Thursday, March 29, 2007

Overlooked Classics: Hollywood Boulevard

Joe Dante's and Alan Arkush's 1976 film, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, for Roger Corman's New World Pictures is an absolute treasure of in-jokes and allusions for film lovers. The film, which stars the lovely Candice Rialson, is one of the great films made about films; specifically in this case low budget exploitation films of the seventies.
Joe Dante is one of those great directors who wears his love for film clearly on his sleeve, as his films are often filled with sly nods and outright tributes to his favorite films. HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD is an incredibly funny send up and tribute to the seventies exploitation film genre, of which HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD is proud to be a part of.
The film is scattered with stock footage from other Corman productions from the seventies including DEATH RACE 2000 and BIG DOLL HOUSE. Dante had been working as an editor for New World's incredible trailers and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD'S quick and clever editing is one of it's biggest assets. This is a deliciously fast moving and entertaining picture that demands repeat viewings to get not only all of the references, but also all of the jokes.

Co-director Alan Arkush is also making, along with Dante, his major film directorial debut and he would of course deliver the glorious ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL (also with Dante's assistance) just a few years after HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD. His other 70's film DEATHSPORT is also notable if just for the casting of the talented and tragic Claudia Jennings.
The film was reportedly shot in less than two weeks and features, along with Rialson, some of New World's brightest and funniest stars including Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Rita George and of course Dick Miller. Bartel, as the egotistical out of control director, is particularly brilliant in this.

The film hops several genres in it's breezy 83 minute running time including action pictures, gangster films, sexploitation, horror films, a very odd musical sequence and of course the women in prison film. It wears it's un-pc stamp proudly and with the upcoming release of GRINDHOUSE it is a shame that the anniversary dvd (featuring a fine commentary) is currently out of print.

HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD'S brightest spot remains the delectable and hilarious Rialson. Looking very much like a young Michelle Pfeiffer, this is Rialson's greatest role and proof positive that she deserved much more of a career than she had. The opening credit sequence where she is excitedly walking down the Hollywood Walk Of Fame has become particularly poignant since her untimely death just a year ago.

HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD should be required viewing for all film lovers and students. It is a textbook example on how to make a great film about films and its prideful stance as an exploitation film is especially enduring.
Dante really started to cook after this with the one two knockout punch of PIRANHA and THE HOWLING. Rialson was derailed by her next film, CHATTERBOX, and her career never fully recovered. She remains one of the seventies brightest lights for me though and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD isn't just a good film, but it is a small miracle.

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