Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hollywood Boulevard (1976) review

Poster: google images


Candice Rialson (Candy Hope), Mary Woronov (Mary McQueen), Rita Georg (Bobbi Quackenbush), Jeffrey Kramer (Patrick Hobby), Dick Miller (Walter Paisley), Paul Bartel (Erich Von Leppe), Jonathan Kaplan (Scotty)

Directed by Joe Dante, Allan Arkush

The Short Version: This 'made on a wager', No Fat Calorie, New World Free For All is high on pizza and popcorn thrills, chills, spills and all manner of gratuitous goodness. It's a 'Laff a Minute' riot of all the best bits and pieces of the Corman canon and what made New World Pictures so damn amazing. If you see just one exploitation movie in your lifetime, make it HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD.

***WARNING! This review contains violence, nudity and images of a lude, crude nature that may have an adverse effect on your intelligence***

"...This is not a film about the human condition, this is a film about tits and ass!"

Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Candice Rialson and Jeffrey Kramer, fresh off JAWS as Brody's deputy

Sex & Violence explodes on the screen in this sordid tale of the glitz, glamour and broken dreams within the seedy world of exploitation moviemaking! Candy Hope heads out to Tinseltown with big dreams, a big chest and big plans of makin' it in Hollywood! Instead, cute Candy finds unscrupulous producers, vindictive co-stars, low budget pictures and violence amidst the cruel underbelly of independent filmmaking! This globetrotting $60,000 trash epic goes from the concrete jungles of Los Angeles to the endless dangers of the Filipino rain forests!! SEE The Machete Maidens of Mora Tau! SEE The Atomic War Brides! You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll shriek in amazement at stock footage from other movies! From Miracle Pictures--"If it's a good picture, it's a miracle!!!"

Mary has reservations about what looks like one of the lead villains from the set of the Japanese Tokusatsu show, SPECTREMAN.

The above synopsis is just as nonsensical as the actual film itself. Quite possibly, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD is the ultimate exploitation movie; The last word in Drive In trash, no less. The way the production was mounted is a monumentally amazing piece of cinematic impulsiveness. The film became woven around a bet between Corman and some of his enterprising crew members. The pitch was that this mystery production would be done far cheaper than any film Roger Corman had made since New World's inception in 1970 and completed in just 10 days. Corman agreed, but stated the film had to be done for $80,000, but he was only going to give them $60,000 to start.

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen--the name derived partially from the old serial program RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON

Completed in ten days and under budget at a little over $54,000, this New World wonder production is crammed so full of in-jokes and references to the glorious world of Drive In cinema, if you blink, you're likely to miss something. Thankfully, this fly by night flick holds up well to repeat viewings and is a great party movie for those who appreciate and love these kinds of movies. Not only do you get a mega ton of Corman crudity, but you get an up close look at the West coast version of 42nd Street and a friggin' out of left field performance by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (remember 'Hot Rod Lincoln'?) belting out an expletive fueled country-rocka-billy tune! In addition to the non stop madness, there's both Robbie the Robot serving drinks at a Hollywood premiere and a stunt man dressed in a Godzilla suit (or, as the credits state, Godzina)!

Kramer, Rialson and Dick Miller enjoy THE TERROR (1963)

Among the array of stock footage, you'll see great scenes from the likes of THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972), BIG BAD MAMA (1974), CRAZY MAMA (1975), DEATHRACE 2000 (1975) and several other New World pictures. There's a wet T-Shirt contest (Jonathan Kaplan mans the hose), a staged bank robbery that turns out to be real, scantily clad babes with machine guns and Dick Miller (playing his character from Corman's A BUCKET OF BLOOD) going to the Drive In and watching himself in THE TERROR (1963). Speaking of THE BIG BIRD CAGE, one of the best in-jokes concerns a key effects moment (ingeniously improvised by Jack Hill for the film) woven into a brawl in the projection booth of the Drive In. All this stock footage is cannily implemented into the new picture in such a way, you don't always realize you're looking at bits and pieces of film from other movies.

"This stuff is disgusting! How can they expect people to swallow this muck?! John Wayne would never make a picture like this! We're gonna get our money back and we're gonna go home! Depravity! Filth! This is worse than television!!"

