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BOULEVARD NIGHTS (director: Michael Pressman; screenwriters: Desmond Nakano/Michael Scheff; cinematographer: John Bailey; editor: Richard Halsey; music: Lalo Schifrin; cast: Richard Yniguez (Raymond Avila), Danny De La Paz (Chuco Avila), Marta DuBois (Shady Londeros), James Victor (Gil Moreno), Betty Carvalho (Mrs. Avila), Carmen Zapata (Mrs. Londeros), Victor Millan (Mr. Londeros), Gary Cervantes (Big Happy), Garret Pearson (Ernie), Jerado Carmona (Wolf), Jesse Aragon (Casper), Roberto Covarrubias (Toby), Eliseo Estrada (Hopper), Mary McFerren (receptionist), Dawson Mays (Jerry Werner); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Bill Benenson; Warner Bros.; 1979)
“Another unremarkable youth gang film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another unremarkable youth gang film, this time about Chicanos in East Los Angeles. It was shot on location in the barrio and had a mostly Hispanic cast of nonprofessionals, with Danny La Paz excellent as the doomed youngster who can’t get out of the gang in time. Most of the film takes place along and around Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles. The screenplay was by UCLA student Desmond Nakano and it’s directed by Michael Pressman (“The Great Texas Dynamite Chase”/”Those Lips, Those Eyes”/”Doctor Detroit”). It has the tagline “Everything happens on the boulevard…and the boulevard happens at night.”

The story involves two brothers, the responsible older twentysomething brother Raymond Avila (Richard Yniguez) and his school dropout teenager brother Chuko (Danny De La Paz). Both Mexican-Americans live at home in the gang infested East L.A. with their hard-working good citizen mom (Betty Carvalho). Raymond was a former member of the local V.G.V gang and now is gainfully employed in an automobile-repair/body shop, drives a snazzy low-riding customized shiny blue Chevy, loves cruising on the Boulevard Friday nights in his low-rider, and aspires to leave the ghetto and marry his nice girl squeeze for the last three years Shady (Marta DuBois); while the hot-headed aimless Chuco belongs to the V.G.V. gang, which leads him to a knife fight on the Boulevard over a gang retaliation with the rival 11th st. gang, protecting territorial turf, paint-sniffing, and then to a too pat climactic tragedy. Though Raymond counsels Chuko with good advice, the haunted looking Chuko can’t avoid identifying with the gang and getting into trouble.

The well-intentioned melodrama tries to tell us something about life in the Mexican-American neighborhoods of East Los Angeles, and though its story is all too familiar to have much of an impact it nevertheless sometimes succeeds in keeping things real. But mostly it’s about the Chicanos riding their fancy low-riding cars on the Boulevard, something that has made it a cult favorite.

“In 1979 a group of community college students in Los Angeles formed the Gang Exploitation Film Committee to protest the negative images of Chicanas/os in the gang films prevalent in the late 1970s. They picketed and called for a boycott of Boulevard Nights. This group was joined by other Chicano organizations (such as the Chicano Cinema Coalition and the actor’s guide Nosotros). Their protests convinced the large studios to drop some of the other gang films it had planned to produce.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”