Monday, February 10, 2014

Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)



Occupying some queasy transitional space between the nostalgic cars-and-kids milieu of 1973’s American Graffiti and the sleazy style of ’80s teen-sex comedies, Van Nuys Blvd. offers an uninteresting ensemble story about young adults hooking up for sexual misadventures in and around the San Fernando Valley during the disco era. The film’s fleeting documentary-style shots of real Van Nuys Blvd. cruisers offer some interest—simply because viewers can eyeball vintage cars and fashions—but nearly everything else onscreen is beyond trite. The story begins when Bobby (Bill Adler) leaves his life in a rural trailer park and heads for Van Nuys Blvd. in his tricked-out van. Immediately after arriving in the Valley, he gets laid with a carhop named Wanda (Tara Stroheimer). Then he becomes friends with fellow small-town escapee Greg (Dennis Bowen). Eventually, Bobby dates perky blonde Moon (Cynthia Moon), and Greg hooks up with wholesome brunette Camille (Melissa Prophet). Meanwhile, the clique expands to include “Chooch” (David Hayward), an older guy whose characterization represents the dangers of arrested development. Rounding out the film’s principal characters is Officer Zass (Dana Gladstone), a putz of a cop who hassles kids until he gets his comeuppance. Writer-director William Sachs executes Van Nuys Blvd. with technical competence and zero artistry. His characters are clichéd and one-dimensional, his jokes aren’t funny, and his sex scenes are tacky. Sachs relies on such tired devices as close-ups of would-be lovers licking their lips in anticipation, and the closest thing Van Nuys Blvd. has to a unique erotic moment is the scene in which Bobby and Wanda slather each other with condiments while screwing. Worse, Van Nuys Blvd. is padded with lengthy scenes of repetitive action (e.g., disco dancing, go-cart racing, etc.), and Sachs’ idea of humor involves misunderstandings like Camille’s father mistakenly molesting Greg because he thinks he’s actually molesting one of Camille’s female friends. The performers in Van Nuys Blvd. strive mightily to generate sincerity, which suggests Sachs ran a nurturing set, but after a while, watching these folks struggle to enliven lifeless material becomes exhausting. So, even though Sachs’ movie is a bit less exploitive than most ’70s movies preoccupied with teen sex, Van Nuys Blvd. is a dead end.

Van Nuys Blvd.: LAME

4 comments:

Peter L. Winkler said...

Whenever I see the Crown International logo at the bottom of the poster of the film you're reviewing, I skip the review and scroll to your rating, which is invariably "Lame." Which raises the question: Did Crown International ever release a good movie?

By Peter Hanson said...

I've managed to find a couple of "Freakys" among Crown's fare, including the Mae West monstrosity "Sextette," but quality does not appear to be a major component of the company's business plan. (They're still around, and I periodically drive past their offices on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.) If pressed, however, I must confess deep guilty-pleasure love for the 1981 Canadian film that Crown released in the US, a sci-fi romp called "The Last Chase," with Lee Majors (!), Burgess Meredith (!!), and Chris Makepeace. A fave to watch back in the early HBO/Cinemax days. But in general, Crown seems to emulate only the worst qualities of its more successful competitor, American International...

Peter L. Winkler said...

Very well put. I too have seen Crown's logo on a small office building on Wilshire Blvd. whenever I frequent my favorite Indian restaurant, Bombay Palace, which is very near to that office building.

Kyle S said...

Such a schlock film. There is even the epic, gross out hamburger french kiss between Bill Adler and Tara Stromheimer. No wonder why Crown went under.