Friday, April 22, 2016

#2,076. Van Nuys Blvd. (1979)

Directed By: William Sachs

Starring: Bill Adler, Cynthia Wood, Dennis Bowen

Tag line: "The Greatest Cruisin' in the Land Takes Place on the Street -- Where it all Began..."

Trivia: Per its director, the time between the initial idea for this film and its release was three months

I first saw the trailer for 1979’s Van Nuys Blvd. while watching the 42nd Street Forever collection (it was featured in the series’ 2nd Volume, The Deuce), and while I can’t say I was blown away by the preview, I kept it in the back of my mind, and figured that, some day, I’d more than likely get around to seeing the movie.

Well, “some day” turned out to be today!

Looking for a change of pace, small-town mechanic Bobby (Bill Adler) hops into his souped-up van and heads to Los Angeles, where he plans to do a little drag racing on Van Nuys Boulevard, a place known for its fast cars and even faster women. Soon after he arrives, Bobby befriends Greg (Dennis Bowen), who is trying to hook up with the “girl of his dreams”, Camille (Melissa Prophet); and a local celebrity known as “The Chooch” (David Hayward), whose hot-rod draws plenty of attention, including that of police officer Albert Zass (Dana Gladstone), who has thrown The Chooch in jail more times than either of them can count. Bobby’s chief rival on the drag circuit is a groovy chick named Moon (Cynthia Wood), and even though they start out as adversaries, it isn’t long before Bobby and Moon are an item. But will their competitive nature allow the two to get close to one another, or is their love doomed to go up in smoke like so much exhaust?

Van Nuys Blvd. is an oddity in that it’s entertaining without being particularly good. And I don’t mean in a “so awful it’s fun” sort of way, either (the movie isn’t that bad). If anything, Van Nuys Blvd. is far too impatient; characters are haphazardly tossed together and quickly become the best of friends (the five leads meet in, of all places, a police holding cell, where they decide on the spur-of-the-moment to spend the entire next day, in each others' company, at a nearby amusement park), and. in some cases, they even turn into lovers (less than 24 hours after their first drag race, Bobby and Moon are head-over-heels for one another). 

Along with its failure to develop its characters and their relationships, many of the “humorous” situations in Van Nuys Blvd. simply aren’t that funny; at one point, the pals rush Greg, who suddenly got lockjaw (while eating an oversized sub sandwich), to the hospital, where they encounter what might be the most ridiculously unreasonable nurse in medical history (played by Minnie Summers Lindsey). It’s a one-joke scene that goes absolutely nowhere.

Yet despite the fact we never really get a grasp on any of them, Bobby, Moon, Chooch and the rest are a likable bunch, and I didn’t mind spending the majority of the film in their company. In addition, Van Nuys Blvd. features a handful of crazy, yet inventive scenes; Greg first spots Camille at a gas station, where she’s sitting in a car with her boyfriend Jason (Don Sawyer). Needless to say, Jason is none too happy when Greg starts hitting on his girl, but instead of fighting one another, the two grab hold of some blunt instruments and beat the hell out of each other’s cars! 

Toss in plenty of T&A (moments after his ride is destroyed, Greg is picked up by a smoking hot biker chick, played by Di Ann Monaco, who brings him back to her place and has sex with him) as well as a rockin’ title song (composed by Ken Masnfield and Ron Wright), and you have what proves to be a fairly enjoyable slice of late ‘70s exploitation.

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