Bright Lights Film Journal

FROM NOT OF THIS EARTH TO NIGHT WATCH

This weekend, L.A.’s American Cinematheque mounts a tribute to 80-year-old producer/director Roger Corman, featuring several of Corman’s early black and white classics. Particularly recommended (if you’re in the area): Not of This Earth (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Bucket of Blood (1959), and The Intruder (1962). Corman himself is scheduled to appear at Friday night’s triple feature of The Intruder, Highway Dragnet (1954 – written but not directed by Corman), and Little Shop of Horrors (1960).

Newspaper types writing about Corman tend (unfortunately) to focus less on the films directed by Corman than on the various filmmakers whose early films Corman produced. Well, they are an illustrious bunch. Graduates of the “Roger Corman School of Filmmaking” include Francis Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Joe Dante, Ron Howard, Gale Ann Hurd, and – I was startled to learn – Timur Bekmambetov.

Seems that in 2001, following the success of Gladiator, Corman decided he wanted to remake his own The Arena (1974) about gladiatrixes, this time starring two Playboy playmates and, for economic reasons, to be filmed in Russia. To direct, Corman hired Bekmambetov, “the most famous director in Kazakhstan.” Corman was “able to build sets from the Mosfilm warehouse that would cost $10 million in America, and he got supporting players thrown into the bargain that would rival any actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company.” (Thanks to Joe Bob Briggs for this information.) Bekmambetov went on to direct Night Watch (2004), part one of a trilogy and, from a box office perspective, the most successful Russian film ever made.

Night Watch and Corman’s Not of This Earth would make a terrific double feature. Both films combine urban realism and poetic fantasy in stories of depressed vampires, drifting listlessly through their respective cities (Moscow and Los Angeles), indistinguishable in their appearance from you and me . . . .