Hollywood Boulevard

Roger Corman's filmography as a director, producer, and studio head contains a slew of justly revered cult classics, but his films tend to be nearly as notorious for the manner in which they're made as for their actual content. That's certainly the case with 1976's recently reissued Hollywood Boulevard, an irreverent film-world satire made, in true Corman fashion, for less than $60,000 in 19 days. Directed by Allan Arkush (Rock 'N' Roll High School) and Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee), both trailer-editors for Corman at the time, Hollywood Boulevard ostensibly has something to do with mysterious deaths occurring at the disreputable Miracle Studios. But the loose plot is really just an excuse to string together clever jabs at Hollywood and low-budget filmmaking, while recycling plenty of stock footage from the Corman archives—particularly various expensive-looking explosions from his Philippines-shot women-in-prison movies. Essentially a sort of white Hollywood Shuffle, Hollywood Boulevard stars Candice Rialson as an innocent Midwesterner cast adrift in a sea of sleaze, exploitation, and murder after she moves to Hollywood to make films for Miracle Studios and its motivation-minded director (Paul Bartel, making the most of a juicy role). Arkush and Dante's film cleverly and affectionately spoofs exploitation movies, but it's also an exploitation movie itself, and it sometimes crosses the line separating satire of exploitation-movie tropes and crass exploitation of them, particularly during a comically gratuitous rape scene that somehow leads to a second, separate rape scene. The directors' ability to inject innocence into a film crawling with gratuitous sex, nudity, violence, and sexual abuse says much about the Corman contingent's unique ability to be creepy and strangely endearing at the same time. For those willing to overlook periodic missteps into the nether regions of bad taste, Hollywood Boulevard is the sort of scrappy, resourceful, smart B-movie that threatens to give shameless opportunism a good name.

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