Exploitation starlet and super hottie, Candice Rialson (PETS, CANDY STRIPE NURSES) plays Candy Hope, the naive young spitfire from Indiana. Too tall and sexy Mary Woronov (EATING RAOUL, CANNONBALL) is the foul mouthed primadonna Mary McQueen and bald and brash Paul Bartel (DEATHRACE 2000, EATING RAOUL) chews what's left of the scenery as the director who treats each of his trashy endeavors with the utmost of artistic integrity. Among the plethora of talent putting in cameos are the one and only Forrest J. Ackerman, the monstrous creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine; Lewis Teague (director of LADY IN RED, ALLIGATOR) and also Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), hidden under the Godzilla costume. Charles B. Griffith (EAT MY DUST), Miller Drake (as 1st mutant) and Joe Dante (GREMLINS, INNERSPACE) put in appearances as well.

Dick Miller, Robbie the Robot and check out Uncle Forry to the far right!

The film plays like a heartfelt ode to everything Roger Corman and New World Pictures were all about. Every aspect of the production covers nearly all of Corman's cinematic predilections--New World's preponderance for T&A, Corman's time shooting movies in the Philippines, more busty girls, monsters (there's even a brief sexual jab at Corman's foreign sci fi pick up VOYAGE TO THE SEVENTH PLANET), car crashes, a heavy ambiance of the Drive In (including intermission time) and one of the most crucial components of New World and Roger Corman's movies--Dick Miller. It also meets noted Drive In critic, Joe Bob Brigg's criteria of the three 'B's'--Blood, Breasts & Beasts.

Godzina displays disapproval of the ATOMIC WAR BRIDES script

Guy in car at Drive In: (honks horn)"Move your ass!"

Patrick: "Hey, fuck you, buddy! I wrote this picture, I can stand in front of it if I want to!"

More classic crap includes Candy donning Frankenstein's mask from DEATHRACE 2000 for a proposed futuristic flick and a great reworked line from Criswell taken from that awe-ful Ed Wood trash classic, PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE (1956); one of the sleazy producers is named P.G., Godzilla reads the script for 'Atomic War Brides' then tosses it into the toilet and there's also a slasher subplot with a Gialloesque touch as someone is bumping off the starlets of Miracle Pictures. There's even a Hitchcockian finale at the big Hollywood sign.

Those were the days!

CUT!! That's a wrap!

HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD is truly something special and if it weren't a movie, you'd swear you were watching a documentary on the wild world of shooting "major motion pictures" on the cheap with Roger and company crossed with a Zucker Brothers KENTUCKY FRIED mentality. Not only is it representative of the Corman school of 'Shoot Fast, Edit Well & Make A Tidy Profit', but it's a loving tribute to the Passion Pit, now almost nothing more than a memory of a bygone era when you could make a special movie with some lint, spare change and a bare chest, or two.

This review is representative of the New Concorde DVD

Cult Film Faves Not On DVD: The Incredible Melting Man (1977) review


Alex Rebar (Steve West/The Melting Man), Burr DeBenning (Dr. Ted Nelson), Myron Healey (Gen. Michael Perry), Michael Alldredge (Sheriff Neil Blake), Jonathan Demme (Matt), Janus Blythe (Nell), Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith (Model)

Directed by William Sachs

The Short Version: This terrifically trashy, misbegotten 70s relic is delicious 'B' entertainment of the highest order. Incredibly stupid, this gorily inventive, yet poverty row production came during a time when anyone could still get their movie into theaters and possibly become a future cult item. If you're a bad movie lover, stop the world and melt with the MELTING MAN.

Astronaut Steve West and two others head an expedition to the outer reaches of Saturn. Upon witnessing the outer crust of the sun through the rings of the sixth planet, something happens to the crew. Upon re-entry, only West is alive. Awakening in a hospital bed covered in gauze, Steve West comes to the horrifying realization his body is melting away after contracting some bizarre space bacteria. Almost immediately, Steve begins a murderous, cannibalistic rampage, escaping the hospital and eating other humans to replace his continuously dying cells.

