The death of Roger Corman marks the significant end of a Hollywood era

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Much of what we recognise and appreciate in modern cinema came as a result of the filmmaking pioneers of the 1970s, where New Hollywood rose from the ashes of an industry that had steadily run out of steam. Often, and rightfully so, the ‘Movie Brats’ of the same era are credited with this industry flourish, with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola creating intricate masterpieces that would redefine the meaning of a box office sensation, yet this era may have never come to pass had it not been for the unstated influence of the late Roger Corman.  

A prominent movie director throughout the 1950s and 1960s, creating such beloved films as Little Shop of Horrors and The Intruder, Corman’s greatest achievements came not behind the camera but instead as a producer, overseeing countless major projects like the conductor of late 20th-century cinema. By the time Hollywood had crawled into the 1970s, desperate for consistent success to satiate the appetites of studios, Corman took it upon himself to become a shepherd for new talent.

Long considered a time of unparalleled creative freedom, the ‘70s might have looked far different had it not been for the commanding presence of Corman, who mentored countless filmmakers to make their formative feature projects. Coppola, for example, who would later grab the ‘70s by the scruff of its neck with the multi-Oscar-winning Godfather series, had his profile elevated back in 1963 when Corman produced Dementia 13.

Similarly, Corman gave Martin Scorsese his first major break with 1972’s Boxcar Bertha, with the director having only previously helmed short films and the micro-budget flick Who’s That Knocking at My Door. Scorsese and Coppola were just two of a vast school of filmmaking pupils, too, with Corman also giving a leg-up to the likes of Jonathan Demme, James Cameron and Ron Howard, allowing the 1970s to blossom with the emergence of the ‘Movie Brats’.

Funding and supporting burgeoning filmmakers was just one part of his efforts, however, with the producer also fostering the success of these great minds by allowing them total freedom of expression. “I did give these young directors a great deal of creative control,” he stated in Master of Cinema, “Probably from my own work as a director, I’ve always thought a director should have full control on the set. I work with them and still work with directors in some detail in pre-production, but once the picture starts, I hardly even go to the set…For me, the producer’s work is in pre-production and then again in post-production, but during the film, it is the director’s film”.

Where contemporary Hollywood is in a similar state of creative bankruptcy, it’s a wonder who exactly is shepherding the emergence of talent as Corman had done in the 1960s, with the industry severely lacking someone with the same passion and love for the moving image. Starting Coppola off on his filmmaking journey back in 1963, Corman recently saw what is likely to be the end of his mentee’s career with 2024’s Megalopolis, with the producer being a constant overseer of talent throughout the generations.  

The passing of the producer, director and pioneer of independent cinema, and, indeed, the forthcoming release of Megalopolis, marks the end of the era of unabashed Hollywood creativity, where filmmakers and creatives were given licence to run wild with their imaginations. Now, in an industry dominated by box office numbers and studio meddling, we could really do with another Roger Corman.

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