There’s a meme circulating, and rather a good one, in which bloggers name the ten film books that exerted the greatest influence on them. It’s a voluntary meme, but it’s so seductive — one wants to pay tribute to those things that transformed one, like a sort of cinematic Charles Atlas pamphlet, into a bulging MAN.
I’m cheating in all kinds of ways with my list, because I think enough has been said about Hitchcock-Truffaut, and I want to be interesting, and I’ve probably paid more than sufficient homage to A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (though i still have plenty more to watch from that one). But anyhow ~
Fiona and I with newly signed book.
1) How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime — Roger Corman (with Jim Jerome) delivers most of Corman’s best anecdotes, and much of the lecture he would give his young proteges, which is full of practical and artistic wisdom. (“The eye is the organ most used in movie-watching. If you can’t interest the eye, you’ll never engage the mind.”) And he secures quotes from these guys which make up about a third of the book:
MARTIN SCORSESE: He once said, “Martin, what you have to get is a very good first reel because people want to know what’s going on. Then you need a very good last reel because people want to hear how it all turns out. Everything else doesn’t really matter.” Probably the best sense I have ever heard in the movies.”
Roger Corman’s autograph; “Pen Emm.”
The book is also very funny, as in the stuff about shooting TEENAGE CAVEMAN (with Robert Vaughn, later “remade” by Larry Clark), which Corman is very insistent was called PREHISTORIC WORLD when he made it.
BEACH DICKERSON: I must be the only person who played three death scenes and attended his own funeral in the same movie. I had to be the guy who drowns in the Sucking Sands, as the tribe called them. It was actually a rather scummy jungle part of an arboretum in Pasadena. Then we got to Bronson and we’re filming the funeral and Roger says, “What are you doing here?” and I say, “Roger, this is my funeral. The tribe is grieving over me.” He says, “No one will recognise you. Play a tom-tom at the funeral.” Then he asks me to be the Man from the Burning Plains who rides into the tribe’s land, drops off the horse, and dies. “What about the stuntman?” I ask. “Put Beach in the stranger’s outfit,” he yells, and they drape me up looking like General Grant with a bearskin rug and a big black wig.
Then we go to the big bear hunt scene. “Who do you have for the bear?” I ask Roger. “You,” he says, and they bring me this huge bear-skin suit. “How the hell am I going to play a bear?” I ask him.
“How do I know?” he says.
“But Roger, this is insane. I’m no stuntman. I’m just a fucking half-assed little actor.”
“Don’t make problems. Just do it.” The true Roger Corman speaks up. So after a couple of these takes where I come down this hill with my head hanging between my legs it’s 150 degrees inside this fucking bearsuit and I’m dying. I get down the hill, he yells, “BEAR, STAND UP!” I stand up. “BEAR, GROWL!” So I growl. He goes, “MEAN, BEAR, MEAN!” I growl louder, scratch the air with my deadly paws. “MEANER, BEAR, I WANT YOU MEANER!” he yells.
I’m going nuts inside this suit, growling and flailing, and then he yells to the rest of the extras, “Okay, tribesmen, KILL THAT FUCKING BEAR!” and thirty guys jump on me, take me down, and beat the shit out of me.