Though it is an indisputable fact that Roger Corman was one of the greatest monetary whores in the film industry in the 1960s-1980s, it does not alter the very real fact that his eclectic filmography and production skills helped not only the careers of many industry startups in the entire length of that period in filmmaking, but also established one of the largest presidents of anarchic cinema in modern moviemaking. Corman began his directing and producing career roughly in 1954 with the production of Nathan Juran’s sixth feature, Highway Dragnet. Though the work was superbly directed (if nothing else) it would spur Corman into the track of making low-budget films that could be marketed to the widest possible audience which would continue automatically that year with his production of Monster from the Ocean Floor (directorial debut of the very underappreciated Wyott Ordung). Obviously, Corman was not the only one currently working the film circuit at that point trying their best to get their schlock seen by the widest possible demographic, case-in-point was those he would meet on the set of Monster from the Ocean Floor.
The production was a plain rip-off of many famous monster movies at the time, namely Gojira (which was released the very same year) and The Thing from Another World (made three years prior). And with that knowledge came the attitude of hack-n-slash filmmaking in order to make the shot count and to get the reel in the can as fast as humanly possible. Corman’s producing talents would be celebrated and demonized through the decades to come, but at this juncture, his quick ten-day shooting schedules and conviction in what was being made (in the eventual profit if nothing else) would assist in inspiring Charles B. Griffith, who was friends with actor Jonathan Haze (whose first Corman film was Monster from the Ocean Floor) into writing. Though Griffith had been working in LA for a while already, working on stage acts with Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson, his hand at screenwriting was brand new, and Corman (after getting his hands on a couple of his screenplays) hired Griffith on the spot. Though Griffith’s third screenplay Gunslinger (and first produced credit) wouldn’t be produced till 1956, Corman would produce five films in the interim (three of which he would also direct) including his big claim to fame, The Day the World Ended in 1955.
Both men would partner up over the course of the next twenty years to create films in the exploitation market that not only stood as genuinely decent productions on such limited means, but also would propel many of the A-List actors and directors (such as Peter Fonda and Steven Spielberg) into what would become their careers. The most notable of all of the Corman and Griffith collaborations was the now infamous Jack Nicholson film (though he's barely in it), The Little Shop of Horrors. Though admittedly Corman has a filmography far larger in scope than Griffith, as well as the very evident fact that Roger is still kicking (Charles died in 2007 of a heart attack), it was the collaboration of the two that truly embodied the anarchic cinematic spirit.
Anarchic Cinema is an idea that anything can be done, at all times, in any fashion in order to create a film, as was presupposed by this article’s previous installments. Though this central philosophy can and is considered to be amorphous, that is exactly the point. Corman’s choice of movies was less on the burning desire to make divine movies with subtext or drastic change, but more to make money of the most exploitable elements that could be filmed. And because he had this mantra when approaching others to make films for him, it allowed a lot of extra freedom when it came to the filmmakers piecing the films together (including his own), though this could equally be attributed to Corman as it could to American International Pictures (James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff more specifically). Griffith enters the picture because he was not a director. Though the more influential writer attached to Corman could be contested to be Lou Rusoff or Richard Matheson (author of I Am Legend), due to their continuous connection with the Corman-Edgar Allen Poe feature films, it really is Griffith that stands at the truer breed of anarchic filmmakers. Not only was Griffith entirely focused on only working on the films that he wanted to do, it was also always with a personal creative stamp that he managed to do so. Many writers and directors in the AIP vein were fodder for whatever moneymaking schlock that came across their laps. It was a paycheck; it was a movie, go and do it. Griffith would cherry-pick the sleaze and low-budget drama that he would sign onto, and numerous times he turned Corman, Nicholson and Arkoff down for writing jobs if he wasn’t behind the idea enough. Again, many writers, including many working for AIP could contest at being the same type of person, but it was really Griffith that stood out of the mold in how he did it.
Now, a look at his credits such as Attack of the Crab Monsters or Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II would have anyone reading this scratching their heads in wonderment, especially given the personal tastes of this article’s author, at exactly how this conviction to Griffith’s complexity as one of an anarchic pioneer in filmmaking could be justified. Granted, many films in his menagerie are the lower ends of exploitation (Ski Troop Attack and Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II being the worst of that list), but it was the films he was able to shine that really causes such traction in giving him a second glance. His screenplay for Corman’s Not of This Earth is one of the more prolific and versatile screenplays on science fiction to come out America in that period (and probably Griffith’s best work). Though the production of the actual film falls in line with the guerrilla tactics Corman has become revered and spat on for, the writing is witty, highly subtextual, well-paced and possesses flushed-out characters that could be found just as easily in the classics of 1950s sci-fi such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Day the Earth Stood Still or Kurt Neumann’s The Fly.
Personally, there is a lot evident in the film itself to lead to believe Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space was heavily influenced by Not of This Earth and even go as far as saying Corman’s earlier alien invasion film It Conquered the World also served as inspiration. Though it isn’t a rising endorsement to say one of the worst filmmakers in history received his cues from Corman (as a director) and Griffith (as a writer), but then again, Wood’s greatest influence was Orson Wells. Though regardless of how the screenplay was brought to life, and by whatever means of delivery was utilized by that point, Griffith’s writing was unique and his own.
Anarchic filmmaking comes from an incessant need to tell stories, regardless of the method (as aforementioned). If it’s Amos Poe’s structure-less The Blank Generation, Takashi Miike’s Gozu or Corman’s I Mobster, it is an experience to tell a story, any story. Griffith achieved just that, and through his example (himself following the examples of writers like Willis Goldbeck and Charles Lederer) many more writers were able to get their work from the page to the screen (however mutated the final product may have been).