Bio-doc Corman’s World examines the maverick legacy of Roger Corman, who made his reputation, such as it is, beginning in the 1950s as the director of dashed-off gangster movies, horror-comedies, Edgar Allan Poe adaptations and motorcycle pics for American International Pictures. In these films and, beginning in 1970, as budget mogul of his own New World Productions, Corman provided an incubator for young talents, who would go on to hijack Hollywood, figures who now dutifully appear to record tributes for Alex Stapleton’s crew: Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme and of course Jack Nicholson, in good raconteur form here, lazing on his sofa like a lizard on a sun rock.
The problem with Stapleton’s film is that, while purportedly honoring the legacy of a “rebel” subject, it has an awfully traditional idea of what constitutes success. The main run of Corman’s output is treated as comic fodder — 2010’s Dinoshark is given as a business-as-usual sample representing the overall body of work, with octogenarian producer Corman viewed behind the scenes. Particular reverence is reserved only for Corman’s 1962 The Intruder, a self-consciously relevant problem picture dealing in race hate, while Corman’s acceptance of an Honorary Academy Award statuette in 2009 is presented straight-faced as a vindication of the great nonconformist’s career. With an opportunity to reconsider what “good” filmmaking is, Stapleton falls back on the most commonplace standards.