to give or to keep: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics DVDs

Until I run out of cool giftable stuff to tell you about or until we run out of days till Christmas, I’ll be sharing some neat-o things that your geeky pals might enjoy, or that you might want to give to yourself, if you’ve been especially good this year. (Remember: There are 12 days of Christmas, and that clock doesn’t even start ticking till Christmas Day on Saturday. For the atheistic and pagan, consider that the Roman midwinter orgy of Saturnalia ran for seven days. So it’s not too late to buy gifties for your friends no matter what their or your Yuletide inclinations are.)

You know who Roger Corman is. He’s the 1950s/60s/70s filmmaker — writer, director, producer, distributor; hell, he probably did the on-set catering — who made a slew of cheapo exploitation flicks in the era before inexpensive camcorders and online DVD sales made that somewhat less impossible than it is today. He virtually invented the American independent cinema scene. And yet today he has become the punchline of many of joke, because his rep as cheapo and exploitive has overshadowed the fact that his films, cheapo and exploitive as they are, are pretty damn impressive and more entertaining than they have any right to be. And that’s especially true when you compare them to the A-list studio films of today, which are the clear descendants of Corman’s work… and yet don’t have even an iota of the passion and integrity of Corman’s oeuvre.
Look: Galaxy of Terror, from 1981 — newly available on DVD in a collector’s edition from the awesomeness of Shout! Factory, whom I worship for their dedication to glorious crap — features a scene that Annalee Newitz at io9 calls “the best worm sex death scene in the galaxy.” It’s disgusting, it’s creepy, it’s retrograde… but it’s also sorta disturbingly hot and, though perhaps it sounds contradictory, it’s kinda not misogynistic. It does my feminist cred harm to say this, I realize, but it’s true. The thing is: it’s shoddy, it’s ridiculous… but it’s honestly so. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. Which is more than can be said for all those $200 million Hollywood flicks that, while they might not feature women getting raped to death by giant tentacles, instead treat their audiences in a metaphorically similar way. (Fun fact: James Cameron served as production designer and second unit director on this film, so he may have had something to do with making sure the actress’s tits were slimed up enough in this scene.) The Corman movies, of which this is but one example, don’t assume you’re an idiot: they figure you might be smart but merely enjoy idiocy once in a while. That’s the key factor that Corman’s modern Hollywood imitators miss: they just treat you like an idiot.

Anyway, Shout! Factory has a whole new line of these Roger Corman’s Cult Classics on sale for your popcorn pleasure, with more to come. Most of those available at the moment are some variety of science fiction — with such titles as Humanoids from the Deep, Piranha, Forbidden World, Star Crash, Deathsport, Battle Truck, and Death Race 2000 — but there’s also such choice options as The Slumber Party Massacre, Crazy Mama, and Big Bad Mama.

Links below go to Galaxy of Terror. For the whole collection, click over to Amazon.com or Amazon Canada. (The Corman collection is sadly not available in Region 2.)

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