Don Shebib’s Canadian working class poetry: Goin’ Down the Road (1970) and its sequel

Friends Joey (Paul Bradley) and Pete (Doug McGrath) search restlessly for a better life in Don Shebib's Goin' Down the Road (1970)

Don Shebib, who died on November 5 at the age of 85, left an indelible mark on Canadian cinema with his first feature, Goin’ Down the Road (1970), a raw, realist depiction of the country’s economic inequalities and the failed dreams of a pair of working class friends who leave impoverished Nova Scotia for the promised land of Toronto.

Political thrillers, horror and metaphor

Three recent releases blend reality and fiction to explore political themes, with varying success. Alain Jessua’s Les Chiens (1978) is an allegory of Fascism, while Jean-Claude Lord’s Mindfield (1989) and Jayro Bustamante’s La llorona (2019) are both rooted in real crimes, the former turning history into pulp entertainment, the latter into a haunting exploration of national trauma.

Resurrecting a pre-tax shelter classic: The Rainbow Boys (1973)

Donald Pleasence, Don Calfa and Kate Reid hit the road in search of gold in Gerald Potterton's The Rainbow Boys (1973)

A relatively new label, Canadian International Pictures, has resurrected Gerald Potterton’s light and charming character-based comedy The Rainbow Boys (1973) in a fine Blu-ray edition with substantial extras. Another CIP release showcases Potterton’s National Film Board short The Railrodder (1965), a travelogue starring Buster Keaton towards the end of his life, along with John Spotton’s documentary about the making of the short, Buster Keaton Rides Again (1965), and another NFB travelogue, Eugene Boyko’s Helicopter Canada (1966), made to mark the country’s centennial.

Zale Dalen’s Skip Tracer (1977)
& the Canadian tax shelter era

Things get dark when John Collins (David Petersen) harasses George Pettigrew (Alan Rose) past the breaking point in Zale Dalen's Skip Tracer (1977)

Writer-director Zale Dalen made one of the most distinctive Canadian features during the tax shelter years, but Skip Tracer (1977) all but disappeared with the tide of low-budget disaster movies and slasher films produced by financial support from the government between 1975 and 1982. Dalen ended up doing mostly episodic television, though he did briefly return to features in the ’90s, culminating in the absurd but entertaining sci-fi martial arts potboiler Expect No Mercy (1995).

Another mixed bag …

Emily (Mariclare Costello) haunts a Connecticut idyll in John Hancock's Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)

Another seemingly random collection of movies, this time including some cheap exploitation, cheesy fantasy, horror and noir. I revisit an old favourite, re-evaluate a low-budget Canadian film from the ’70s, and finally catch up with a couple of movies I’ve wanted to see for decades.

Blasts from the past

Exiles at war

John Cassavetes’ Husbands (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

Video Nasties Revisted

Discovery and loss: Pierre Etaix 1928-2016

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