Roger Corman: King of the B's

Sunday, February 17, 2008

One of the most genuinely cherished moments of the Oscars is when the Academy bestows an honorary award on one of its most venerable and august members, either to compensate for never having gotten around to giving the filmmaker in question an actual Academy Award ( cough Robert Altman cough), or as recognition of a career dedicated to excellence. (In addition to Altman, recent recipients include Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford, composer Ennio Morricone and screenwriter Ernest Lehman.) But every year, the Academy manages to snub someone who, throughout his 52-year career, has been a virtual one-man Oscar machine. He's a director and a producer who has helped keep alive the very horror genre that now keeps Hollywood afloat; he's one of the most resourceful filmmakers Hollywood has ever known, continuing the great tradition of Ed Wood in gleaning leftover sets and discarded props from other productions to make such B-movie classics as "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Little Shop of Horrors" and (who could forget it?) "Attack of the Crab Monsters." His is a style rooted in Hollywood's love of ballyhoo, exploitation and pulp spectacle. He was independent before there were "indies," guerrilla before it was hip. What's more, he has had an incalculable effect on the art form, training plenty of directors and actors -- more than 40 by our count -- who got their starts in movies with titles like "Dementia 13" and "Caged Heat" before going on to win Oscars themselves.

Nearly 400 films later, Roger Corman is, astonishingly, still working. His is a lifetime of nothing but achievement. Give him the Oscar, Academy, or we call out the brain-eating crabs.

-- Ann Hornaday

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