Skip to main content

It’s a nudie picture with a two-thousand-dollar budget. No script, a ten-hour shooting schedule, and it opens in twenty-two cities at the end of the week.

Hollywood Boulevard
(1976)

(SPOILERS) Joe Dante’s debut, co-credited with Allan Arkush, came courtesy of his training ground as an editor (cutting trailers) for Roger Corman’s New World pictures. It was producer Jon Davison (later of Paul Verhoeven sci-fi classics Robocop and Starship Troopers) who got Dante and Arkush the gig, suggesting to Corman “Let the trailer boys make a picture”. Corman agreed, on condition what became Hollywood Boulevard was a 10-day shoot and the cheapest picture New World had ever made. The idea was to churn out a “found-footage assemblage”, with newly shot scenes linking existing studio archive material, but the duo, fashioning a ramshackle riff on low budget filmmaking that more or less was their low budget film, pulled together enough of a movie in its own right that only 10 of the 83 minutes ended up that way. Cult status followed, but Hollywood Boulevard is more interesting as a career footnote than as a picture in its own right.


It would be fair to say the movie is replete with longueurs, Danny Poatoshu’s screenplay having an understandably make-it-up-as-you-go-along (or can fit in existing footage) quality that brings naïve wannabe actress Candy Wednesday (Candice Rialson) to Hollywood at the rear end of the food chain. 


Along the way she meets useless agents (Dante instant-regular Dick Miller on tremendous form as Walter Paisley, the name of his character in Corman’s A Bucket of Blood, an excerpt from which we see at the drive-in as Miller reminisces he “could have been a contender”), pretentious directors (Paul Bartel stealing every scene he’s in as Erich Von Leppe, the name of Boris Karloff’s character in Corman’s 1963 The Terror) and, in what Bill Krohn points out is an early example of the slasher movie, jealous film star Mary McQueen (Warhol friend Mary Woronov, who showed up in Nomads the other month) offing her potential pretenders to the throne by way off giallo-inspired stabbings, sporting a cape and surrounded by dry ice. There are also a couple of music montage interludes, and being a Corman film, copious quantities of breastage (Corman wanted to call it Hollywood Hookers), and that found footage, which includes excerpts from Battle Beyond the Sun, The Big Bird Cage, Crazy Mama and most visibly Death Race 2000.


To suggest Hollywood Boulevard wears the era in which it was made on its sleeve is to understate matters. Its dubious regard for women makes Sam Raimi’s early pictures appear the model of progressive representation. One might – if one was really pushing things – argue that a trio of topless actresses discussing the movie business (“Movie guys are all the same. All they care a bout is tits and ass”) is sharp commentary (Bartel concurs: “This is not a film about the human condition. It’s a film about tits and ass”).


But any leniency falls by the wayside amid the wet t-shirt hosings and, in particular, the just-for-laughs rape scene in which Bartel “directs” Candy in a “sensual scene of sexual depravity”; when that movie is shown at the drive-in, she opines, as Sharon Stone would following her career-making snatch flash, “They promised not to use that scene”. We then see it played and replayed until Candy confronts the projectionist, who then begins a comedy assault on her himself, accompanied by an enraged father who just can’t help himself. This isn’t so much contributing to the debate on whether movie violence influences behaviour as reflective of an era when getting comedy mileage out of rape was the norm. Dante’s treatment of such matters could leave something desired even up to The Howling.


Still, it’s instructive that, right from the off, Dante’s approach to moviemaking was entirely self-reflexive. Miller, whose lousy agent gave up acting because “I had a lousy agent” is on the phone at the start advising “It’s a nudie picture with a two-thousand-dollar budget. No script, a ten-hour shooting schedule, and it opens in twenty-two cities at the end of the week”. A parody of the Corman approach, but only a little. Screenplay writer Pat (Jeffrey Kramer) comes to the rescue of Candy at the end; the writer saving the movie? He also cheerfully takes the piss out of Miracle Pictures (“Sure is, if it’s a good picture, it’s a miracle”).


In a sign of things to come, the skydiving death that begins Hollywood Boulevard (the footage comes from Night Call Nurses) leaves a Looney Tunes skydiver-shaped hole in the ground (see also the Bat Gremlin in Gremlins 2, the shed roof in The ‘burbs). Robbie the Robot will show up a few times more too. The drive-in sequence, with Miller reminiscing, before it gets all rapey, shows the kind of affection and nostalgic warmth that would typify many of the director’s later pictures. And, never one to miss an obvious gag, ketchup is used to humorously suggest blood at least twice.


