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Motion Picture Purgatory: HOOKERS ON DAVIE (1984)

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A big welcome back to Rick Trembles‘ MOTION PICTURE PURGATORY! This time, in another site-exclusive strip, Rick tackles the Vancouver-shot doc HOOKERS ON DAVIE (1984), which follows the hilarious, sordid and tragic tales of streetwalkers working the downtown beat. A Canuxploitation west coast classic!

Also! If you liked Trembles’ previous work for our site3, he’s gathered all previous strips from 2012 to 201 in a cool new 28-page mini-comic, MINI MOTION PICTURE PURGATORY!

Rick sez:

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Retrontario’s Cable TV Throwback: October 1986

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We’re pleased to present another look back at Canadian movies on TV by our friends at Retrontario.

Canada’s canary into the Pay TV coal mine was a riveting pop culture jolt when it arrived in early 1983. Competing services FIRST CHOICE and SUPERCHANNEL were forced to combine resources just over one year later as FIRST CHOICE*SUPERCHANNEL, now fondly remembered as the era’s primary delivery system for big ticket Hollywood titles, rare-as-hen’s teeth Can-con, and boobies. Here’s a taste of some of the more exciting moments this $15 per month service offered to content starved ‘80s eyeballs.

October 1986

HALLOWEEN 1986

Long before streaming, downloading and dollar bin DVDs became the fluid currency for horror movie buffs, local Mom & Pop video stores and cable TV were often your best chance for scoping out the many slice-and-dice shockers the glorious 1980s had to offer. There was (and still is) no better time of the year than October to gorge on gore, slasher and monster movies, and if you were lucky enough to be a subscriber to Canada’s fledgling Pay TV network First Choice*Superchannel, t’was indeed the season to be jolly.

In the early 1980s, Michael Weldon’s photocopied zine PYSCHOTRONIC VIDEO pretty much staked out now-lucrative cult/horror/Sci-Fi real estate, reviewing all manner of B-films not worthy of coverage in respectable publications. The “Pyschotronic” title was, for a time, borrowed by First Choice*Superchannel (font and all) to summarize their horror offerings, which included a mix of both new and old, foreign and homegrown trash and treasure.

For October 1986, First Choice*Superchannel heralded the Return of Psychotronic Cinema with some seriously creepy retro British fare including eco horror DOOMWATCH (based upon the DOCTOR WHO-ish BBC series), THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR, and THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. For fans of flying, eerie proto-FINAL DESTINATION flick SOLE SURVIVOR was peppered throughout the month, no doubt contributing to the catatonic fear of airplanes shared by many an ’80s kid.

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Monday nights were designated “Psychotronic” and alongside these new old offerings were encore screenings of titles like THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, the bananas Klaus Kinski/Christopher Lee COUNT DRACULA, and Brian De Palma’s masturbatory Hitchcock fantasy BODY DOUBLE, which bizarrely earned the furious ire of First Choice*Superchannel’s PRIMETIME magazine:

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As expected, the Halloween night schedule was no slouch either. The ghoulish programming department at First Choice*Superchannel never failed to stir up an eclectic brew of scary movies to wallpaper the day, often starting in the early afternoon and running until early AM the following morning.

Things got rolling with Michael J. Fox’s turn as a lyncanthrope in TEEN WOLF. By no means scary, it served as a fun warm-up to the ghastly evening ahead (as a side note, it remains troubling that “TEEN WOLF” is now and forever best known as a poxy MTV non-com soap).

HALLOWEEN GRID

Like this year, Halloween also fell on a Friday in 1986, and happily coincided with the channel’s popular SUPERCHOICE block. SUPERCHOICE offered up the opportunity for viewers to vote on one of the four films selected by calling a 1-800 number at $1 per call (a sweet sideline for the channel, especially as you could call as many times as you desired).

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For the Halloween installment of SUPERCHOICE, the competition was indeed fierce: First up was Wes Craven’s still untouchable A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which in 1986 was still unsullied by the comedy Freddy Krueger of its inferior sequels (the still frightening and unappreciated “homoerotic” sequel A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE had appeared the previous year).

SILVER BULLET, Daniel Attias’ mostly forgotten adaptation of Stephen King’s grizzly novel starred the damn fine Canadian duo of Corey Haim and Megan Follows (chewed up by a moderately unhinged Gary Busey). This was the ringer of the group, as it had premiered earlier in the month and had aired many times by Halloween.

Neil Jordan’s THE COMPANY OF WOLVES was a long shot as, aside from Cannon’s pant-pissing poster art (which also haunted many a horror section when Vestron carried it over for the VHS release) the title offered up a mostly esoteric tale of horror.

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Finally, and most disappointingly, was eventual winner of the night, THE BRIDE. After wasting several dollars voting on Freddy, the author was a little upset at having to spend 90 minutes with barefooted bore Sting as a sensitive Dr. Frankenstein.

Not to worry, as the main event was unquestionably the premiere of THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. In this populist zombie parading, WALKING DEAD-era, it’s easy to forget that this film once delivered a cherry Doc Martin kick to the nuts. A steely punk ethos, geysers of gore, rocking soundtrack, wicked sense of humour and slavering adherence to the rules of George Romero’s original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD made it the talk of the hardened playground set.

