Utah Tech professor laments the passing of the ‘King of the Bs’ Roger Corman

Utah Tech professor and author Stephen Armstrong holds some of his books on "New World Pictures and Roger Corman," St. George, Utah, May 9, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — For one Utah Tech professor, a hero died over the weekend. 

Filmmaker Roger Corman holds court in his office, Los Angeles, California, Feb. 3, 1978 | Photo courtesy of UCLA Library Special Collections via Marianna Diamos/Los Angeles Times, St. George News

Stephen B. Armstrong, an English professor at the university, not only idolized filmmaker Roger Corman, he published two biographies about him and a book last year on the Roger Corman-produced movie “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.”

Corman, labeled as the “King of Bs” for his B-movies, died last Thursday at age 98.

Corman was known for the low-budget movies he produced or directed like the original “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Death Race 2000,” “Pirhana” and “Battle Beyond the Stars.” He launched the acting careers of Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Bruce Dern and Ellen Burstyn. And he fostered the directing careers of James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Joe Dante and Martin Scorsese, according to the Associated Press.

While known for cutting financial corners using the same stock footage and musical scores in multiple movies, Armstrong found that in person, there was nothing cheap about Corman. 

“He was a fundamentally decent person … tight with his money, certainly, but generous with his time,” Armstrong said in an e-mail with St. George News. “He’d take my calls and see me in person to answer my questions about his career as an independent producer.”

Utah Tech professor and author Stephen Armstrong poses in front of album covers at Caffe Elevato, St. George, Utah, May 9, 2023 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Along with the recent book on “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” Armstrong also wrote both volumes of “Roger Corman’s New World Pictures: An Oral History.”

Armstrong was especially fond of one particular hour he got to spend with Corman at his office in Brentwood, California. 

“We addressed movies he directed, like the William Shatner drama ‘The Intruder,’ and his enormously successful production company, New World Pictures,” Armstrong said. “For a film historian to sit in the office of his hero for an hour was an incomparable experience for me for which I’ll always be grateful.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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