Monday, November 3, 2008

Hollywood Boulevard (1976)

Directed by:
Allan Arkush
Joe Dante

It's a satire. It's an action picture. It's a romantic comedy. It's a T&A movie. It's a murder mystery. It's a horror film. It's a female vigilante exploiter. In other words, it's not an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink epic, it's an everything-and-the- kitchen-sink epic. Allan Arkush (ROCK N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) and Joe Dante (GREMLINS) obviously set out to parody the low-budget drive-in efforts as perfected by Roger Corman's New World Pictures and they have come up with a doozy here; probably the ultimate in cinematic in-jokes and one of the best of such comedies dealing with the Grade Z film industry. Corman (the uncredited executive producer) and cronies obviously have a great sense of humor to poke fun at the business that is their livelihood. While HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD suffers from sheer overkill, it has enough outrageous, insightful and inspired comic moments to merit it a must for Corman and exploitation movie fans and a probably for general film buffs.

Perky, innocent blue-eyed blonde Candy Hope (Candice Rialson) arrives in Hollywood with stars in her eyes; determined to make it in Tinseltown no matter what the cost. She seeks help from sketchy talent agent Walter Paisley (Dick Miller, wonderful here), and after a few botched acting attempts (one of which implicates her in an armed car robbery and police chase), ends up getting stunt work at Miracle Pictures, a low-budget studio so bargain-basement they churn out a picture a week and whose motto is "If it's a good picture, it's a miracle!" There she meets a slew of colorful characters, including inept director Eric Von Leppe (Paul Bartel), sleazy producer P.G. (Richard Doran), bitchy B-movie veteran Mary McQueen (Mary Woronov, who is perfect in this role), cheerful screen writer/eventual love interest Patrick Hobby (Jeffrey Kramer), weird-o production manager Scotty (Jonathan Kaplan), oft-nude starlet Jill (Tara Strohmeier) and others. A roller-derby star and wanna-be actress named Bobbi (Rita George) has her secret for success down pat; after getting an agent "Then it's just a matter of balling my way to the top!"

After completing a successful car-wreck stunt, Candy Hope is elevated to star status under the new name Candy Wednesday and receives her first major film role in 'Machete Maidens of Mora Tau.' The entire troupe go to The Philippines (where it is cheaper to shoot) and the four leading ladies are immediately asked to "massacre 300 Asiatic soldiers!" The director tries to convince a timid starlet into degrading herself by performing in a gang rape scene; calling it "an actresses dream!" Then it's back to America to start production on the sci-fi film "Atomic War Brides," complete with left-over props and sets from DEATH RACE 2000 (1975). And, oh yeah, someone on the set has turned psycho, is sabotaging the equipment and killing off the cast and crew one by one. A parachute jumper plunges to her death, real bullets are put in a prop gun, car brakes are cut, a king cobra is unleashed, etc.

As you can imagine, there is a hell of lot going on here... We get loads of explosions, machine gun fights, catfights, motorcycle crashes, car chases, car wrecks, topless scenes, film references, alien monsters (Don Post provided the masks), gorillas, special appearances from Godzilla ("played" by future Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme!), Robbie the Robot, Charles B. Griffith and Forrest J. Ackerman, scenes of Dick Miller and Boris Karloff in THE TERROR playing at a drive-in and even an in-joke nod to ROBOT MONSTER! A gory stabbing death sequence (said to be a nod to Bava) was later lifted and used in such efforts as THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982; which was directed by Amy Jones, who was also an editor for this film), the NOT OF THIS EARTH remake (1988) and SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE 2 (1990).

The DVD has a special feature called "The Cutting Room Floor," which features trailers for such Roger Corman-produced efforts as BIG BAD MAMA, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, CAGED HEAT, DEATH RACE 2000, NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN and WOMEN IN CAGES. If any of the footage from those looks familiar, it's because HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD borrowed footage from all of them! Also on the disc is an excellent commentary track, cast bios and additional trailers for BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980), PIRANHA (1978) and SUBURBIA (1983).


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