Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Potent Review Of The Movie Shame

By Shawn Holloway

Roger Corman directed some truly commendable films in his day, and Shame may be one of his crowning achievements. The director may be most well known for his proficiency at churning out schlocky B movies with cheap monster costumes, cute girls in their underwear and Z grade scripts, but he found time now and then to really put his heart and soul into creating more personal, meaningful films in between all the more marketable drive-in flicks. Put Shame on your queue next time you sign into your movie download service.

Shame is a truly courageous film. It deals with the issue of racism in the south, but it did so at the dawn of the civil rights era. It was easy to make a movie about racism in the eighties or nineties. Making a movie about racism in the early sixties, that's another story entirely. Corman actually made this film in the south, in the early sixties, and he was constantly threatened and harassed by the populace of the small rural town where the film was set.

William Shatner really owns the role of the villain in this film. It's his boyish charm that makes it work.

The concept of the charming racist villain may have been inspired by Adolf Hitler. Corman could have hired a villain actor to play the villain, but the inspired choice of casting someone who seems innocent on the outside exemplifies a primary theme of the film, that being that you need a handsome spokesman to sell ugly ideas.

Corman and his crew were run out of town by the local police when it became clear what sort of a film they were creating, and that it could mean trouble for segregationists. The final shots were literally filmed "on the run". As in, Corman was filming at one end of the street while a virtual lynch mob was closing in from the opposite end of the street, so Corman had to grab the shots and flee.

At this year's Oscars, the lifetime achievement award goes to Roger Corman, and there has been remarkably little coverage of his life and his work. It's too bad, because few filmmakers have contributed so much to the world of cinema for so little thanks.

Yes, Corman made a name for himself as a schlockmeister, but he also directed some real American classics and he launched the careers of Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Martin Scorsese, to name a few. The modern cinematic landscape wouldn't be the same without Corman's incredible contributions to the industry.

If you still haven't seen any of Corman's good movies, start with this one, then check out X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes. Yes, he made a lot of cheap monster movies, he made the sort of sci-fi flicks where you could see the zippers on the alien's suit, but he also made some true classics both in the horror and sci-fi genres, and outside of his familiar territory, and Shame is an example of what gifts the man has when he can step away from the marketable genres and really put his heart and daring into a project.

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