sight of a few murders 5-years back. The girls get a little spooked by Orville Ketchum (Spellos) their creepy neighbor who is peeking around; the girls than decide to play around with a ouija board (nothing good ever comes out of that) and not long after that the murders start again. Has the spirit of Hoksteder returned or is it the creepy Orville Ketchum?

The screenplay by Mark McGee, J.B. Rogers & Bob Sheridan is exactly what one would expect from a B-movie and never tries to be anything more; the script is entertaining and fun and obviously we get interchangeable characters who lack their own identity and normally that does bother me in films. When watching a movie like this I don’t expect deep and complex characters, but I like for them to at least have their own identities, but in this case it doesn’t take away from the film. Even if the characters are pretty much the same they are however entertaining. McGee, Rogers and Sheridan know exactly what their writing and the script works due to the silly nature. Really my only complaint is the subplot with the two cops; it doesn’t really go anywhere and it seems like these scenes were written to get the script to a certain page count. I wouldn’t say these scenes were boring, but they were rather pointless, but besides that the script is never gonna go down as one of the greats, but it is enjoyable.

Director Jim Wynorski delivers a fun and campy movie and I guess the best way to put it is if you’ve seen any of his work before you should know exactly what to expect; we get beautiful naked women and if not nude wearing as little as possible. Sorority House Massacre II isn’t meant to be high quality cinema and Wynorski never tries to make it that. The pacing can be a little sluggish in some spots, but the film mostly works well due to the fun atmosphere created by Wynorski. The film is a bit light on gore, which is a bit of a letdown, but Wynorski more than makes up for that with the nudity or having the girls run around showing off as much as possible. Overall this is the typical film made by Jim Wynorski and if you’re just looking for a fun silly time Sorority House Massacre II should fit the bill.

Overall Sorority House Massacre II is B-grade cinema and while the 30 something in me doesn’t enjoy it as much its still entertaining and a good time trip back to another era. Sure the pacing can be a bit sluggish and there really isn’t much of a plot and its a little light on gore, but the film still mostly works and at only 77-minutes it moves pretty fast as well. Even if the film doesn’t hold up as well for me I still had fun watching it and fans of shlock cinema should enjoy. Co-writer J.B. Rogers would later go onto work on the first American Pie film and direct the 2nd.

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Roger Corman Tribute Poster Gallery

Posted in Roger Corman Poster Gallery with tags on September 15, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Various poster art from films Corman has directed or produced or made through his company.

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