Few movies of the 70s prior to the Space Invaders craze in the summer of 1978 managed to capture the airy, brightly lit game parlors before video arcade games pushed pinball out and turned the lights down low.
However, Van Nuys Blvd, filmed in early 1978 and released in 1979 by Crown International Pictures, managed to do that and more. This film affords a view of one of the earliest Malibu Grand Prix game parlors, once located at 19550 Nordhoff St, Northridge, CA., in its heyday before it was razed in the mid-80s to make way for a Toyota dealership.
The film not only gives you get a some killer footage of Canyon Bomber and Superbug, both from Atari in 1977 but an equally rare look into how pinballs and arcade games once vied for the very same floor space –and got along just fine– for what was a short-lived yet memorable moment.
Although a part of me longs for the dark, dimly lit caverns of the video craze circa 1982, I couldn’t help but feel a surprising tug of nostalgic longing for the simpler times as well, before Space Invaders changed everything forever. The game parlor/arcade scene in Van Nuys Blvd shows a very real scenario where boys once took their girls to game parlors on dates, and where the girls played the games alongside them in an environment where no one had designated a dominant sex yet.
The movie doesn’t really have much of a plot: A small town boy looking for some fast action comes out to Los Angeles after he hears about the “drag scene”. He meets a girl, Moon, played by 1974’s Playmate of The Year, Cynthia Wood, and finds himself swept up in a world of drag racing, strippers and bikers.
The scenes of early “cruisers” on Van Nuys Blvd, the major north-south arterial road that runs through the central San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County and notoriously known as the place to put the pedal down, will definitely spark some memories for anyone who ever cruised The Strip and braved the challenge of a drag race.
But for me, to be honest, the best part of this long, lost teen summer movie is the game parlor scene. Here’s a clip of just that scene to satisfy any longings you might have to see a real, pre-video craze arcade scene again.