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Corman boils at NC-17 for ‘Fire’

Exec producer sez ratings board discriminated against indie studio

NEW YORK — Roger Corman is mad as hell at the ratings board of the Motion Picture Assn. of America for slapping an NC-17 rating on “Fire on the Amazon,” an exploitation pic starring Sandra Bullock that he exec produced in 1993.

“The board says the movie is obscene, which is ridiculous,” said Corman, who is planning to screen the movie to the American Film Market and NATPE confab later this month.

The producer-director of “Fire on the Amazon” is Luis Llosa, who has since directed “The Specialist,” with Sylvester Stallone, and “Anaconda.” The budget of “Amazon,” which was shot on location, was $2 million — high for a Corman-produced movie.

Corman also made news when his distribution company Concorde-New Horizons announced that it was selling its film studio in Venice Beach to a real-estate developer.

GTO Ventures, the developer, will put up condominiums and retail stores in the space, and Corman will use the proceeds to set up another, smaller studio (two soundstages instead of three) at a Los Angeles location still to be determined.

On “Amazon,” Corman said the ratings board is discriminating against his movie because Concorde-New Horizons is an independent, not a major studio.

“A major studio would’ve picked up an R with no trouble,” he claimed.

What gets Corman’s goat, he said, is that when he originally submitted “Fire on the Amazon” in the mid-’90s, after “Speed” had made Bullock a big star, the MPAA gave it an R.

But before he put it into theaters, he began negotiating to sell Concorde’s 430-title movie library to Elliott Kastner. The movie stayed on the shelf throughout the long-drawn-out talks over the library sale.

“But the library deal fell through in the spring of 1999,” he said, “so we decided to put the movie back on track for distribution.”

However, Corman made the mistake of adding five seconds to a sex scene in which, as the press material describes it, Bullock and co-star Craig Sheffer “drink a hallucinogenic liquid drug from an Indian ceremonial bowl. This spawns the couple’s passionate canine-style lovemaking in the jungle.”

Corman resubmitted the movie, and the MPAA changed the rating to an NC-17.

“I’m not going to release an NC-17 movie because too many theater chains in the U.S. won’t take it,” he said. “And a number of video stores, including Blockbuster, won’t carry a movie with an NC-17.”

The distributor has trimmed a few seconds from the disputed scene and submitted it once again to the ratings board, which Corman said will give him its report in the next 10 days.

Corman vowed not to make any more cuts, even if the board still insists on an NC-17. In that event, he said, “I may start looking at my legal options.”

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