The 13th Floor

Joe Dante’s First Horror Film was Made on a Bet!

Some films are made for money. Some films are made because of the director’s passion for the subject matter. Some films are made for the love of filmmaking. And then there’s the 1976 film HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD- the film made because of a bet.

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It all started when producer Jon Davison approached Roger Corman with the crazy notion that he could churn out the cheapest film ever made by New World Pictures. At the time, Corman’s New World Pictures was well-known for low budget B-movies like THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, and WOMEN IN CAGES, none of which broke the bank when it came to production budgets. So the idea that Davison could make a film for less than they were already being made for seemed prosperous. Corman took Davison’s bet. He gave him a budget of $60,000 and a ten day shooting schedule, instead of the usual fifteen.

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The film was called HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, and it would be Allan Arkush and Joe Dante’s directorial debut (Joe would later direct hits like GREMLINS and THE BURBS). It was the story of a young girl named Candy Wednesday who goes to Hollywood to become a star only to be ground up in the gears of the sleazy Hollywood machine. Along her journey to stardom, she finds nothing but exploitive directors and jealous costars out to sabotage her dreams. But there is one ray of hope in her life, a kind-hearted agent named Walter Paisley (played by Dick Miller) who takes her under his wing. HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD was the second in a long series of films in which Miller played a character named Walter Paisley, most of which were future Joe Dante films. In addition to Dick Miller, viewers will also notice New World Pictures regulars Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel both of whom would go on to star in the indie classic EATING ROULE.

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In today’s budget terms, $60,000 may seem like quite a lot to make a movie, but in the days of shooting on actual film, that figure was almost laughable. In order to cut costs, the filmmakers shot on the short ends of raw film stock that was left over from other movies. Since they were also limited on the number of shooting days, they padded out the film by inserting scenes from other B-movies already owned by New World Pictures. At one point, Walter and Candy go to a drive-in where they watch clips from BATTLE BEYOND THE SUN and THE TERROR, another film which featured Dick Miller!

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A low budget exploitation film in itself, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD is also a perfect spoof of low budget exploitation filmmaking in the 1970s. Despite its limitations, the film did turn out to be a box office success, earning over $1 million.

 

 

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