Hollywood Boulevard worked well enough that it got Dante a “proper” directing gig with Corman, a Jaws rip-off that did very well at the box office, thank you, and brought him to the attention of the wunderkind Jaws director himself. So, while it may be the least of his features, although no doubt some will staunchly claim otherwise, it proved vital to his subsequent career.


Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

The Krishna died of a broken finger? I mean, is that a homicide?

Miami Blues (1990) (SPOILERS) If the ‘90s crime movie formally set out its stall in 1992 with Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs , another movie very quietly got in there first at the beginning of the decade. Miami Blues picked up admiring reviews but went otherwise unnoticed on release, and even now remains under-recognised. The tale of “blithe psychopath” Federick J. Frenger, Jr., the girl whose heart he breaks and the detetive sergeant on his trail, director George Armitage’s adaptation of Charles Willeford’s novel wears a pitch black sense of humour and manages the difficult juggling act of being genuinely touching with it. It’s a little gem of a movie, perfectly formed and concisely told, one that more than deserves to rub shoulders with the better-known entries in its genre. One of the defining characteristics of Willeford’s work, it has been suggested , is that it doesn’t really fit into the crime genre; he comes from an angle of character rather than plot or h

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

The Illumi-what-i?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (SPOILERS) In which Sam Raimi proves that he can stand proudly with the best – or worst – of them as a good little foot soldier of the woke apocalypse. You’d expect the wilfully anarchic – and Republican – Raimi to choke on the woke, but instead, he’s sucked it up, grinned and bore it. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is so slavishly a production-line Marvel movie, both in plotting and character, and in nu-Feige progressive sensibilities, there was no chance of Sam staggering out from beneath its suffocating demands with anything more than a few scraps of stylistic flourish intact.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

You tampered with the universe, my friend.

The Music of Chance (1993) (SPOILERS) You won’t find many adaptations of Paul Auster’s novels. Original screenplays, yes, a couple of which he has directed himself. Terry Gilliam has occasionally mentioned Mr. Vertigo as in development. It was in development in 1995 too, when Philip Haas and Auster intended to bring it to the screen. Which means Auster presumably approved of Haas’ work on The Music of Chance (he also cameos). That would be understandable, as it makes for a fine, ambiguous movie, pregnant with meaning yet offering no unequivocal answers, and one that makes several key departures from the book yet crucially maintains a mesmerising, slow-burn lure.

I only know what I’ve been programmed to believe. But, of course, the same goes for you.

Raised by Wolves Season One (SPOILERS) Ridley Scott’s latest transhumanist tract is so stuffed with required lore, markers and programming, it’s a miracle it manages to tell a half-engaging story along the way. Aaron Guzikowski ( Prisoners ) is the credited creator, but it has the Ridders stamp of dour dystopia all over it, complete with Darius Wolski ( Prometheus ) cinematography setting the tone. Which means bleak grey skies, augmented by South Africa this time, rather than Iceland. Raised by Wolves is a reliable mix of wacko twist plotting and clumsy, slack-jawed messaging; like the Alien prequels, it will surely never be seen through to a conclusion, but as an agenda platform it’s never less than engaging (and also frequently, for the same reasons, exasperating).

You’re like a human mummy!

The Lost City (2022) (SPOILERS) Perhaps the most distressing part of The Lost City , a Romancing the Stone riff that appears to have been packaged by the Hollywood equivalent of a processed cheese plant lacking its primary ingredient (that would be additives), is the possibility that Daniel Radcliffe is the only viable actor left standing in Tinseltown. That’s if the suggestions at least two of the performers here – Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt – are deep faked in some way, shape or form, and the other name – Channing Tatum – is serving hard atonement time. If the latter’s choices generally weren’t so abysmal and his talent in arears, I’d assume that was the only explanation for him showing up in this dreck.

Okay, just jump right into my nightmare, the water is warm.

Jerry Maguire  (1996) (SPOILERS) I didn’t much like Jerry Maguire at the time, which I suspect is intrinsically linked to the fact that I didn’t much like Tom Cruise at the time. I’m still not really a massive fan of either, but the latter at least made an effort to rein in his most irksome traits subsequently. Jerry Maguire , however, finds him drawing on the same “bag of tricks” that mystifyingly transfixed his fan base a decade before in Top Gun . Bonnie Hunt suggested the toughest part of the role was “ playing a character that doesn’t like Tom Cruise ”. I wouldn’t have had that problem. I do not like Tom and Jerry.