Before television was an indispensable element in homes, people went to the cinema. Before there were telefilms, there were B-movies, low-budget productions used to fill long theatrical runs, films that served as opening acts for category films. Roger Corman, who died yesterday at the age of 98 at his home in Santa Monica (USA), was one of the creators of this cinema that used little money, but a lot of intelligence and good actors.

When he returned from World War II, Corman came in as an errand boy at Fox. He then studied in London and Paris, but returned to Hollywood, where he tried various trades, literary agent, journalist, and then film producer and director.

Corman directed about 60 B-movies, many of which were horror films, some about aliens and some about action. He produced almost 500 titles and acted in another 37. The filmmaker, who boasted that he never lost a dime making movies, was as famous as he was prestigious, and after a lot of work, he became a master of other great directors who, so to speak, were his apprentices, greats of the seventh art such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme or James Cameron.

“A child is afraid of thunder, lightning and the monster under the bed. The parents tell him that there is no reason to worry, but he knows that there are many things to worry about”, said the director, who built his films with this fear to “cross our consciousness, which feels that there is nothing to worry about, and reach childhood memory”.

Preparing the viewer for the scare, shooting in a short time and spending very little money were the three keys to the strategy of Corman, whose career behind the cameras took off in 1955 with a low-budget western, Cinco Revolvers in the West, which had John Lund and Dorothy Malone as the heads of the cast. After directing a few more Westerns, he ventured into film noir with Las mujeres del pantano (1956), in which a policeman chased some criminals who had hidden a booty in jewels in swampy grounds.

And it didn’t take long to also be released in the genre of science fiction or, as it was called then, in Martian films. In 1955, El día del fin del mundo was filmed, not exactly about Martians but about mutant humans who scavenge the few survivors of a nuclear holocaust.

Already in his sixties, he found a vein in the work of the great Edgar Allan Poe and directed The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), in which Vincent Price gave life to the disturbing Roderick Usher. Again with Price as the protagonist and a terrible castle as a backdrop, Corman directed The Well and the Pendulum (1961). He continued with the adaptation of Poe’s famous poem, The Raven, in 1963. Price once again led the cast, which was joined by two other great secondaries of the genre, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff.

Corman had a big star, Ray Milland, for The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1963), in which a scientist experiments with a drug and manages to see too much. Other titles followed, such as The Mask of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) or Secret Invasion (1964), which had a stellar cast: Stewart Granger, Raf Vallone and Mickey Rooney, and which developed in the World War II, the only time he confessed that he had been afraid: “We knew exactly what we were being trained for: the invasion of Japan. We knew what awaited us.”

Televisions became common in the 1970s and videos in the 1980s, theaters no longer needed B-movies to fill the lineup. Corman toned down his fervor as a director. He shot his last film in 1990, Frankenstein Unchained, with John Hurt, Raúl Juliá and Bridget Fonda, but he did not leave the world of cinema for a while. He continued his work as a producer and with a new company, New World, devoted himself to international independent film distribution in the United States. The films of Fellini, Bergman, Truffaut or Kurosawa reached the American public thanks to Corman. The man who had succeeded thanks to the cheap cinema of the B series thus became an emissary of the most prestigious filmmakers in the world.