Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hollywood Boulevard

So you all know about Dante's Inferno at the New Beverly, right? They've got Joe Dante selecting some of his favorite movies to show, with special guests showing up and the whole shebang. I went out there Saturday to see a double feature of Hollywood Boulevard and Truck Turner. The night before, they had shown the same bill with a bunch of guests, so (from my experience with previous New Beverly programs)I wasn't expecting any guest appearences. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a little note taped to the box office window reading "Hollywood Boulevard will be introduced by Quentin Tarantino TONIGHT."

I get in, my eyes adjust to the light a bit, and I notice Quentin several rows in front of me, talking animatedly and acting very Quentinesque. Then I see a couple guys walk in and go over to talk to him. When they pass in front of the screen, I make out their silhouettes--Joe Dante and John Landis! I eavesdrop on their conversation a minute. QT: "Well, since you're here, you should introduce it." JD: "Nah, I want to hear your version." Then John Landis telling them he was actually a stuntman in a car crash scene in Truck Turner. Anyway, here's a rough transcription of Quentin's intro to Hollywood Boulevard:

OK, this movie is special to a certain kind of person, like me. See, when I was growing up, I'd go see all these AIP movies, but I wasn't old enough to make movies yet, which was what I really wanted to do, and I'd always fantasize about accosting Roger Corman and BEGGING him to let me make a movie, and maybe he'd at least let me edit trailers until I could make a movie. And so this movie was particularly inspriational to people like me, because THEY ACTUALLY DID IT! So what you have to know is that Joe Dante and Alan Arkush had the job of editing trailers for AIP, and they were basically locked in a room all day with all these movies, cutting them and editing them together and talking about movies, to where they were almost like a comedy team, and they'd take a car crash or a helicopter explosion from one movie and put it in the trailer for another movie, so they got to know these movies back and forth, like the back of their hand. So they came up with this idea, and they went to Roger Corman and said "We bet you we can make the cheapest movie in AIP history." See they KNEW Roger Corman,and they knew that that was a proposal that he'd at least have to consider, right? So they made this movie, and they filmed it in such a way that they could stick in the stock footage from all these other AIP movies, car chases and stuff, and it's a movie about making the kind of b-movies they were making, so they could be making a Phillipino prison movie and have Candy Rialson shooting a gun, then cut to footage of a whole platoon of Phillipino soldiers dying, right? And then they're making a scifi movie so they can cut to footage from Deathrace 2000. There's a lot of movies in there. So they make this movie, incredibly cheap, and they have a preview of it with a test audience in...where was it? Let's say Panorama City, some hick town like that. And all through the movie, nobody is laughing. Except Roger Corman, who's sitting in the back, just chuckling, "huh huh huh." Then the movie ends, and Corman immediately gets up and goes to the bathroom, so they're just sweatin' it out, "what's he gonna say?" So Roger comes back from the bathroom, and he says "Gentlemen, there's a saying in shobiz. It's called 'too hip for the room.'"

There was more to it, but I can't remember. Then Joe Dante got up and talked about it. He said he ripped the plot off of an old Bela Lugosi movie, but "the plot is the worst thing about it."

Hollywood Boulevard was fun as a cultural artifact, although it didn't exactly add up to much of a movie. There were some great trailers, too, especially a totally insane trailer for Dirty Duck. I remember seeing that video in the video store I used to rent from in high school, but I never rented it because I figured Fritz the Cat pretty much had that ground covered, but it looked absolutely batshit insane. Probably best left to the imagination, though.

And Truck Turner was cool, but I'd seen it twice, so I left before it was over. Oh, the director, Jonathan Kaplan (Heart Like a Wheel) was there to introduce it.

Roger Corman's gonna be there tonight for The Secret Invasion and Tomb of Ligeia. For my part, I'll be at The Egyptian tonight enjoying the Film Noir Festival. Tell me this doesn't tempt you:

Ultra-Rare! TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY, 1951, Warner Bros., 90 min. Handsome Steve Cochran with the perpetual 5 o’clock shadow-racked up a slew of noir credits before his premature death in 1965, including WHITE HEAT, PRIVATE HELL 36 and THE DAMNED DON’T CRY. Here, he’s an ex-con who’s never been with a woman. Ruth Roman (STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) is a dime-a-dance dame with no use for sappy men. A hotel room, a dirty cop, a gunshot -- the perfect jumpstartfor a fugitives-on-the-run love story. This virtually unknown noir is director Felix Feist’s masterwork, packed with revelatory set-pieces. Feist also helmed the legendary THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE, and this hard-luck saga more than matches DEVIL’s twisted pyrotechnics. Cochran was never more vulnerable, Roman never sexier. Imagine GUN CRAZY scripted by Steinbeck -- it’s that good. NOT ON DVD

Anyway, next Tuesday is the most interesting part of the Dante program, The Movie Orgy. Dig this description:

This the first, one nite only public showing in many years of my first project. In 1968 when "camp" was king, Jon Davison and I put together a counterculture compendium of 16mm bits and pieces (tv show openings, commercials, parts of features, old serials etc.), physically spliced them in ironic juxtapositions and ran the result at the Philadelphia College of Art interspersed with parts of a Bela Lugosi serial. The reaction was phenomenal. This led to The Movie Orgy, a 7-hour marathon of old movie clips and stuff with a crowd-pleasing anti-war, anti-military, anti-establishment slant that played the Fillmore East and on college campuses all over the country for years -- always the one print. We called it a 2001-splice odyssey. We kept adding and subtracting material over time so this, alas, is not the original version-- it’s the later cutdown, running a mere 4 hours and 19 minutes! But it’s still a pop time capsule that will bring many a nostalgic chuckle from baby boomers and dazed expressions of WTF?! from anyone else."

And I'll be teaching that night, so I'll miss it. Fucker! Oh yeah, check out the coverage on the SLIFR blog. Great interview with Dante!


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