Monday, February 21, 2011

Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard is a ramshackled delight. Made for 60,000 dollars on a bet with Roger Corman, Hollywood Boulevard contains a variety show sense of humor, a pace that suggests a severe Benzedrine addiction and enough Stock Footage to make Ed Wood blanch (in one rather perfect moment we see footage of roller derby girls while one character delivers a voice over monologue how much she hates being a roller derby girl only to have it never mentioned again). But what it really contains and what saves it the three or four times it goes careening over the line between smutily amusing and degradingly sexist, is its sense of enthusiasm. Like the two films that Joe Dante and Allan Arkush would make directly after Hollywood Boulevard; Piranha and Rock N’ Roll High School, Hollywood Boulevard is the work of men who fully expect to never make a movie again and thus try to cram in as much as they love about them in one go.

The film follows three aspiring starlets, including the charming legendarily daffy Candice Rialson, who sign up with Miracle Pictures (“If it’s a good picture it’s a miracle!”) Their work takes them places like The Phillipines (“It’s a wonderful scene in which you massacre 300 Asiasatic Soldiers. Now Girls your motivation and this is very important, is to massacre 300 Asiastic Soldiers.”) The Drive In and where ever else Roger Corman happened to be shooting that weekend.

The wide range of locations leads to a wide range of parody. Corman’s sci fi opuses, Phillipine’s Sagas, Post Apocalyptic Flicks, and Horror movies all show up to be affectionately spoofed. Half the fun of the movie for the Corman aficionado is spotting just where different spare parts from The Corman factory ended up.

The pace is fast and the comedy has an agreeably screwball nature to it, filled with Dante’s regular crew of ringers like Dick Miller (as a screwball agent) and Paul Bartel (as a fussy and possibly insane director) who both give the kind of perfect deadpan work that made their name among a certain strata of film fan.

It’s easy (and thus probably wrong) to want to divvy up the credit/blame between the two directors. Sometimes it just seems like common sense. A ten minute long stalk sequence that is clearly tribute to Mario Bava? That one’s probably Dante’s. A leering Wet T-Shirt Contest? I’m going to go ahead and chalk that one up to Arkush.

Be warned this is one Horndog film, with a libido that suggests nothing so much as a Tex Avery Wolf. Dante is usually a pretty sexless filmmaker, so either he’s calmed down or Allan Arkush is an out an out perv. It’s all pretty knowing and good natured, except for twin ugly rape gags that are pretty cavalier.

Yet even a moment as horrendously misjudged as this can’t shake the aura of enthusiasm and even innocence that the film has. It’s a film that can’t help but be pleased that it exists. Sure Hollywood Boulevard is a movie made with spare parts, but they’re assembled with love.


Neil Fulwood said...

I think next winter's Winter of Discontent season might have found it's first official "must see" title.

Gideon Strumpet said...

This looks right up my alley. I need to find this. Thanks for the tip Bryce!

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Neil Fulwood: It's pretty good natured for a "Winter" film. But then again after a few weeks of depravity that might be a welcome break.

@ Gideon: I think you'll dig it.

le0pard13 said...

I think I remember seeing this movie! Fine look at it, Bryce.

Bryce Wilson said...

Thanks Le0pard13