Nostalgic Cinema

Hollywood Boulevard (1976)

Hollywood Boulevard (USA, 1976) 85 min color DIR: Joe Dante, Allan Arkush. SCR: Danny Opatoshu. PROD: Jon Davison. MUSIC: Andrew Stein. DOP: Jamie Anderson. CAST: Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Tara Strohmeier, Candice Rialson, Dick Miller, Rita George, Jeffrey Kramer. (New World Pictures)

(The Player: Roger Corman style. Once upon a time in the New World Pictures editing room, Allan Arkush and Joe Dante, tired of cutting trailers for a living, convinced their boss Roger Corman to let them direct their own picture. Always one to recognize new talent (just ask Coppola, Scorsese or Jack Nicholson), Corman gave the green light to this project, albeit with a minimum amount of cash, some excerpts from previous New World films, and a stock company of drive-in regulars, where these men proved to their boss that they could be on a par with that studio’s blend of fast-moving, tongue-in-cheek T&A with gobs of gore. The result is this enjoyable romp which is a treat for anyone who grew up watching Roger Corman’s cinema, especially his 70s output. This is a time capsule of what was fashionable that moment in exploitation fare: bad girl movies, good ole boy romps, and Filipino jungle flicks. Candy Hope (Candice Rialson) is yet another country bumpkin who has dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Of course, everyone either exploits her or tows a big line of crap. Somehow she ends up in a robbery getaway car, and eventually gets an agent who promotes her in the lowest denominator of filth, by egocentric director Erich Von Leppe (Paul Bartel), who thinks his exploitation gutter trash is all ART. The film is really a pastiche of vignettes, as Candy blurs from one gag to the next, until the underlying “plot”, of all her gal pals mysteriously dying on set, takes centre stage. Candy is the next intended victim of a mad starlet out to (literally) eliminate all her competition.

And yet, this duality is pushed too far, especially when viewed in these PC times. One could supposedly give a pass to the scene where the actors playing soldiers in the Filipino war movie, stay in character with their raping and pillaging even after the director yells “Cut!”, as it’s at least consistent with that theme. But is there really any reason for the interminable segment where Candy is assaulted by a suburban dad at the drive-in? Even if this is an intended comment of how “reel violence” begets “real violence”, its point is made long before the scene ends.

Mary Woronov in action!

There is a persistent theme of “reel life” and “real life” blurring, not least in the deja vu derived from its cut-outs of other films (the backdrop of Death Race 2000 serves as the futuristic car movie in which Candy stars). Most amusingly, Walter Paisley, played by Dick Miller, watches himself in The Terror (a sly duality used with the same film and Targets, with Boris Karloff). When Candy has sex on the Hollywood hills, suddenly the hilariously crass song on the soundtrack is played live to camera by Commando Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. They jam right next to the young couple rolling around on a blanket! (Compare to Arkush-Dante’s Rock N Roll High School, where The Ramones sing “I Want You Around” in P.J. Soles’ bathroom.)

The performances also make this micro-budget effort enjoyable. Honey-haired Candice Rialson (who left his earth far too young at age 54) had promise. This bright-eyed engaging screen presence had a gift for comedy. And as Erich Von Leppe, Paul Bartel (“coincidentally” the director of Death Race 2000) is a treat in what seems his patented, prissy intellectual role. However, Dick Miller positively steals the film as “anything for a buck” talent agent Walter Paisley (which, as most film buffs know, is a character name that everyone’s favourite bit player has used repeatedly, especially in future films of Joe Dante), who is very funny in a colourful role– in one scene he even chats up Robby the Robot!

Hollywood Boulevard is a “Hollywood success story”, both before and behind the camera (Dante and Arkush did advance to successful directing careers), and yet with a backdrop of drive-in cinema, circa mid-1970s. The era’s carefree, sometimes irresponsible tones are captured on celluloid with the merry mayhem, hopeful starlets, and fun on a budget… everything Corman. One needn’t be a film buff to enjoy this movie, but would have a head start, with its many in-jokes (one of the actresses is named Jill McBain!), and unbilled cameos by Barbara Peeters, Charles B. Griffith, Forrest J. Ackerman (of course), Arkush, Dante, William Malone and Lewis Teague. In 1990, a sequel, Hollywood Boulevard II, was released from Corman’s next studio empire, Concorde-New Horizons.