Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Attack of the Crab Monsters / Not of this Earth / War of the Satellites Roger Corman

Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Attack of the Crab Monsters / Not of this Earth / War of the Satellites Roger Corman
"We were trying, with our limited resources, to do something different and, I don't want to say 'revolutionary,' but maybe evolutionary," says legendary schlockmeister Roger Corman in an interview on this collection of three of his earliest, cheapest sci-fi movies. "We were trying to advance filmmaking to a limited extent, and I think the fans understood that." This self-analysis from the man who more recently brought you Sharktopus and Scorpius Gigantus contrasts somewhat with another interview in which he explains that he pitched War of the Satellites (1958) to Allied Artists the day after the U.S. Explorer satellite went into orbit, without a script or any story beyond the title, and had the completed film in theatres seven weeks later. Corman sounds downright gleeful as he recounts this story, as if he's still proud that he managed to get away with it, and for all his half-hearted attempts to position himself as some kind of independent maverick, the real reason Corman still holds a special place in the hearts of film fans is because he's such a legendary bullshit artist. We love the stories about how he rushed Carnosaur into theatres two weeks before Jurassic Park or about how, against all odds, he filmed the original The Little Shop of Horrors in two-and-a-half days. We love it when Corman's protégées, including Peter Fonda, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich and George Hickenlooper (all interviewed in this disc's "Salute to Roger Corman" documentary), tell tales of his compulsive penny-pinching. And we love the sheer audacity of something like Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), which has the nerve to introduce a giant, fake-looking paper-mâché talking crab as its villain and then actually expects us to find it scary. This handsome two-disc set combines Crab Monsters with Not of this Earth (1957), wherein the monster is a small bat-/squid-like creature on a clearly visible string, and the truly special War of the Satellites, featuring one of the least convincing space ships in movie history (its white plaster walls are not unlike those in Corman's office sets). Seen together, they make a case for '50s-era Corman's accidental auteurist touches. You have the regular stock company of actors (Beverly Garland, Dick Miller, etc.) and the weird, abstract animated credits, but you can always depend on his government offices to have a wrinkled world map on the wall and for the films to include scenes of "grey men talking flatly in a grey office," to quote Mike Nelson. But let's face it: the real reason we watch these movies is to bask in the awful, awful special effects and to celebrate Roger Corman's P.T. Barnum spirit. Put a title like Attack of the… on a marquee and the suckers will always fork over their shekels, and this collection is an excellent encapsulation of everything that makes Roger Corman a legend. The best extra is a set of 25 Corman trailers, which make a compelling argument for his evolution as a director, from the lows of She-Gods of Shark Reef to the highs of The Intruder, Masque of the Red Death and The Trip. The Frankenstein Unbound trailer's assertion that Corman's oeuvre represents an "exploration into the dark side of the American psyche" seems a little questionable, but hey: once a bullshit artist, always a bullshit artist. (Shout! Factory)