'The Queen of Hollywood Blvd.': Film Review

Dark Star Pictures
Grindhouse fans will love it.
1/31/2020

Rosemary Hochschild plays the title role of a strip club owner fighting the mob in this crime melodrama written and directed by her son, Orson Oblowitz.

Rosemary Hochschild must be a very special mother to deserve the cinematic present given to her by her son, writer-director Orson Oblowitz. Her starring role in his film The Queen of Hollywood Blvd. is the sort that actresses of a certain age can only dream of. Hochschild makes the most of the juicy opportunity, delivering a performance that will not be easily forgotten by anyone who sees it. It's so distinctive, in fact, that that it's hard to tell exactly whether it's sublime or terrible, but either way, it's one of a kind.

The veteran actress, who has appeared in small parts in such films as Born in Flames and Desperately Seeking Susan and recently on the TV series Supergirl, plays the title role of Mary, a strip club owner celebrating her 60th birthday. Well, not exactly celebrating, since she's visited that day by a former criminal associate, Duke (Roger Guenveur Smith of A Huey P. Newton Story, clearly relishing the villainous role), who demands that she hand over the keys to her club to pay off a 25-year-old debt. And just to make sure she understands the stakes, he kidnaps her son (Oblowitz) and shows her a video of him being tortured.

The threat sets off a violent chain of events as Mary desperately tries to hold onto her beloved establishment, get her son home safely and, along the way, attend to her newest employee, the underage runaway Grace (Ana Mulvoy Ten), to whom she shows a motherly protectiveness. Duke also offers Mary a dangerous assignment as a way of repaying the debt, setting the stage for a melodramatic conclusion involving a perverted john.  

The episodic storyline proves of less interest than the overall lurid tone, which puts the film squarely in the sort of grindhouse territory beloved by Tarantino and the like. Oblowitz clearly shares the obsession, drenching the brutal proceedings in neon colors and filming the mean streets of Hollywood as if they were a national landmark. You can be assured that by the time the pic reaches its conclusion, blood will have been spilled on the stars' names emblazoned on the titular boulevard.

Really, though, it's all an excuse to provide a starring showcase for Hochschild, and the actress seizes the role as if she's been waiting all her life for it. Speaking in a low, guttural voice suggesting decades of chain-smoking, wearing a long black wig, oversized dark glasses, a leopard-print coat and brandishing a cane, she strides through nearly every scene with a dominating presence simultaneously fearsome and vulnerable. Toward the end of the film, she sits on a garish red throne, and actually looks right at home.

The movie also proves notable for featuring one of the last screen performances by Michael Parks (a Tarantino favorite, it should be noted), who appears in one scene opposite Hochschild as a gun-dealing junkie with whom Mary swaps reminiscences and rueful observations before she thoughtfully helps him shoot up. Despite looking physically ravaged, the actor delivers a haunting cameo that demonstrates that while his health might have left him by that point, his talent certainly hadn't.

The sort of film that even manages to incorporate music composed by no less a notorious figure than Manson Family associate and convicted murderer Bobby Beausoleil (originally composed for Kenneth Anger's short Lucifer Rising), The Queen of Hollywood Blvd. has "Cult Movie" written all over it.

Production companies: Concrete Images, Nero Films
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Cast: Rosemary Hochschild, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ana Mulvoy-Ten, Michael Parks, Ella Thomas, Jon Lindstrom
Director-screenwriter: Orson Oblowitz
Producers: Matthew Berkowitz, Jeff Katz, Orson Oblowitz, Alec Paul, Gracie Wheelan
Executive producers: Tims Johnson, Michael Merryman, Hani Selim, Narbeh Tatoussian
Director of photography: Luke Hanlein
Composers: Daniel De Lara, Hermann Kopp
Costume designer: Shawna Barbeau

90 minutes