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Dinoshark is Here!: Exclusive Interview with Roger and Julie Corman

Legendary cult movie producer Roger Corman unleashes a nightmarish half dinosaur-half shark onto a resort area in the Syfy Saturday Original Movie, DINOSHARK, which airs on March 13 at 9PM, and Earths Mightiest had the opportunity to speak to both he and his wife, producer Julie Corman, in an exclusive interview.
In DINOSHARK, a resort area in Mexico is terrorized by a prehistoric creature that’s half dinosaur/half shark. No one believes the thing exists except a young fishing boat captain (Eric Balfour, 24, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). To prevent a bloodbath, the captain must stop “Dinoshark” before it invades an inland waterway full of pleasure boats and swimmers.

Between them, Roger and Julie Corman have produced about 400 films, and even though Roger is 83, he’s giving no sign of slowing down. And why should he?

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: So, how did DINOSHARK come about?

ROGER CORMAN: I made a picture called DINOCROC, about a prehistoric crocodile revived in modern times about three years ago and sold it to the Syfy Channel. It got the highest rating of the year for them. It did extremely well in our foreign sales. It was a big, big success, so DINOSHARK is simply the follow-up to the success of DINOCROC.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: Can you give me a nutshell of the plot of the film?

ROGER CORMAN: We start with some spectacular footage of glaciers melting and falling into the Arctic Ocean. Out of one of the melting glaciers comes the embryo of the prehistoric shark. You can probably fill out the rest from there.

JULIE CORMAN: By the time we get to Mexico, my favorite line in the movie takes place: “It hasn’t eaten in 150 million years and it’s hungry.”

ROGER CORMAN: We shot in Mexico – we wanted a beautiful , tropical location – I can tell you not only is it hungry, but for some strange reason it likes to eat beautiful girls in bikinis. They represent, I’d say, 50% of the kill.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: How big is this thing?

ROGER CORMAN: The Dinoshark is about 30 feet long. Needless to say, it bears a resemblance to the sharks of present day but it has a cruder look to it, representing a prehistoric shark. The jaws, in particular, are much bigger and stronger and the shape is a little more alien in nature.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: Is it basically a T-Rex head grafted on to a shark’s body?

ROGER CORMAN: Not quite. It was a shark’s body and, as I say, the jaws looked a little bit like a T-Rex, but it wasn’t a T-Rex head. It was a shark head with a suggestion of some features like a T-Rex.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: So many careers don’t stand the test of time, but here you are in 2010 making movies. Does that blow your mind or do you just accept it?

ROGER CORMAN: It’s a combination of both. My own feeling is I’m 83 years old now and I have no particular reason to retire. I simply like making films. Julie has made 30 films on her own and we’ve really combined forces now. One thing that has happened, however, is that the market for medium budget films – which these are, they’re about $2 million – has dropped rather dramatically. So whereas formerly we made 10 to 12 films a year, we’re making 4-6 a year now because of the market. But we’re still in there, frankly, just for the love of making films. It’s better than retiring or playing golf.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: Is Syfy one of the few outlets left for this kind of film?

ROGER CORMAN: Yes, that is one of the reasons we’re concentrating so much on scifi pictures. In the past we’d done every kind of picture , from ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL to GRAND THEFT AUTO to BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. Today we’re doing a number of different types of films, but heavily scifi because they are one of the few places we know we can pre-sell the film before we make it and get back such a large portion of the budget. Not the entire budget, but such a large portion that we know with our foreign sales, DVD, streaming on the Internet, we’re pretty much guaranteed a profit.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: I received a press release from Syfy saying that Eric Roberts had been signed for your film SHARKTOPUS. What is the fascination with aquatic creatures?

ROGER CORMAN: I can only say that the first picture I ever made in the late 1950s when I was in my 20s was called IT STALKED THE OCEAN FLOOR. I made it for $12,000 cash and some deferments that built the cost to about $28,000. The distributor that took the picture gave me a nice advance and a percentage, and he changed the title to MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR, because he said IT STALKED THE OCEAN FLOOR was too arty. MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR was a giant success, and I’ve made now about 350 films since then. Every now and then I come back to that and I’ve never failed with this subject. As a matter of fact, one I might mention is PIRANHA, which is a remake of the film I produced that comes out later this summer, which is a $50 million film. So this subject matter of the giant creature or a host of small ones, as in PIRANHA, seems to have universal appeal. You can even look back to JAWS, the first of these incredibly successful films. Vincent Canby, who was the lead critic of THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote, “What is JAWS but a big budget Roger Corman film?” JAWS set the new bar to meet.

JULIE CORMAN: There’s a curious statistic from Syfy, that 48% of their audience is women….

ROGER CORMAN: With that statistic in mind, and this may be pushing Freudian interpretation of psychology too heavily, but a monster coming out of the water is not unlike a baby coming out of the womb. That may be overly psychological, but I’m going to remember that and use it.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: Which would explain why these creatures are pursuing the bikini-clad ladies.

ROGER CORMAN: [laughs] That could be. They’re trying to get back.

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: Any interesting story on the creation of SHARKTOPUS?

ROGER CORMAN: That was Syfy’s idea, actually. The previous ones, DINOCROC and DINOSHARK were my ideas. They came up with SHARKTOPUS, and at first I was against it. My own theory is you can go up to a certain level of insanity with DINOCROC or DINOSHARK, but it’s still something the audience will get interested in because of the possible insanity of the title. But if you go too far, then it goes from insanely enticing to ridiculous and a turnoff. I said to them, “I think with SHARKTOPUS, you’ve gone too far.” But they did market research and the market research and the publicity that’s starting to build on a picture that isn’t even finished, is greater than either DINOCROCK or DINOSHARK. Maybe they know something!

EARTHS MIGHTIEST: Do you find critics and audiences viewing these films are taking them with the intent they were made, to have fun with them?

JULIE CORMAN: You should talk to Quentin Tarantino on this topic. He takes these films VERY seriously. It’s really amazing his encyclopedic knowledge of these films. We spent some time with him over the course of Roger getting his Academy Award and then the awards night itself. He goes into depth about his love for them.

ROGER CORMAN: We consider the films to be entertainment, but we take the making of them VERY seriously. For the construction of the plot, we start with an idea that is fantastic and very possibly makes no sense, but the audience wants to see that film, so therefore we give them a pseudo-logical explanation., such as in DINOSHARK with the melting of the glaciers and a 150 million year old embryo comint loose. That ALMOST makes sense. It doesn’t make total sense, I’m willing to admit, but it comes close enough to making sense that the audience will buy it. All they’re looking for is some vaguely logical explanation that enables them to have the willing suspension of disbelief. Once we’ve done that, however, we’re then 100% logical in our thinking and the story construction and working out the plotline and the making of the film as to what such a creature can do. We never cheat them and, for instance, in the end say, “The Dinoshark has wings and can fly.” We are 100% logical IF we can get them to buy the original, slightly illogical explanation. A taste of logic is just enough that you can go along with it.

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