Hollywood Boulevard

      Comments Off on Hollywood Boulevard

Candy (Candice Rialson) has just arrived in Los Angeles to make it big in the movies. Almost immediately she finds an agent, Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) who gets her a regular gig with Miracle Pictures. There she falls in love with screenwriter Pat (Jeffrey Kramer) and gets on the lethally bad side of starlet Mary McQueen (Mary Woronov). This minimal plot summary above gives the impression that Hollywood Boulevard (1976) plays as a cohesive narrative. In actuality Hollywood Boulevard is episodic in structure where each vignette profiles and satirizes a specific genre that was a specialty of New World Pictures at the time.

This debut feature from Allan Arkush and Joe Dante is a bittersweet satirical portrait of Roger Corman’s production company where both men got their start. The concept is that Arkush and Dante would take the trimmings from a plethora of New World Pictures’ productions to add more action, more sex, and more spectacle to the skeleton narrative that the two cooked up to support this found footage exercise. The end result is pretty much what one would expect: Hollywood Boulevard does for the B-Movie what Get Crazy (1983) does for the rock n’ roll business, albeit with more Looney Tunes inspired gags.

Needless to say that such a novel approach to filmmaking (where the directors are essentially cooking with leftovers) is bound to have uneven results. But the moments that shine are excellent and indicative of the great films these two would go on to make. The entire section of Hollywood Boulevard dedicated to the Death Race 2000 (1975) spoof is immensely satisfying. Personally my favorite single moment is when Mary McQueen tries to murder Candy “Wile E. Coyote style” by knocking down the letter “Y” from the Hollywood sign. Cinephiles will generally find a lot of similar gags and references to enjoy in Hollywood Boulevard (including a riff on the giallo picture).

Hollywood Boulevard also features two career best comedic turns from Dick Miller and Mary Woronov. Miller’s a natural as the washed-up star of drive-in pictures turned talent agent who barks on the phone like a disgruntled terrier. Miller’s Walter Paisley is all heart and if comes through his oafishness wonderfully. While Woronov on the other hand brings a lot of Joan Crawford to her part. Even at her most homicidal Woronov is campy as possible and an utter delight.

As Arkush and Dante exploit the exploitation with their collective oddball humor, two distinct stylistic voices are already evident. Dante’s fetish for fifties era science fiction creeps in as does his penchant for physical comedy and sight gags while Arkush’s sense of irony and general pessimism color all of the drama (particularly the behind the camera shenanigans). They’re the lunatic fringe of their generation of filmmakers and even one of their lesser pictures has something worth seeing. For fans of exploitation films of the seventies Hollywood Boulevard is indispensable and a must-see.