Making movies cheaply AND well


Mingling in my movie mind today are Roger Corman, Michael McCallum and Shane Hagedorn. That's a talented-but-quirky bunch.

Corman is the master of micro-budget filmmaking. Now, at 83, he emerges with:

-- His latest movie production. "Dinoshark" debuts March 13 on cable's Syfy.

-- The Academy Awards, on March 7. Corman has already received his honorary award, so he'll probably have to settle for waving from the audience.

The latter one jolted a lot of people. An Oscar for the producer of "Dinocrock," "The Brain Eaters," "Bucket of Blood" and "Attack of the Crab Monsters"? Some purists were appalled; I was delighted.

And I thought about McCallum and Hagedorn. In my home town of Lansing, Mich., they're debuting their latest movie "Handlebar." It's quick, quirky, ragged and (at times) a lot of fun. You can catch it at 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. Feb. 27-28, at Celebration Cinema.

The principle in both cases is the same: It's possible to make a movie for almost no money and -- sometimes -- to do it well.

We'll honor someone who makes a great movie for $100 million. But what about someone who can made 388 movies for that money -- some of them (from the original "Little Shop or Horrors" to "Wild Angels") quite  good? And what about guys who sometimes seem able to make movies for $100.

In either case -- Corman in Hollywood, McCallum and Hagedorn in Lansing -- this requires zest, imagination and the simple notion that anything is possible.

The two Lansing guys have one key advantage -- the fact that Hagedorn and McCallum are also acting in the movies. These guys are terrific actors, especially in dead-serious roles.

This time, they've made a comedy, sort of a less-cranial "Dumb and Dumber." McCallum directed; both wrote the script and starred.

There are parts here that make no sense at all. There's a part that's absurdly violent. The whole thing ends abruptly, barely an hour after it started.

But for all the flaws, we soon are remembering the good parts. There's a hilarious visual that goes from a super biker dude to Hagedorn riding his tiny motorbike. There's a wonderful scene with local restaurant owner Lamai Feighner in her Thai restaurant. There's good work from Grace Ann Rowan, Wallace Bridges and the producers. There's also zesty music from local Eightball Grifter.

Once you ignore the flaws, you can settle back and have fun. Roger Corman once proved he could make a good movie for $50,000; these guys have shown they can make a kinda-fun one for less -- almost $50,000 less -- than that. And all of them brighten what is sometimes a big-budget, big-corporation movie world.