The Film Crew: Hollywood After Dark (2007)
See! Depressing junkyard owners! See! Dopey looking middle aged hipster hoods! See! Sleazy producers! All this, plus Rue McClanahan stripping!
Thank god Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett are here to lead us through this thing.
After Mystery Science Theater 3000 went kaput, three of the minds behind the show got together again for a little project titled The Film Crew. Albert has gone over the history of the project in depth in the first Film Crew article, so let’s just get down to business, shall we?
Our feature today is a dreary little turd nugget of exploitation from 1968 called Hollywood After Dark, which was originally titled Walk the Angry Beach, and re-cut for the version we see here. The uncut and apparently slightly more coherent version is available from Something Weird Video, if you’re feeling especially masochistic.
Like most films about show business, Hollywood After Dark explores the seamy underbelly of the entertainment industry. And like most films about show business that deal with the seamy underbelly of the entertainment industry, it’s a wretched piece of dreck not fit for consumption by sane and rational folks.
Just think Showgirls, only with an even bleaker view of the human condition and less attractive strippers. On the plus side, Joe Eszterhas is nowhere to be found, though I’d be shocked if he didn’t screen this while writing Showgirls or… Well, every one of his scripts, come to think of it.
Rue McClanahan of Golden Girls fame plays… Actually, we don’t really learn her name in this version, and the only credits are the film’s title and “The End”, but Rue plays the standard naïve young woman trying to make it big in Hollywood. She falls in love… No, make that mild affection with a really dour, bipolar guy who owns a junkyard, and spends his time reading the classics and waiting for the sweet release that only death can bring.
Our dour, bipolar lead has been hired by the owner of the club Rue dances at (but refuses to actually strip at) to help out with an armored car heist. Though, to be honest, why the club owner and his partner felt they needed a third man is beyond me. In the original version, he’s married with a kid, making the bad guy’s mention of said family odd since it’s never brought up again.
Woven into this is the Downfall of the Rue as she goes from being an aspiring actress to stripper after a nighttime meeting with a producer, which goes pretty much how you expect a nighttime meeting with a producer in a sleazy show business exposé to go.
The heist goes well, but the partner kills the club owner, and fatally stabs our bipolar hero before taking a lamp to the head. And no, it isn’t even as coherent as it sounds.
The male lead dies and the partner, who one would think died from the lamp hit, is superfluously killed in a chase with the cops, in what looks like a scene that was tacked on at the last minute. End of movie.
With bad acting, bad direction, and sleazy atmosphere, this would have been a pretty decent choice for MST3k if not for the (tame by today’s standards) nudity.
The movie itself is easy to laugh at and be repulsed by, even without the Film Crew guys. Here are a few choice moments. And because I want you to experience the riffing for yourselves, all captions in this article have been supplied by yours truly.
The opening scene takes place in the junkyard, where the club owner comes off like a mob boss/hipster on uppers. Now is as good a time as any to note that there’s only one scene in the movie taking place explicitly after dark, but that’s later. It’s broad daylight here, or as Kevin calls it, “Daylight in Barstow.”
The scene immediately following this is where some strange British sounding guy buys a water pump from our hero, only they converse in faux iambic pentameter while our riffers make gay jokes. It’s one of the stranger, more out of the blue scenes I’ve seen in a movie. I’d imagine they know each other and go through this routine regularly. At least I hope.
Next comes the obligatory Meet Cute between our couple, in which she mistakes him for the owner of the club, and he proceeds to go off on a long, rambling monologue about how horrible life is and how she’ll end up miserable like the rest of the world. Actually, it’s more of a Meet a Guy in Dire Need of Prozac than a Meet Cute.
Then we get the longest, least erotic strip scene in the movie that doesn’t feature one of the Golden Girls. The guys have a field day with this one. It’s like the driving scenes in Night of Horror and Manos, only with breasts and dancing. There’s also a rather sadly funny shot from behind where it would seem the girl is playing to an empty club. I guess the show must go on, even in the world of low rent strip clubs.
A date at the beach between Rue and Captain Bipolar manages to be utterly depressing, nauseating, and hilarious all at the same time thanks to the riffing done by the guys. We get a good sense of how bipolar our male lead is as he is alternately dense, dour, obnoxious, and spastic (the guy waves his arms like a two year old when running into the water).
The most confusing date rape scene in film history occurs as Rue is drugged by a sleazy producer dubbed “Ricky Retardo” by the Film Crew guys. Given the filmmaking standards of the time, the director (I assume there was a director, as opposed to Satan just grunting this one out and selling it to a distributor) had to be subtle about it. Apparently, the guy felt “subtle” should mean “abstract and vague”.
After our lead beats the crap out of the producer, there’s a looooong patch of screen time where there’s no dialogue, only music. This includes Rue at a low point, doing a striptease while being watched by some big sweaty guy who looks like the textbook definition of a sex offender, who’s clearly enjoying himself a little too much.
Folks, the only way this could be more uncomfortable to watch is if it were Bea Arthur up there.
After this, there’s a scene of our male lead sort of trying to comfort Rue, which is intercut with another stripper act. Because nothing says pathos and empathy for your female lead like periodically cutting back to a stripper shaking her ass.
Overall, the riffing here is pretty solid, with some risqué material thanks to the subject matter, and a funny Sea Hunt bit at the beginning of the heist (the lead used to be an underwater demolition guy during WW2, and has scuba gear). Mike, Bill, and Kevin do an excellent job of making this sordid little movie somewhat passable. The lunch break sketch is adequately amusing, as are the opening and closing segments, and there’s a mildly interesting “Ode to Lunch” bit done by Bill Corbett.
My verdict? Buy this! The power of Mike, Kevin, and Bill compels you! The power of Mike, Kevin and Bill compels you!
Coming Soon: The Film Crew vs. The Wild Women of Wongo!