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  Van Nuys Blvd. Man The Van
Year: 1979
Director: William Sachs
Stars: Bill Adler, Cynthia Wood, Dennis Bowen, Melissa Prophet, David Hayward, Tara Strohmeier, Dana Gladstone, Di Ann Monaco, Don Sawyer, Jim Kester, Minnie Summers Lindsey, Susanne Severeid, Doug Bailey, Aesop Aquarian, Bella Bruck
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bobby (Bill Adler) is tired of his life in the small town he grew up in, and as he and his girlfriend Jo (Susanne Severeid) sit about in her trailer watching television, the news broadcast about Los Angeles Van Nuys Blvd. gives him an idea. He will leave behind this going nowhere existence, and Jo with it, to seek adventure there, so he bids her farewell, jumps into his pride and joy, his van, and sets out on the road to the boulevard. By the time he reaches it, nighttime has fallen, and the nightlife on the street is well underway...

And the award for the flimsiest plot goes to... Let's say William Sachs, the writer and director of this would-be drive-in epic, who made this between the more famous Incredible Melting Man and Galaxina. Not that this is any better than those efforts, but it's not any worse either, and should captivate anyone seeking nostalgia among those who were there in the places depicted, or anyone who wishes they were. If there's one thing this film has going for it it's that sense of place, that vivid location that Sachs captures very well.

His sense of humour is somewhat less impressive, however, and often the jokes here struggle to raise a laugh with some downright odd tries at tickling the funny bone. However there are more serious passages as well, and the influence of American Graffiti is felt in the way the cameras follow Bobby into his meanderings around, picking up friends and allowing various low jinks to occur to him. The difference here between the George Lucas favourite and this is, well, a lot of quality and a lot of nudity, obviously, but also that this was contemporary, intending to speak to the youth of the day rather than both them and the generation slightly above.

It takes a while, but we do assemble a group of six characters for the narrative to concentrate on. At first, it seems as if there will be random incidents offered up to amuse us, and we see a feud erupt between Greg (Dennis Bowen) and a passing driver after he claims he saw his date, Camille (Melissa Prophet), in his dreams. She is not impressed and leaves them to smash up each other's cars for no very good reason, hitching a ride with Moon (Cynthia Wood, seventies Playboy Playmate) in her van. As you can see, vans were most important to young people in the seventies, a phenomenon Sachs dances around without really getting to the heart of.

Meanwhile Bobby is at a drive-in diner getting it on in the back of his vehicle with a waitress, Wanda (Tara Strohmeier), like you do, although Wanda seems to get passed around a lot, from the policeman Al Zass (Dana Gladstone) - so called so that characters can make it sound as if their saying "officer's ass" when they mention him, to the more lighthearted comedy stylings of Chooch (David Hayward) who falls for her. That officer, so down on the kids and their racing and general fun-making, ends up handcuffed to his patrol car in his underwear for practically the whole film, as meanwhile the six carefree protagonists indulge in such pursuits as going on a rollercoaster, play air hockey, and getting you girlfriend's father to feel you up - what? You couldn't honestly say Van Nuys Blvd. was much good, but it does have a certain joie de vivre about it that transports you back to another time. Music, mostly disco gunge, by Ken Mansfield and Roy Wright.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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