1980, Columbia Pictures/PolyGram Pictures
Floyd Mutrux (story and screenplay)
Richard Lederer (story)
William Tennant (story)
William A. Fraker
Tony Danza (Duke)
Gary Graham (Jimmy Shine)
Michelle Pfeiffer (Suzy)
Robert Wuhl (Newbomb Turk)
Fran Drescher (Sally)
Randy Gornel (Wheatley)
P.R. Paul (Simpson)
Glenn Withrow (Shorty)
Gary Prendergast (Tarzan)
Gailard Sartain (Officer Bimbeau)
Sandy Helberg (Officer Clark)
Leigh French (Mrs. Freedman)
Stuart Pankin (Dudley)
James Jeter (Smitty)
Harold “Red” Keller (Tubby)
What would you do on the last night that your favorite hangout is going to be around? Ask these guys in this underrated comedy in the vein of American Graffiti.
It’s Halloween night in 1965. In the city of Beverly Hills, a local hangout called Tubby’s Drive-In is in its last night of operations before the building gets torn down thanks in part to the Homeowner’s Association led by Mrs. Freedman. A local club who frequented the hangout, the Hollywood Knights, decide to make this a night to remember.
As Newbomb, Wheatley, and Simpson decide to cause all sorts of chaos from crashing the local high school pep rally to making life chaotic for the Homeowner’s Association, two other prominent members are going through personal ordeals. Duke is having relationship troubles with his girlfriend Suzy, a waitress at Tubby’s who aspires to be an actress. Duke’s longtime friend Jimmy Shine is preparing to enter the military in the awakening of the Vietnam War. Despite these two going their ordeals, one thing is for sure. This is going to be a night to forever remember.
With the success of the 1973 film American Graffiti, a series of comedies set in between one and two decades earlier, proved to be a fad that would result in films such as this 1980 hilarious film that has gained a cult following and features an ensemble cast of actors who would later become major stars in their own rights. Writer/director Floyd Mutrux takes the AG formula and meshes it with the classic teen comedy that would be a major genre of the 1970’s and 1980’s. For some reason, the interconnecting of stories truly works wonders thanks to the performances of said ensemble.
The main story is the chaos run by Newbomb and his buddies when they decide to wreak as much as havoc as possible on the last night their favorite hangout will be around. They also find four new members willing to pledge who must find the local radio station by 2am to give a dedication with a bit of a twist. Talk about hazing. For this, it’s a groundbreaking role for future comedian and actor Robert Wuhl, whose Newbomb is truly one of the most hysterical characters in the film. He even attempts at getting together with a pre-Nanny Fran Drescher and in one of the most hilarious scenes, things don’t go as planned. It’s clear here that Wuhl is destined for comic genius, something he brought to a minimum with his role as reporter Alexander Knox in 1989’s Batman.
While that is the core plot of the film, one cannot ignore the subplots involving a film debut performance from both Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer as the lovebirds Duke and Suzy who are going through issues due to Suzy’s aspirations and Duke having doubts that he can live up to his girlfriend’s standards and wants her to just be who she is. The other is future Alien Nation TV series star Gary Graham as Jimmy, who is bound to join the military during the Vietnam War and makes the most of his final night while still having the fears of getting involved in war. It is clear that Duke is like a brother to Jimmy with James Jeter’s garage owner Smitty as the duo’s “father figure”.
There is a bit of a third subplot involving the two bumbling Beverly Hills cops, Bimbeau and Clark, played by Hee Haw’s Gailard Sartain and Up the Creek’s Sandy Helberg having constant arguments when they are not patrolling the area over music. It is clear that Mutrux wanted to bring the bumbling cops into the mix as part of the ensemble and succeeds, especially when Bimbeau does all he can trying to keep Newbomb in check, which clearly does not work.
The Hollywood Knights is an underrated 60’s set comedy full of hijinks seen in the late 70’s/early 80’s teen comedies. If you like the classic like American Graffiti and the old teen comedies, then this meshing is a must-see on your list.
WFG RATING: A