Mother, I'm going to screw someone. Now if I can only figure out how.
Done in the classic mode of snobs vs. slobs, The Hollywood Knights is set on Halloween night, 1965. It is the last night of existence for a drive-in diner called Tubby's. The Beverly Hills Homeowners Association has managed to get Tubby's shut down so it can put in its place a new office building. Closing down Tubby's also kills off a local car gang called, The Hollywood Knights. The Knights have been a thorn in the civic association for years, as they are mischief-makers of the highest order and they are lead by Newbomb Turk. Knowing that the end is near, Turk and his gang let loose with a torrent of pranks and practical jokes designed to drive the association and the local cops crazy. These pranks and their constant escalation in size provide most of the movie's laughs. Of particular note is the way the gang manages to "spike" the fruit punch for an association party. It's a flavor that packs quite a "wang."
The movie also has a couple of subplots. One is a former leader of the Knights leaving the next day for boot camp and eventually Vietnam. Another involves one of the Knights' girlfriend wanting to take her chance with a Hollywood screen test the next morning, with the Knight in question feeling insecure about his place in her life. Finally there is a plotline about some pledges for the group being dropped off naked in the Watts area of down to get a dedication played on the radio and then having to get back to Tubby's by 2 AM.
Using all the flaming feces, eggs, urine, fingers posing as genitalia and toilet paper available, The Knights make their final stand an evening to remember.
I have to admit to having a soft spot for this movie. It came out in 1980 and it was one of the first R-rated movies I ever saw. So imagine, if you will, being 16 or so and watching a movie where the lead character farts a song for a packed school auditorium. Is it juvenile? Oh yeah! Is it still funny? Yup! What that says about me and my personal growth over the last 20 years, well I don't know.
Approaching the disc, my biggest concern was that my happy memories of the film would be in some way tarnished by the passage of time. For the most part, this was not the case. Not all of the subplots work but the movie still retains a certain charm and innocence to it that is infectious. Writer/Director Floyd Mutrux has given The Hollywood Knights a great sense of time and place. The movie is populated by those stereotypes that most us knew growing up and they are people we can easily acknowledge and laugh with.
To its credit, the movie never pretends to be anything other than Animal House at a drive-in. There is nothing too ambitious going on but what is there is fairly well executed and the movie is never less than entertaining, often being laugh-out loud funny.
A big part of the fun of going back and watching something like this, is seeing actors that ended up going on to bigger and, sometimes, better things. The Hollywood Knights marked the film debut of actor/writer Robert Wuhl (Batman, Bull Durham, Good Morning, Vietnam) as Knights ringleader Newbomb Turk. While Tony Danza (television's Taxi and Who's the Boss), gets lead billing, it is Wuhl who carries the film. A very smart and quick-witted comic, Wuhl always has tons of energy that holds the film together and keeps it moving. His scenes with Fran Drescher (This Is Spinal Tap, Doctor Detroit, The Nanny), are particularly funny. The scene of the two of them having sex in the back seat of a car is one of the highlights of the movie and on its own, worth the price of a rental.
The biggest "star" to emerge from The Hollywood Knights would, of course, be Michelle Pfeiffer (The Deep End Of The Ocean, Batman Returns, Scarface). She is the female lead in the "B" subplot, the Tony Danza part of the movie, and even back then she was something special. Although the role of Suzy Q is a small one its obvious she has always had talent and she was and still is, a stunningly beautiful woman. For trivia buffs listening to the commentary track, Director Floyd Mutrux tells how he was the original director of Urban Cowboy and Pfeiffer was probably going to be his choice for the role that went to Debra Winger. This tidbit makes the old saying of learning something new everyday a true one.
The Hollywood Knights is probably one of the last films I would expected to see given almost special edition treatment but this being a Columbia DVD release, that is what we get. Besides boasting a brand new anamorphic transfer the film is also given a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix!
While there are points where the film shows both its age and budget, it is, for the most part, a sparkling picture. Contrast is always strong and for a movie where everything takes place at night, blacks are dead-on solid with no bleed or shimmer. Colors, while sometimes looking a bit faded, are at the very least, lifelike and natural. Shadow detail also manages to convey a remarkable amount of depth and clarity. I doubt if the film has ever looked any better, with the entire picture being a pleasant one to watch. Also included on the flip side of the disc is a vastly inferior full screen version.
Now pardon me while I go off on a quick rant. While a funny and entertaining film, I hardly think people were banging down the doors of Columbia for a DVD release of The Hollywood Knights. Still this is a studio that has respect for its catalogue titles and takes the time to do them right. On the other hand MGM, which has the rights to one of the most requested titles in Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride, insists on rehashing the laserdisc transfer with zero extra material. Material that has already been produced for said laserdisc. It is so totally insulting. It amazes me that one studio can be so good and another content to just release crap, expect everyone to put up with it and throw done their hard earned cash for inferior product. Okay. Rant over.
I already mentioned the disc has a new 5.1 mix and while I'm glad it is there, I just don't know why it is there. Outside of a few directional effects, the film is very center speaker driven. Dialogue is what is important here and everything is heard to good effect. The soundtrack shows a remarkable lack of distortion with background hiss being practically nonexistent. Chalk it up to a bounty of riches and be happy. Once again, way to go Columbia!
While not a full-blown special edition, The Hollywood Knights does boast a screen-specific commentary from writer/director Floyd Mutrux. Starting off very slow, with quite a few pauses in the beginning of the movie, Mutrux warms up as the movie starts rolling along and turns in what ends up being an informative and mildly entertaining track.
The disc also features some bonus trailers for a couple of Michelle Pfeiffer movies, production notes and Columbia's usual sparse talent files. On its face, it is not a lot of material but it is far more than I would have expected for this movie.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
When the movie shines the spotlight on Robert Wuhl and the gangs hijinxs, it works just fine. When the more serious subplots kick in, the movie slows down quite a bit. Its not fatal but it is a flaw. The movie should have stuck with the funny stuff and not tried to be "relevant."
Just being happy to own the movie on DVD, period, I feel kind of strange about complaining. But I really would have liked to have heard from Robert Wuhl on the commentary track. I'm sure his presence and humor would have made for a much funnier and more entertaining track. Also Mutrux makes mention of how quite a bit of material Wuhl and Drescher improvised was cut. It would have been great to see that footage. Unfortunately it is nowhere to be found.
As a movie, well, The Hollywood Knights is just that, a movie. It's got lots of penis jokes, quite a few shots of topless girls and a farted song. Watching it is not going to change anyone's life. It is not profound and moving. It's a funny, juvenile movie, not a "film." Art house lovers and film snobs should probably stay far away.
If you like the style of humor in such movies as Animal House, Porky's or American Pie, well, The Hollywood Knights is right up your alley. It is certainly tasteless and quite funny in a gross out kind of way. It also depicts an America that was a simpler and kinder place. A place that makes for a nice trip down memory lane.
The disc is given first class presentation from Columbia, so it has that working for it as well. I doubt the film has ever looked or sounded better.
If you are a fan of this movie by all means pick it up with confidence. If you are looking for an evening's laughter, rent away.
The Hollywood Knights is released with all charges dropped. Columbia is once again thanked by the court for its continuing commitment to its vast catalogue of films. If only all the major studios showed this kind of support, this court would be a much happier place. I'm done here. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
• Director's Commentary with Floyd Mutrux
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