A sleazy director tries to make a picture with shady money and crummy actors. Some might say that finding a lost film by Phil Tucker, the genius behind such no-budget landmarks as "Robot Monster," "Dance Hall Racket" and "Cape Canaveral Monsters," is like finding a missing atom bomb; who would want to recover it? But there are those of us who live dangerously, and like to see anything dug up that may have been buried for damn good reason. This is a fascinating, cynical, darkly comic look at 50s Hollywood by one who should certainly know. The main character, shyster director Fletcher Mathering, could easily be based on Ed Wood, or director Tucker himself: half-artist, half bull***t artist. We start off with a 50s staple: a replaced main title. Was it titled "Broadway Jungle" for the East Coast market? Could they have been so crass? This was obviously released as "Hollywood Jungle," as the main credits are shot over scenes of major Hollywood studios like NBC, RKO, MGM and... Charles Skinner Studios? Our story takes place, according to an early establishing shot, at Producers Studio Corporation, the real-life mini-studio where Ed Wood shot the immortal "Plan 9 From Outer Space"! The paper-thin non-plot concerns a bunch of pathetic Hollywood losers, with names like Lena Little and Georgie-Boy Gomez, who try to make pictures on no dough. They get caught up with some sleazy mob types, who want to rub'em out, of course. Amongst these sad wannabes, there's a spunky female assistant director who does all the heavy thinking for phony director Mathering, and implies that its the A.D. who makes the movie after all. There's a casting call which is an exquisite parade of weirdos. Much of the scant running time is taken up with a real nothing subplot, as we follow a guy who's trying to rub out double-crossing Gomez, the mob producer. These silent exterior scenes simply scream generic. In fact, the film is shamelessly padded with seemingly endless running and driving footage, much of it punctuated with weird, primitive lap dissolves. Within this void, there are some great scenes of down-and-out 50s Hollywood, including a shot of an adult theatre whose marquee boasts "Indecent" and "Oriental Vanities"; now there's two lost classics!
But at long last our cast and crew arrive at studio, and undergo an excruciating rehearsal that proves once and for all what a belligerent, no-talent asshole the director is, wonderful self- loathing from classic underachiever Tucker. The killer chases Lena Little around the dark studio for awhile, and that's that. Film ends with a bizarre coda in which a black janitor, cleaning up Fletcher's vacant office, drops his mop and pretends he's a director, waving his arms about like a maniac and yelling, "Lights, camera, quiet on the set!" to himself. Here Tucker shows brilliantly, though viciously, his belief that a director is merely any pretentious, egotistic goon who fancies himself a cinematic artist. What cruel, insightful self- analysis! He equates being a movie director with either wishful daydreaming, or outright dementia! What a weird and wonderful time capsule this film is; what a great enigma Phil Tucker.
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