Any D-movie fan worth their salt has a fond recollection or two of the movies produced by the legendarily economical Roger Corman, be it the preponderance of stock footage explosions, outright steals from bigger films (Jurassic Park, meet Carnosaur), or monster costumes held together with Scotch Tape and K-Y slime. (My personal favorite: the bright yellow Golden Arches spaceship that somehow managed to show up in every single damn space movie he made in the '80s.) Chintzy as Corman's films often were, however, you gotta give him this: He never tried to swindle the viewer out of the beasts, breasts, and skeeze that they came to see.
The films that Corman directed himself occasionally breathed a more rarified air, as evidenced by The Roger Corman Collection, a new eight-film set crammed to the gills with schlocky, genre-spanning nirvana. I mean, really: You've got Southern-fried melodrama (1970's Bloody Mama, with Shelley Winters and an extremely young Robert De Niro having a scenery chew-off), hot rod potboilers (1963's The Young Racers), and weirdo counterculture drug sagas (1966's The Wild Angels, featuring a wonderful performance by Corman regular Bruce Dern; and 1967's The Trip, written by Jack Nicholson). Not all of them completely fly (1971's end-of-the-world saga Gas-s-s-s! remains a big skuzzy pile of WTF), but none of them ever come even close to dull.
And then there are the three that make you genuinely ponder what the filmmaker could've done if ever handed a budget in the six figures. 1962's The Premature Burial, one of several memorable Edgar Allen Poe adaptations helmed by Corman, boasts an exceptionally stylized fever dream ambiance. 1959's comic horror A Bucket of Blood sizzles with devastating beatnik wit. Finally, the crown jewel of the collection, 1963's X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, is the sort of murky, shivery thing that makes respectable folks into devout junk-movie fans for life. Once you witness that immortal ending—whether on the drive-thru, grindhouse, or TV screen—it's impossible to ever un-see it. Gah. ANDREW WRIGHT