Movie review: ‘The Hollywood Knights’

While the first two “Porky’s” movies set a new high-water mark for raunchy youth comedy in the early 1980s (click here for my review of the original), there is an interesting alternative … you might call it a “Porky’s” Light. The film is “The Hollywood Knights” and it has everything a teenager-at-heart would like to see: Eggings, dog poop in a bag set on fire on a front porch and several other such antics of days gone by. Also, by the coming standards of the “American Pie” franchise (just one example and here’s my look at that one), it is kind of quaint in its rather restrained aquarium of raunch. So, give “The Hollywood Knights” a try, even if you’re not into this kind of juvenile humor film. You’ll be amused and there’s a bunch of nice back stories about the cast.

‘The Hollywood Knights’
(1980; 91 minutes; rated R; directed by Floyd Mutrux and starring Tony Danza, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Wuhl)

THE BYGONE DAYS OF TEENAGE MISCHIEF

(NOTE: I first expanded this review on Nov. 2, 2014, and then again along with updating links and fixing some typos on Feb. 13, 2016. I expanded it again with some more opinion and the updating of links on Sept. 10, 2018. I again expanded the review on Feb. 19, 2020.)

If you’ve read to this point you’ll know the answer to this question: What movie marked the big-screen debuts of Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Wuhl and Tony Danza? Well, of course, it’s “The Hollywood Knights” from 1980. Before the first two “Porky’s” films in 1982-83, there was “The Hollywood Knights” to celebrate raunchy teen comedy and this one stands the test of time pretty well.

Although Danza gets top billing, it is Wuhl’s film and he gets the “introducing” tag in the credits. Danza and Pfeiffer are boyfriend and girlfriend here, but they don’t get as much screen time as Wuhl and, most unfortunately, Pfeiffer’s character is the epitome of window dressing. At the same time, it’s the supporting cast that really is fun in “The Hollywood Knights,” including the father of one of the actors in a 2000s top TV sitcom called “The Big Bang Theory.”

The storyline for “The Hollywood Knights” is simple (no kidding): A car club of teens is losing its base at the Beverly Hills drive-in called “Tubby’s” (home of “The Big One”) as it’s being demolished for a wonderful new office building. The Hollywood Knights then extract one last night of revenge on the stuck-up members of the homeowners’ association and other assorted straight-laced individuals and a couple of bumbling cops.

The Hollywood Knights” is just one set-up to the next for showcasing stereotypical teen pranks of years gone by in an age before drive-by shootings, random violence on video and a cruel streak that has emerged in society.

The Knights do it all: A mooning; the toilet-papering of a house; dog doo in a bag that’s set on fire on a front porch; using the dork (who does a nice turnaround to be cool here) in a flatulence prank while taking over the stage at a dreadful pep rally; and even stretching the limit a bit with some pot smoking by pledges.

You’ll find teens’ revenge heaven here: Wuhl singing “Volare” while accompanying himself with flatulence; scamming caterers so they’d drive through the country club’s hedges; a very strange performance by a violinist; and a group of pledges to the club who have to walk naked through Watts in an initiation assignment.

To show the hypocrisy of the establishment, “Knights” has the over-sexed wife of the club’s chief antagonist (“Jacqueline Freedman” played by Leigh French) cheating with veteran character actor Richard Schaal. The two enjoy the backseat of a car, the casual grope in her house and finally on a trampoline. Actually, with their amorous antics, they’d fit in better with the Knights than the homeowners association.

Ultimately, the guys cannot save the drive-in, but it’s a legendary night for their scrapbook of memories.

Here’s a look at members of the principal cast:

