Truckin’ Down the ‘Vard with Papa Joe
"Dante's Inferno": Hollywood Boulevard & Truck Turner
The New Beverly Cinema, April 11
The New Beverly Cinema's runaway-hit series of director-programmed festivals has proved a rousing success so far, with slates lovingly prepared by the likes of Edgar Wright and Eli Roth. It was only a matter of time before the big guns came out to play... and by that measure, in the ranks of the geek garde Joe Dante is a bazooka. The director of The Howling, Gremlins and more recently, the outstanding Masters of Horror episode Homecoming (as incisive a commentary on the Iraq conflict as anyone's had the nuts to make yet); who cut his teeth as part of the New World/Roger Corman gang and who has reliably programmed as eclectic and fascinating a lineup as any New Bev guest helmer so far, delivered a solid one-two punch - plus guests! - on Friday night's double bill before an always-appreciative crowd of giddy cinephiles.
(l-r) Miller, Dante, Arkush
First up, Hollywood Boulevard - Dante's co-directorial effort along with Allan (Deathsport, Rock N' Roll High School) Arkush, who also attended for a Q&A post screening along with the film's co-star and Dante stalwart, the inimitable Dick Miller. ("A man of few words," it was quipped; though he might be short on chat the 79-year-old Miller's twinkly smirk has hardly changed a bit.) Though her in-person appearance didn't happen, cult legend Mary Woronov still loomed large over the proceedings as the diva of Hollywood Boulevard's delightfully trashy tale of busty Z-movie vixens and spectactularly edited stock footage (For real? There are bits of a stitched-up guerilla shootout that put Platoon to shame.). Meanwhile, the always-effervescent presence of the late Paul Bartel serves to remind what a comparatively dull world it is without him in it.
Actor and stunt coordinator Bob Minor (l) and Kaplan
Oh, but there was more - in the shape of Isaac Hayes in head-to-toe denim whuppin' a whole lotta ass. Dante let his friend and colleague Jonathan Kaplan take the mic to present, then Q&A, his 1974 blaxploitation classic Truck Turner - "[still] the most fun I've ever had making a film," Kaplan enthused - and demonstrate the only possible way to follow the low-budge thrills of Hollywood Boulevard. Namely, with Hayes both acting and scoring, leading the charge that includes Nichelle Nichols as a low-down-dirty madame; Yaphet Kotto elevating the pimp death scene to never-before-seen levels of high art; a nail-biter hospital ward shootout that predates Woo's Hard Boiled climax by nearly 20 years; and bit parts by the likes of Scatman Crothers and Stymie Beard. T'were as righteous a second feature you're ever gonna get... though perhaps that's premature? Seeing as how Dante's just gotten started, anyway - more cult-tastic thrills with the likes of Larry Cohen, Roger Corman, and John Saxon are still to come.
Get the Theater
Your weekly guide to local culture with calendar listings and theater, dance, and comedy reviews.