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.

My one sad shot at stardom

Yes, that's me, the least convincing state trooper ever to appear on screen, hanging out with the very affable Ed Asner on the set of Paul Shapiro's Heads (1994)

In 1993, back when I was working at the Winnipeg Film Group, I was offered a few days work as an extra on a TV movie being shot here: which is how I became the least convincing state trooper ever to appear on screen in Paul Shapiro’s serial killer comedy Heads, starring Jon Cryer, Ed Asner and Jennifer Tilly.

Blasts from the past

Nelson Pereira dos Santos’ ethnographic satire:
How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman (1971)

Recent Documentary Viewing, Part 1:
Paradise Lost Trilogy (1996-2011)

Summer viewing: science fiction

Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969): Criterion Blu-ray review

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