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10 Best Roger Corman-Directed Horror Films

Ranking the best horror films directed by the “King of the B-Movies.”
Roger Corman Horror Movies
By  · Published on October 20th, 2021

5. Frankenstein Unbound (1990)

Frankenstein Unbound

Roger Corman’s epic film career as producer, talent scout, and filmmaker saw the man’s final directorial feature in this adaptation of Brian Aldiss’ science-fiction/thriller. No one really talks about it, and that’s a damn shame as it remains a blast of genre fun. John Hurt plays a future scientist hoping to end war by building the ultimate weapon — silly scientist! — but when he travels back in time and meets Dr. Victor Frankenstein, played by Raul Julia, he finds a whole new world of problems. Global warming, unchecked scientific curiosity, lust, literature (he meets Mary Shelley too!), time travel, and a wonderfully downer ending make this a gem worthy of more eyeballs. (Rob Hunter)

4. The Intruder (1962)

The Intruder

Horror, in its most primitive form, engages with the evil’s of the world, either through realistic or metaphorical means. The horror in Roger Corman’s The Intruder is born from the United State’s legacy of inequity and prejudice that, in 1962, couldn’t have been more immediate. The film follows Adam Cramer (William Shatner), the titular intruder who appears in a small town as they prepare to desegregate their whites-only school district. Cramer incites the town’s bigots against desegregation, causing a chain reaction of events that will forever alter how the town perceives itself.

Released less than a decade after Brown vs Board Education ruled that segregation was unconstitutional, The Intruder is brimming with uncomfortable realism as we witness the insidious, and casual, racism that people of color still experience today. This isn’t a fun film to watch, and it’s approach to showing the evils of man is heavy handed and often misguided in its use of language. But Corman’s verite direction, the unflinching tone of Charles Beaumont’s screenplay, and Shatner’s performance makes the film a must-watch curio in the legendary director’s filmography. It’s also a must watch for Twilight Zone fans as Beaumont (who also appears in the film) and Shatner were stalwarts of the series, with fellow Zoner George Clayton Johnson making a cameo appearance as one of the town’s riotous residents. (Jacob Trussell)

3. X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963)

X The Man With X Ray Eyes

Like many great sci-fi movies, X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes is about a man who simply must see in order to believe. The film stars Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier, a man who develops a miraculous serum that can increase visibility beyond what was ever thought possible. Naturally, he tests it on himself and things don’t exactly go according to plan. And while the film delivers quite a few titillating moments that live up to the promise of a story about a guy who can see through walls and clothing, this incredible Corman film is also brilliantly clever and complexly thoughtful. X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes is just about one man’s vision, it’s about the hunger for progress and the insatiable desire for more than what has already been given. Plus, it has an ending that you’ll never see coming. (Anna Swanson)

2. A Bucket of Blood (1959)

A Bucket Of Blood

That guy Dick Miller stars as Walter Paisley, a waiter working at an artsy cafe in southern California. Walter desperately wants to be accepted by the cool cats and slamming daddy-o’s that regularly perform slam poetry and show off their latest aesthetic endeavors at the hip joint. But to these artists, Walter is nothing more than a joke, a buffoon there to serve them and be the butt of their jokes. One evening after a failed attempt to make a sculpture of the cafe hostess (Barboura Morris), Walter accidentally kills his landlady’s cat. In a moment of panic, he covers the cat in clay creating a “lifelike” sculpture that finally wins Walter the praise and admiration of the beatnik crowd. To maintain his newfound status as a brilliant sculptor, Walter must churn out more art and to do so he goes on a killing spree. A Bucket of Blood is a sharp biting satire in which Corman is willing to poke fun at himself while taking down pretentious beatnik culture that believes art can only be created by a specific type of person. It’s a timeless tale that will never lose its relevance. If it were made today the hipsters would be replaced by the gatekeeping segments of Film Twitter (whatever that is), and the story would still work the same, beat for beat. (Chris Coffel)

1. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

The Masque Of The Red Death

No matter how you feel about Corman, it’s hard to deny the mastery of The Masque of the Red Death. Vincent Price stars as the gleefully sadistic Prince Prospero, spending his days torturing the peasants living within his kingdom. At night he throws lavish parties where he entertains his guests by seeing just how far he can humiliate and mock them. With a terrible plague spreading throughout the land, guests are willing to stoop to stupefying lows to stay in Prospero’s good graces and use his castle as a refuge from the “Red Death.” That’s all good and well until his latest party turns into a breeding ground for the deadly disease, killing off many of the nobles in attendance. Corman exchanges the cheese and cheapness of his early work and opts to go with a far more sinister and refined work. The elaborate sets are soaked in deep reds and delicate detail, displaying more artistry and talent than Corman had previously shown. It’s the film Corman and Price were always building up towards, and it’s perfect. (Chris Coffel)

Looking for more Corman-influenced films? Then you should read more 31 Days of Horror Lists! Odds are, Corman likely had a hand in at least one of ’em!

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Chris Coffel is a contributor at Film School Rejects. He’s a connoisseur of Christmas horror, a Nic Cage fanatic, and bad at Rocket League. He can be found on Twitter here: @Chris_Coffel. (He/Him)