1980: The Hollywood Knights
Directed by Floyd Mutrux
Written by Floyd Mutrux, Richard Lederer and William Tennant
I’ve mentioned before how I wasn’t necessarily sheltered as a child, but it’s not like my parents were a couple of hippies either. I vividly remember all of us sitting down to watch The Blues Brothers on HBO one evening, and not even getting past the opening scene with the Mother Superior before my parents decided the language was a little too much for the sensitive ears of my sister and I. So imagine my surprise when those same parents told us we just had to watch this hysterical movie called The Hollywood Knights.
Now I love my parents, but let’s be clear: The Hollywood Knights is not very good. It’s a pale shadow of both American Graffiti and Animal House, trying to merge the “last night together” poignancy of the former with the gonzo attitude of the latter. There are a couple of funny bits that work on a purely juvenile level — a scene with a one-armed violin player in particular being the one my parents insisted we just had to see — and it’s got a host of actors in their first screen roles, such as Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer. But along with that comes nearly wall-to-wall Robert Wuhl. It’s not an offensively bad film, just lazy, happy to be an imitator that occasionally does something on its own.
However, The Hollywood Knights is here not for its quality, but what it represents. First of all, my parents invitation to watch it felt a little like being ushered into adulthood. They made all the right noises — it’s got some bad language, there’s some nudity in it — but they thought we were old enough to handle it for the sake of what they thought was something really funny. There was a level of trust there that a few F-bombs and some boobs weren’t going to turn us into juvenile delinquents.
Speaking of boobs, I’m fairly certain the almost tame by today’s standards nudity in this film was my first exposure (no pun intended) to the undressed female form. I was too young to really process what was going on in Jaws (and Spielberg played that pretty close to the vest anyway), but there was no mistaking what was going on here. It’s safe to say this was the beginning of a life-long appreciation.
The biggest thing it represents though is the truly invasive power of cable TV in its early days. This was a movie we never would have thought to rush out to the theater to see. It probably never even got released in Orlando. But as something my parents stumbled across one night sliding the channel selector along — undoubtedly pulling my dad in with its 1960s setting and music — sure, why not? And HBO and Cinemax were filled with little oddities like this back in the early 80s. You’d find Hawk the Slayer followed by Animals Are Beautiful People and The Land That Time Forgot, with maybe Hardware Wars and Mike Nesmith’s video for “Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam” playing in between to kill time. For a kid used to rabbit ears and commercials, it was a wonderland. I wouldn’t say movies became less special — going to the theater still held considerable magic — but they were definitely more abundant, and thanks to cable and later VHS, my cinematic acumen would increase dramatically.
And let’s not discount the early warning to stay away from Robert Wuhl. It saved me a lot of pain when Arli$$ eventually rolled around.