Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Crabbing with Corman

Tim Lucas, publisher and proprietor of Video Watchdog magazine (and its attendant blog, Video WatchBlog, has decreed April 5 Roger Corman Appreciation Day, in honor of the filmmaker's 80th birthday (maybe next year for you, Peter Greenaway and Michael Moriarty). The idea sounded good, but I must confess it took me a while to get into the proper celebratory spirit.

I haven't really thought about Corman for some time, maybe not since beautiful double-disc laserdiscs of his timeless Poe adaptations from the early 60s arrived in my mailbox in the early 1990s. [I still have them, no matter that some have been superseded by DVDs; the packaging cannot be surpassed.] I'd read his autobiography (which the Wachowski Brothers, of THE MATRIX and V FOR VENDETTA fame, took as gospel and applied to their film careers) but it's been years since his star-making apparatus/cinematic indentured servitude threw up a big fish to rival the storied likes of Jack Nicholson or Martin Scorsese (collaborating for the first time with this year's THE DEPARTED)and no one's taken anything seriously that he's had a hand in since his last directorial effort, FRANKENSTEIN UNBOUND (I do hope he gets a vignette for Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR omnibus off the ground). Talk of an honorary Oscar has amounted to nothing more than that. [It's still not too late.]

It didn't take too long, however, for memories of his best creature feature, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (1957), to bubble up from my kid-dom. Talk about Highlights for Children; how many hours did I spend with that one? [Not to mention all the rest; IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED, etc.] It's just so creepy; the weird clackety noises that accompany the mutated crabs as they suck the consciousness from their victims, and their ghastly humanoid faces, were almost too much for my delighted/affrighted younger self. As if to defend against the occasional inadequacies of the monster suits once they were revealed, Corman's films often make superior use of sound to build suspense, but no apologies were necessary for CRAB MONSTERS. A little silly today, perhaps...yet I can still recall images from this near 50-year-old movie, while having trouble retaining much from, say, SAW II, which I watched three weeks ago.

And no one who sees CRAB MONSTERS can forget the memory-munching monsters when they call out for their next victim: "Jules...Jules!" Priceless. I used to go crabbing in Barnegat Bay, N.J., and remember feeling a twinge of anxiety whenever I felt a particularly strong tug on the line...

So here's to you, Roger Corman. Your fishing-for-change cameo in THE HOWLING always makes me laugh. May I suggest a bottle of Cheapskate wine, superior for the price, to accompany your 80th?

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