The victimized nurse loses half her face to the man eating melting man

Grand and gooey gore ghoulash-science fiction flick from director William (GALAXINA) Sachs reeks of amateurishness from start to finish. Yet the film has a number of notable features that make it worth a watch and worthy of its minor cult status. Sachs film appears to borrow elements from Hammer's 1955 science fiction opus, THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, but upon closer inspection, the MELTING MAN leans more towards being a direct remake of the low budget B/W creature feature, FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959), even down to the monster. It follows the Golden Age of Sci Fi formula for monster movie potboilers to a tea, but more extravagant in the effects department.

This much later schlocker is far more gruesome and violent and benefits from some riotously squishy effects work from Rick Baker, who at the time, had dabbled in other low budget efforts such as the "no money down" BLACK LAGOON clone OCTAMAN (1971), John Landis' SCHLOCK (1973), another impoverished movie about a man turned monster from getting hit in the head by a piece of moon rock in TRACK OF THE MOON BEAST (1976) and the worm ridden SQUIRM (1976).

The tone of THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN is summed in one rather tasteless sequence. The maniacal melting man attacks a fisherman, tears his head off and tosses it into a river. This all occurs in slow motion. Through editing, we see on more than one occasion, this bobbin' noggin floating down river, ultimately going over a small waterfall (in slow motion) crashing onto some rocks resulting in a small explosion of viscera as the hapless head heads further downstream. There's no reason for a minute, or two of the films running time to focus on a crudely decapitated head rafting down river, but it definitely adds additional exploitation (not to mention a macabre giggle, or two) value and the head is quite nicely crafted, I must say.

Other scenes that make little sense is a rotund nurse running screaming down a seemingly empty hospital hallway after laying eyes on the melting man during the first five minutes (the action gets almost immediately underway right from the start), crashing through a plate glass window, instead of simply pushing the door open. This is in slow motion, too. Also perplexing are our stock hero characters taking a break from hunting the rapidly decomposing gelatinous mass that is Steve West to eat soup and then complaining over the lack of crackers in the house!

More brutal gore keeps your attention on the screen including a truly spectacular dummy death by massive electrocution. The french fried victim is a shocker(haha) when it happens and the pyrotechnics are quite good for what must have been an $87.00 budget. The ending is a bit of a downer as West finally succumbs to his space sickness, melting away into a pile of slop till morning comes and a janitor sweeps up the viscous mess left behind while a voiceover counts down a new mission to Saturn.

The acting in MELTING MAN is what you would expect even though there are a few seasoned veterans amongst the cast. Burr DeBenning featured in dozens of television credits and appeared in the lively Charles Bronson crime feature ST. IVES (1976). Myrone Healey will be recognizable from any number of roles in American television programs. He also starred in the US version of the Toho monster flick, VARAN, THE UNBELIEVABLE (1962). In keeping with his exploitation movies, Healey also featured in the atrocious killer bear flick, CLAWS also in 1977.

You'll also spy Janus Blythe among the cast. She was Ruby in Wes Craven's two HILLS HAVE EYES movies and also a hot and horny teenager in the MACON COUNTY LINE styled THE BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY (1977). Here, she gets trapped in a house by the melting man and fends him off with a meat cleaver. Future award winning director Jonathan Demme also has a small role in the film as Blythe's boyfriend. The tragic trash movie actress, Rainbeaux Smith has a brief role as model whose photographer can't wait to get her top off. Smith was also in CAGED HEAT, THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS (both 1974), DRUM and MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (both 1976).

Comparison of older VHS rip versus restored version: VHS above--restored version below & insert

Sadly, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN has yet to garner a US DVD release. It was released to VHS in the mid 80s from Lightning Video and MGM released it to VHS in 2000. It did receive a DVD release in Germany which quickly went OOP. There's also an Italian DVD. I passed on it since all those MGM titles were coming to DVD, but this title didn't make it before Metro's financial troubles began to take hold. Currently, it's been making the widescreen rounds on cable television. I managed to copy it to my DVR and it looks gorgeous. Serious schlock fans take note and track down THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN.
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