Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hollywood Boulevard (1976)

          The idea of a Roger Corman production spoofing the cheapness and tawdriness of Roger Corman productions is tantalizing, but Hollywood Boulevard is better in the abstract than in reality. Disjointed, sleazy, and underdeveloped, it features many amusing moments but doesn’t hang together well. Reading about the film’s creation, one quickly learns why. Apparently, producer Jon Davison, a Corman protégé, pledged to make the cheapest movie in the history of Corman’s ’70s company, New World Pictures, so Corman gave Davison $60,000 and access to the New World library of footage from previous Corman productions. Enlisting the aid of screenwriter Danny Opatoshu (credited by a pseudonym) and first-time directors Allan Arkush and Joe Dante, Davis contrived a campy story about a would-be starlet (Candice Rialson) who arrives in Hollywood fresh from Indiana, then falls in with a shameless agent (Dick Miller) and a low-budget film crew led by a reckless director (Paul Bartel) whose stunt players tend to die on the job. The movie is part behind-the-scenes comedy, part murder mystery, and part slapstick nonsense, with lots of skin—Hollywood Boulevard has so many topless scenes that even the horniest viewer might get bored of looking at breasts.
          Arkush later went on to create inspired lunacy with Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979), and Dante’s subsequent career includes such irreverent favorites as Gremlins (1984), so it’s easy to see what sorts of comedic ideas were brewing in the young filmmakers’ brains when they made Hollywood Boulevard. However, the amateurish cast, the reliance on recycled footage, and the rushed shooting schedule precluded anything truly inspired from reaching the screen. That said, cinema buffs will obviously find more to like here than general audiences, from the wink-wink depictions of life on a low-budget set to the goofy film-nerd in-jokes (a criminal character is named “Rico” as a shout-out to the 1931 gangster classic Little Caesar, and so on). Plus, the whole enterprise is so knowingly and playfully trashy that it’s hard to dislike Hollywood Boulevard, even though it’s just as hard to feel genuine passion for the flick. Although, it must be said, the running joke about Miller’s character formerly representing everything from an elephant to a meatball sandwich is slightly fabulous.

Hollywood Boulevard: FUNKY

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