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, in 1976, producer Jon Davidson wagered Roger Corman that he could turn out the cheapest movie Corman's New World Pictures ever produced. So the renowned schlockmeister 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 sink wasn’t in the budget!

Convinced she has what it takes to be a movie star, Indiana native Candy Wednesday (Candice Rialson) makes her way to Hollywood, where she hooks up with talent agent Walter Paisley (Dick Miller). As luck would have it, Miracle Pictures (their slogan: “If it’s a good picture, it’s a miracle”) needs a new stuntwoman, and before she knows what's 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 will become romantically involved.

Impressed with her tenacity, P.G. and Von Leppe cast Candy in their next picture, an action film set in the Philippines. Miracle’s current star Mary McQueen (Mary Woronov) isn’t thrilled to have her around, but Candy does befriend some of her other castmates, including former roller derby star Bobbi Quackenbush (Rita George). Over the next several months, Candy and Bobbi are featured in a number of movies.

But Candy's luck may have just run out. it seems a homicidal maniac is loose in L.A., and has already hacked a few fledgling starlets to death. By the looks of it, this killer has no intention of stopping until every young actress in Hollywood is dead!

Co-directed by Allan Arkush and Joe Dante (both making their debuts behind the scenes), Hollywood Boulevard was, indeed, a very low budget affair. Tp save money, Davidson and his team incorporated moments from other Corman-produced films, including The Terror, Battle Beyond the Stars, The Big Bird Cage, The Unholy Rollers, and Death Race 2000. Thanks to this approach, the film has its share of excitement; a gun battle lifted from The Big Bird Cage is featured prominently, as are a few of the more intense sequences in Death Race 2000.

That said, the best scenes in Hollywood Boulevard were shot specifically for the movie. On Candy's first day in Hollywood, she is duped by a couple of bank robbers into thinking she's been cast in a new motion picture (actually, they needed her as 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's character 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 far too long, and the serial killer storyline, when introduced, feels out of place (up to that point, the movie had been a fairly effective comedy). But if it’s low-budget ‘70s fare you’re after, and you 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 wannabe actresses - all of whom are wearing white T-shirts - with a hose, thus giving him and everyone else a good look at their “assets”), Hollywood Boulevard should be your very next stop.

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