Joe Dante and Mary Woronov on HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD -

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Joe Dante and Mary Woronov on HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD

By Steve Ryfle     October 19, 2000

In the 1980s, Joe Dante was the bomb. He had a string of cool genre-movies displaying a unique flair for melding horror, science-fiction and humorremember the newscaster turning into a werewolf on TV in The Howling or the microwave oven scene in Gremlins? But in the cynical 1990s, Dante's nostalgic style, full of references to old movies and Warner Bros. cartoons, seemed to fade off the radar. Small Soldiers wasn't bad, but it didn't really carry the stamp of a Joe Dante film.

That's why it was so cool to see Dante in person this week at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood, which screened Dante's first-ever directorial effort, the 1976 Roger Corman-produced cheapie Hollywood Boulevard (co-helmed with Allan Arkush). For some unknown reason, this flick has become a real rarity; it was only briefly released on video, and is now no longer available. That's too damn bad, because it's a real throwback to the good ol' days of exploitation filmmaking-on-a-shoestring, a sort of comedy tribute to Corman that gives you a pretty good idea what it must have been like to ride the New World Pictures bandwagon in the early '70s. And for people like me, who grew up in and around Hollywood (the place, not the biz), it brings back memories of Hare Krishna's parading in orange robes, the big 'Hollywood and Vine' sign, and the sex trade (like the Institute of Oral Love) lining Santa Monica Boulevard.

Hollywood Boulevard is the story of Candy (Candice Rialson), a wannabe actress scouring the streets of Hollywood, trying to crack the business. Eventually she hooks up with an agent (the great Dick Miller, who's been in a bunch of Dante's stuff). He gets her hooked up with Miracle Pictures ('If it's a good picture, it's a Miracle!'). She falls in love with a screenwriter (Jeffrey Kramer, who was Roy Scheider's deputy in Jaws) and is sent to the Philippines to work in women-in-prison films. One the set, Candy meets a deluded crapmeister director (Paul Bartel, he of Eating Raoul), who at one point tells Godzilla, 'Your motivation is to step on as many people as possible,' and low-budget prima donna Mary McQueen (Mary Woronov, an alum of Andy Warhol's Factory), who feels threatened by the young starlets around her and begins murdering them. The film climaxes with a big fight at the Hollywood sign; along the way, there's 'behind the scenes' footage of the various movies being shot, which is actually stuff lifted from other Corman pics like The Hot Box, Big Bad Mama, Death Race 2000, and The Terror. There's also lotsa T&A, but it's probably the only film I've ever seen that shows off women's breasts in a satirical way.

After the screening, Dante and Mary Woronov (who also showed up, plugging a new book) participated in a question-and-answer session about the film. Here's a little bit of what went down (questions from the audience and American Cinematheque staff):

Joe Dante: This doesn't have a lot of the conventional virtues of a movie. And that's likely because it's kind of a home movie about what it was like to make pictures for Roger Corman in L.A. in 1975.

Question: Who initiated this project?

Joe Dante: Allan and I and John [Davison] were all lucky enough to be working for Roger at a time when it was very difficult to get a foothold in the movie business in L.A., because everything was union, and Roger had a non-union shop and would hire anybody who wanted to make a movie. And we had been doing trailers for him for some time, and we of course, like everybody, wanted to direct our own movies. And so, Roger said, 'Well, I'll let you direct a movie, but it's got to be the cheapest movie we've made at the company. And you've got to make it in 10 days.' We didn't know anything about making moviesthe only movie set I'd ever been on was Death Race 2000, which Paul Bartel directed and Mary was in, the only two actors I knew. We basically realized that we could make the picture if we constructed it around the action scenes from other movies that we had used in making trailers. Because we could never afford to have all these car chases and things blowing up on the kind of budget we had.... We basically wrote it around all this other footage.

Question: What was it actually like working at New World?

Joe Dante: [Pointing up at movie screen] This is what it was like. It's really a documentary: all the little art direction that consists of little signs pasted over things, and half the cast is the crew, because it was cheaper, and half the movie was shot with no sound. We had two units goingI had a unit, and Allan had a unit, when we were shooting the stuff in the so-called Philippines, which was actually done in Tapia Park. I would set up my scene, and while Allan was shooting his, he would call 'cut,' and I would call 'action.' And while I was shooting, he would set up his next scene, and then I would call 'cut,' and he would call 'action.' But we didn't have enough sound equipment for two units, so he ended up getting the unit without the sound. So most of the action stuff in the picture is his.

Question: After this you directed Piranha.

Joe Dante: After this, I directed real movies. You have to remember that this movie is a parody of movies that nobody sees anymore. When the ratings system came in, it turned out there were a lot of people who would love to go to a drive-in just to see girls take their clothes off, because it was such a novelty. So, everybody was making these very low-budget exploitation pictures, which pushed the envelope as far as they could push it. They were the types of movies that are being satirized in this picture. We felt that we didn't have any money to make a regular one of those pictures, so all we could do was make a satire of it. And for those who followed '70s exploitation movies carefully...this is actually a very astute representation of what that genre was like.


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