  • A two-time Primetime Emmy winner, Wuhl exudes energy as the over-the-top leader “Newbomb Turk” of the car club. He his brash, outspoken and has the manic patter of a used-car salesman – all in all, himself. It was a perfect casting choice with the way he conveys the characters energy and passion. Wuhl would go on to fame as a coach in “Bull Durham” and even in fare such as HBO’s “Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl” in which he teaches a college history class (here’s one link on YouTube.com and I guarantee you’ll like it). He was also in “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Batman.” He had a small spot in the hoops film “Blue Chips” with Nick Nolte (click here for my review).
  • A two-time Golden Globe nominee (not for this one), Fran Drescher plays “Sally” and is in her fourth movie here (after “Saturday Night Fever” and “American Hot Wax”) and is Wuhl’s on-again, off-again love interest. Drescher works her character well and, like Wuhl, appears to be the perfecting casting choice. Her voice is pitch-perfect for this film and she’s plays a great foil to Wuhl. Drescher delivers a memorable line in her signature nasal voice: “Turk, did you … Turk!” and is most remembered and nominated for her role on TV’s “The Nanny.”
  • Wuhl especially enjoys putting it to the two cops who have earned the wrath of the club. Gailard Sartain plays “Officer Bimbeau” (subtle, huh?) and was the Big Bopper in “The Buddy Holly Story,” while Sandy Helberg (father of “The Big Bang Theory’s” Simon Helberg) is the dimwitted “Officer Clark” who at one point uses a magic marker to give himself a moustache. Both do a good job conveying the basic stupidity of these two fools. Helberg was also in the execrable “Up the Creek” (click here for my review).
  • A four-time Golden Globe nominee (not for this one), Danza plays “Duke” and has the deepest role of the film (if this film has any “deep” roles) as he struggles with his best friend headed off to the Army and possibly Vietnam and his own transition from high school to wanting to live with Pfeiffer in a little place near Venice beach. Hmm … some struggle. He is competent here (the best outside of Wuhl’s over-the-top effort) and was also in “Angels in the Outfield” and is best known and received his nominations for his TV roles in “Who’s the Boss” and “Taxi.”
  • A three-time Oscar nominee, Pfeiffer as “Susie Q.” is just window dressing here and her character doesn’t do much. Thankfully, she would go on to earn her three nominations in four years for “Dangerous Liaisons,” “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and “Love Field.” Forget those three overrated stinkers, I liked her best in “Married to the Mob” (click here for my review) and she was simply outstanding in “Scarface” with Al Pacino.

As for the over-sexed adults …

  • French is especially good bouncing from sexed-up to shrill and knocks off this role with aplomb. She has also been in several critically acclaimed films including “Rain Man,” “Forrest Gump” and “The Usual Suspects.” You’ll probably not remember her from “Halloween II” with Jamie Lee Curtis or “The ’Burbs” with Tom Hanks, but here’s a wonderful character actor who knows her business.
  • Schaal, who plays “Nevans,” is in his comfort zone of laid-back cool here and he has had a variety of mostly TV roles from the iconic “I Dream of Jeannie” to movies such as “Slaughter House-Five.” What was needed here was an actor who knew it wouldn’t be good to overplay a character – a major flaw in so many youth-oriented films – and Schaal delivered nicely. He was also known for TV’s iconic “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” where he did an episode as “Chuckles the Clown” and was in the MTM spin-off “Phyllis.” Schaal died at 86 in 2014.

Still, we’ve got one more to go …

  • The best supporting turn comes from Stuart Pankin as “Dudley Laywicker,” a good-natured nerd who Wuhl uses to fuel his pranks. Pankin might not be proud of the role, but he is actually funny here although he was 33 playing a teenager. Pankin has been in “Fatal Attraction” and TV shows such as “Malcolm in the Middle.”

While Wuhl’s very first credit on IMDb.com is “Knights,” the film is also the first big-screen feature for Pfeiffer and Danza. Of course, between the two, Pfeiffer became the much bigger star (and not because of “Grease 2” – click here for my review). Danza had a TV movie and appearance on a TV series before hitting the screen in “Knights” and Pfeiffer was fresh from three TV series (including a “CHiPs” episode – click here for my look at that iconic series) and a TV movie in her big-screen debut.

The Hollywood Knights” was the 61st ranked film at theaters with $10 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It was made on a $2 million budget and has brought in much more in video sales and rentals. The No. 1 film was “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” with $209.3 million. After the “Star Wars” film, my favorite comedy of the year surely was “Airplane!” at No. 4 with $83.4 million (and don’t’ call me Shirley!). Here are some films from that year that I have reviewed:

Other cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Joyce Hyser (her last name is spelled Heiser in the film’s credits) whose other films include “Valley Girl,” “This is Spinal Tap” and “Just One of the Guys” (click here for my review) plays “Brenda Weintraub” and is one of two girls who are constantly under attack by Wuhl.
  • Moosie Drier (remember him?) plays a skateboarding character named, well, “Moosie.” He’s famous for being … well, Moosie.
  • Michele Drake plays a cheerleader and is a former Playboy Playmate, who also appeared in “American Gigolo.”
  • Noted California car customizer Tony Nancy, who was known for his yellow cars, has a cameo as himself and there’s a line about a car’s color, “That’s Tony Nancy yellow!”
  • Direct from IMDb.com: “”Tubby’s Drive In” was actually an A&W Root beer that was closed down. It was located (then) way out on Van Nuys Blvd. Nothing worked, no bathrooms, plumbing, grills etc. Many people sought to buy the place after the film, and convert it back into a working drive-in for a gathering place for hot rods, but it never happened.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014-2016, 2018, 2020.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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1 Comment

  1. This film marked the début of the woman who would go on to become my favourite actress, and I still haven’t seen it!
    The Hollywood Knights must have been influential though, because as a child in the ’80s I do remember kids leaving dog poop in a fiery bag on people’s porches.
    Ah happy days.

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