Autori Roger Corman Exclusive Interview

Roger Corman Exclusive Interview

“The Poe adaptations were really based upon his fears.

Poe worked both on the conscious mind and the unconscious mind; I think this concept came into the surface in the 19th century, a ten years later, settling Poe at the same concept to psychiatry and that’s really well worth in every way to Poe”

Roger Corman, that is the King of low-budget. A real icon, for all the movie lovers, the man who launched stars such as Jack Nicholson and directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, James Cameron, all of them coming from his factory. His Edgar Allan Poe adaptations are unforgettable, as well as Vincent Price, who was the unquestioned spotlight chaser in those flicks.  But Corman made a lot more things besides all that: in his very long career, he did not only direct an impressive number of movies but he still is a very prolific producer.

His most interesting titles are also the less known: The Trip, The Wild AngelsGas-s-s-s, a lot of non-horror movies which explore widest territories. Us, of crew we had the pleasure and honour to interview him during his recent trip to Turin, for the retrospective “Senza Un Attimo di Tregua” ( literally: “Without A Moment Of  Rest”) , which the Cinema MuseumMuseo Del Cinema (which we thank for the precious collaboration, in particular Veronica Geraci) dedicated to him. The interview’ s questions are written by Andrea Lanza, in collaboration with Chiara Pani and Corrado Artale. The interview was made by Chiara Pani.


We all know the part of your work which is related to gothic and horror, as the renowned series of adaptations of Poe, but we are always happy to remember the more realistic side of your filmaking, we can even say “pulp” in some movies. We think about “The Wild Angels” with Peter Fonda before Easy Rider or the war movie “The Secret Invasion”, without forgetting that visionary and peculiar flick which was “The Trip”. Which is the cinematographic dimension you feel more comfortable with, the one where you feel more creatively free, among all the ones you crossed?

I love the process of filmmaking, and I like to work in as many media styles as possible, so I’ve done realistic, contemporary pictures such like “The Intruder” which is about racial integration in the South and then, during the 60s I was part of the counterculture and I did “The Wild Angels” and ”The Trip” then, at the same time, I liked horror films also I’ve done science fiction as well so I’m very in between all of these and I’ ve come back to horror and science fiction after all the others.


In 1990 you shot a very interesting title, “Frankenstein Unbound”, which came after a long break from movie direction and which was partially shot in Italy. Would you like to tell us about this particular location choice and the project in general?

The picture was shot entirely in Italy, I was shooting near Lago di Como and the interiors in Milan. Actually, it was a picture I didn’t particularly want to do; Universal had done some sort of audience survey and came up with this worthy idea that a picture called “Roger Corman’ s Frankenstein” would have been successful and they asked me if I would do it and I said “No, there have been so many Frankenstein pictures that this would be just another Frankenstein picture”. Every six months or so they would call me and they offered more money. Finally the offer was so high that I said  “I can try an original way to do a Frankenstein picture, I would do it”, and “Frankenstein Unbound” is a novel by an English writer that I thought was original so I chose that.


In 1970 you produced “The Dunwich Horror”, a Lovecraft adaptation just like “Tha Haunted Palace” which you otherwise directed. Tell us about your personal approach to Lovecraft, who is usually quite hard to handle in movies, and which were the main differences compared to adapting Edgar Allan Poe.

I like the world of Lovecraft, I like the world of Poe, for me, I’m more comfortable with the world of Poe because the characters are a little bit more complex than Lovecraft, and I can work on both levels of conscious and unconscious mind. Considering the Poe attitude in the artistic work of Poe, I’ d always start with Poe. I liked Lovecraft, because he was not quite  as direct as Poe but he was very good as a script reference.


That is curious, it’s good to hear that because a lot of directors find difficult to work with Lovecraft

Lovecraft was more pop-commercial in 1920s, and sometimes is a little difficult to work with his characters and his plots because they are not so complex, everybody likes to work with a more complicated concept.


Your production career is extremely various and crossed the most diffent genres, from “women in prison” to giant monsters: tell us about the differences between Roger Corman as a producer and as a director, if there are any.

There are more similarities than differences, because to me the most important aspect, the most important element in a film is the original idea. So when I work as a producer or when I work as a director, in each case it starts with the original idea of mine, an idea that I have or it might be a short story that I like and I buy that, I then work with the writer on developments, and then I bring in the director on the final draft of the screenplay because I keep the franchise work with the writer on the final draft. Then the difference is I start turning away and  as a producer I prefer not to be on the set during shooting, I’ d be on the set the first day to say “Hello” to everybody  and if everything goes well the first day, I never come back. I feel the path point which the director and the production manager should take.


Why this choice of going only the first day of shooting?

