If you’ve read my epic account of our walk on Sunset Boulevard, you’ll know that Echo Park is one of our favorite neighborhoods. It’s an old place, for LA. It was the original center of the film industry; Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studio was there when the neighborhood was called Edendale. In the ’30s it was known as Red Hill because it was full of political radicals. I lived there in the ’60s, and so did Tom Waits and Frank Zappa. I returned to it in the ’70s to see it had become a very bad neighborhood, and now it is on the rise again, full of what you might call Bohemian types.
I saw this film when it was new and remember liking it. So I rented it … and either it doesn’t hold up, or my tastes have changed, because I didn’t see much there. It’s episodic and rather pointless. The script could have used some tightening, and though I liked Tom Hulce’s performance, the other parts weren’t very interesting. And we didn’t even get to see very much of Echo Park.
There were some interesting trivial things about it, though. This was Hulce’s first movie after his Oscar nomination for Amadeus, for which I wish he could have shared the award with F. Murray Abraham. I guess it was never in the cards that either of them would be giant movie stars, with Hulce’s goofy face and Abraham’s terminal case of acne, but they are both very good. Cheech Marin is here, billed as Richard Marin. Susan Dey is halfway between The Partridge Family and L.A. Law. All through the movie I kept wondering where I’d seen the woman playing the receptionist at the gym. The reason I couldn’t place her is that I’d never seen her out of character: She is Cassandra Peterson, better known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Elvira. She’s neat. And last but not least, there is Timothy Carey, a seriously scary man both in the parts he played and, apparently, in real life. He was more than a little bit crazy. He was excellent in two early Kubrick films: The Killing, and Paths of Glory. Coppola wanted to cast him in the Godfather films, but he was too erratic and frightening. Same with Tarantino. He’s had a cult following since his death 12 years ago. Take a look at his picture at the IMDb. Would you want to meet this guy in a dark alley?