Monday, August 22, 2016

#2,181. Hollywood Boulevard (1976)

Directed By: Allan Arkush, Joe Dante

Starring: Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Candice Rialson

Tag line: "The street where starlets are made!"

Trivia: Dick Miller's character is named for his character in 1959's A Bucket of Blood

The story goes that, at some point in 1976, producer Jon Davidson made a wager with Roger Corman that he could turn out the cheapest movie New World Pictures ever produced. So Corman gave Davidson $60,000 and a 10-day shooting schedule (5 days less than most other pictures) to make what turned out to be Hollywood Boulevard, a comedy that throws everything at you but the kitchen sink (probably because the kitchen sink wasn’t in the budget)!

Believing she has what it takes to be a movie star, Candy Wednesday (Candice Rialson) makes the long journey from Indiana to Hollywood, California, where she hooks up with talent agent Walter Paisley (Dick Miller). As luck would have it, Miracle Pictures (“If it’s a good picture, it’s a miracle”) was in the market for a new stunt woman, and before she knows what hit her, Candy is performing a death-defying car crash in the newest movie from producer P.G. (Richard Doran) and director Erich Von Leppe (Paul Bartel). While on-set, she also meets screenwriter Patrick Hobby (Jeffrey Kramer), with whom she becomes romantically involved.

Impressed by her tenacity, P.G. and Von Leppe cast Candy in their next picture, an action film set in the Philippines. While Miracle’s current star Mary McQueen (Mary Woronov) isn’t exactly happy to have her around, Candy does manage to befriend some of her other cast mates, including former roller derby star Bobbi Quackenbush (Rita George). Over the course of several months, Candy and Bobbi are featured in a number of movies, but just when things are going their way, a homicidal maniac turn up and starts hacking actresses to pieces. And by the looks of it, this killer has no intention of stopping until every young starlet is dead!

Co-directed by Allan Arkush and Joe Dante (both making their debut behind the camera), Hollywood Boulevard was. Indeed, a very low budget affair, but gets around its lack of funds by incorporating scenes from other Corman-produced films, including The Terror, Battle Beyond the Stars, The Big Bird Cage, The Unholy Rollers, and Death Race 2000. As a result, the film has more than its share of excitement (a gun battle lifted from The Big Bird Cage is featured prominently, as are a few of the more intense moments in Death Race 2000). That said, Hollywood Boulevard’s best scenes are the ones shot specifically for it. Her first day in Hollywood, Candy is duped by a couple of bank robbers into thinking she’s been cast in a new motion picture (in reality, they just needed a getaway driver for their newest caper); and Dick Miller rattles off one funny line after another (when a producer calls looking for a bearded lady, Miller tells one of his male clients to “go out and get some tits”).

Not everything flows smoothly in Hollywood Boulevard; an extended sequence set at a drive-in theater runs on far too long, and the serial killer angle feels out of place in what had been up to that point a comedy. But if it’s low-budget ‘70s fare you’re after, and like your movies on the sleazy side (in what is the film’s most bizarre scene, P.G. has one of his subordinates spray down some wannabe actresses, all wearing white T-shirts, with a hose, thus giving him a good look at their “assets”), Hollywood Boulevard should be the next stop on your cinematic journey.

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