The first picture I produced and didn’t direct, the crew was coming to me with their questions and I said “you should not be coming to me you should be coming to the director”  and they were so used to come to me that I really felt I should leave the set, as if they kept coming to me I should have tell them “no, not here, I’m not the director”  because the director was the person they should have gone to.


Now a question we really like: among all your works, there is one we personally consider one of the most powerful and gloomy adaptations from Shakespeare, Tower Of London (one of our personal faves) , shot in the 60s, which makes it a courageous and strong project. Would you like to tell us about this movie, with the particular choice of black and white, after having shot in colour, and if you consider it part of your gothic cycle or something aside from it?

I think that is on the outskirts on the Poe cycle, it has a resemblance to the Poe’s pictures  but is not within them exactly. The reason why it was done in black and white was I had done the colour pictures for American International (*AIP), Tower Of London was done for United Artists, they wanted black and white because they used it in low-budget films and that’s one of the reasons why I prefer to work on low-budget  pictures that I finance myself and what to run is my decision.


Now a very usual question: tell us something about you Poe adaptations and, in particular, about your work with Richard Matheson.

The Poe adaptations were really based upon his fears. Poe worked both on the conscious mind and the unconscious mind; I think this concept came into the surface in the 19th century, a ten years later, settling Poe at the same concept to psychiatry and that’s really well worth in every way to Poe. Dick Matheson, I hired him simply because of his very good writings, he wrote most of the Poe pictures and I think he did a wonderful job. In the genre, I think he’s one of the best, different and deepest writers.


In fact he adapted some of the Poe tales also in weird way somehow, also reinventing them,  making “melting-pots” as in “Tomb Of Ligeia”, assembling different Poe tales.

Yes. One of the problems in working with the Poe tales is that they’ re very short.  The short story “The Pit and The Pendulum”  is only a few papers long; the entire story is in the room with the pit and the pendulum and what we had to do was to create what to place before that so that we integrate with an end-up in the pit and the pendulum.


We can notice a strong irony in your Poe adaptations, compared to the writer’s tone which was more serious. Both you and Matheson had this gift of adding this touch of irony, tell us something about it if you like.

The irony was this: that once I had done the first few Poe films, I felt that I had to change a little bit because I was starting to repeat myself, I didn’t want the pictures to all look the same. So, they became a little bit ironic, and the we have  have “The Raven”, which actually is a fairly funny picture (“oh oh oh” and laughs)  and “The Tomb Of Ligeia”  became a love story and an horror film. So I used this as a way to vary the Poe stories.


In the 60s, so at the same time of your gothic movies, in Italy Mario Bava was shooting “Black Sunday” with one of “your” actresses, Barbara Steele. What do you think of the italian low budget horror directors of that era, like Bava and Margheriti or also Fulci, who claimed to use “The Corman Formula” as his method of work?

I know Mario Bava’s works the best of the three. I think he should be remembered more, I think he did brilliant works. “Black Sunday”, in particular, was the first one I saw and frankly, I hired Barbara Steele because I thought she was so good in “Black Sunday”.


Tell us something about your forthcoming projects

I have just finished a picture in China, is called  “Ghost Of The Imperial Palace”. I saw a picture in the set of a classical Chinese palace on the Chinese television national network and I thought it was one of the best sets I had ever seen. So I wrote out a plot by myself, which I often do, then I had the screenwriter to come in and write the story so everything started with the fact that a set was there so I could make a very low budget film that would look like a big budget film. The interesting thing was this how our cultures differ and why is so difficult for us sometimes to understand the Chinese: I’ve found the Chinese producer, I’ve made a deal with him to co-produce  and then we submitted the script to the censure. I didn’t know why the censure, he didn’t mention the censure.  And the censure turned it down on the basis that the ghosts are a primitive superstition and China is a modern country and it could not allow a picture of a ghost. To be honest my first thought was “we waste a lot of time here” but my second thought was “we don’t understand their culture”. Now, what my co-producer did, we waited a while, he took the same script, he changed the title from “Ghost Of The Imperial Palace” to “Mystery Of The Imperial Palace”  in the sense to pass the censure  so the picture would be known in China as “Mystery Of The Imperial Palace” (laughs) and in the rest of the world would be “Ghost”.


About Chiara Pani
Conosciuta anche come Araknex, tesse inesorabile la sua tela, nutrendosi maniacalmente di horror,musica goth e industrial e saggi di criminologia. Odia la luce del sole e si mormora che possa neutralizzarla, ma l’ interessata smentisce, forse per non rendere noto il suo unico punto debole. L’ horror è per lei territorio ideale, culla nella quale si rifugia, in fuga da un orripilante mondo reale. Degna rappresentante della specie Vedova Nera, è però fervente animalista, unico tratto che la rende (quasi) umana. Avvicinatevi a vostro rischio.

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