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Rounding out the evening was a pair of Psychotronic hangovers, BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW and THE BEAST IN THE CELLAR. At 2:30 AM, a nightcap in the form of spooky Canuxpoitation classic THE MARK OF CAIN (1986) was served chilled and it was definitely time for bed (unless you needed a morning diesel run in which case John Sayles’ BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET was just the ticket).

While most of these titles are now but a mere click away from our fingertips, it remains nigh impossible to recreate the sort of fevered anticipation First Choice*Superchannel crafted in the lead-up to Halloween night in 1986.

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Retrontario’s Cable TV Throwback: July 1985

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We’re pleased to present another look back at Canadian movies on TV by our friends at Retrontario.

Canada’s canary into the Pay TV coal mine was a riveting pop culture jolt when it arrived in early 1983. Competing services FIRST CHOICE and SUPERCHANNEL were forced to combine resources just over one year later as FIRST CHOICE*SUPERCHANNEL, now fondly remembered as the era’s primary delivery system for big ticket Hollywood titles, rare-as-hen’s teeth Can-con, and boobies. Here’s a taste of some of the more exciting moments this $15 per month service offered to content starved ‘80s eyeballs.

JULY 1985

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One of FIRST CHOICE*SUPERCHANNEL‘s most illustrious programming stunts was the multinational co-production “interactive” mystery MURDER IN SPACE, shot in Toronto on a shoestring budget and starring an array of cult stars like Wilford Brimley, Martin Balsam, Nerene “TODAY’S SPECIAL” Virgin, and David Cronenberg players such as Michael Ironside, Peter Dvorsky and Barry Flatman.

Airing in July of 1985, MURDER IN SPACE was a 90-minute thriller which invited viewers to solve the open ended mystery of whodunit, with the added incentive of $60,000 in cash and prizes (including a flight for two to London, a trip on the Orient Express from London to Venice, accommodation and return airfare courtesy of Wardair – remember them?).

Set on the international space ship Conestoga returning to Earth after a successful exploration of Mars, MURDER IN SPACE pit Michael Ironside’s gruff Captain Neal R. Braddock against his crew, with several murders, ’80s Cold War tensions, lots of suggested sex, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA stock footage interrupting what should have been a smooth trip home.

FIRST CHOICE*SUPERCHANNEL promoted MURDER IN SPACE to the hilt throughout the month, airing numerous interstitials featuring “bonus” interviews with the crew of the Conestoga ostensibly offering up more clues as to who was the murderer.

PRIMETIME magazine, the FIRST CHOICE*SUPERCHANNEL program guide, featured a pull-out entry form which allowed viewers to identify the four murdered characters, their nationalities and, bizarrely, “how murdered?”. It then asked the ultimate question – “Who Committed the Murderers?”

ENTRY FORM

… Continue Reading

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DVD Review: GINGER SNAPS (Scream Factory)

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There’s always been a muscular, sexy beast of a film obscured within the spotty DVD releases of John Fawcett’s seminal Canadian werewolf classic–it just took Scream Factory to finally unleash the creature within. Featuring a brilliant Blu-ray transfer and a host of relevant features, this fun package from the boutique home video label for horror fanatics is an easy recommendation for fans of the film or Canadian genre movies in general (grab a copy here!).

While perhaps not the finest Canadian horror film ever made, GINGER SNAPS certainly ranks up with the most important, a bona fide cult hit that single-handedly resurrected the languishing Canadian horror tradition. Scary films made by Canadians was a trend that largely died out by 1989 once the tax shelters collapsed, with mostly sequels and franchise films appearing in the following decade until GINGER SNAPS changed all that. Well reviewed on release and a genuine commercial hit, the film was followed not only by a pair of sequels, but bandwagon jumpers like DECOYS, FIDO and more. Suddenly, Canadian horror cinema was commercially viable again, and it’s hard to imagine that our current crop of breakthrough Canadian genre filmmakers be able to make movies today on the same scale today without it’s important influence.

You know the story. Morbid and inseparable sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) find themselves drifting apart as Ginger starts to enter puberty. Their relationship is strained further when Ginger is suddenly attacked by a strange creature suspected of killing local pets around their suburban home. On recovery, Brigitte is shocked to find Ginger acting unlike her usual self and even experimenting with drugs and sex. Is it the result of the attack, pubescent hormones, or it could be related to the strange, coarse hair growing out of the cuts on her shoulder? When she realizes what her sister has become, Brigitte takes it on herself to find a possible cure and gain back the sister she loves so much.

Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray/DVD combo release of the film finally restores the film to its former on screen glory. It’s often a challenge making low budget Canadian films of the 1990s and 2000s look like more than just a TV movie, but the pristine new transfer nicely showcases the film’s sometimes eerie lighting and moody shots to give it some additional life. Not surprisingly, sound quality also appears much improved over the previous 2003 release.

The disc also shines in its bonus material. The highlight is the 60-minute retrospective doc, “Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth and Fur,” which nicely traces the history of the project from concept and casting through to distribution and the film’s eventual rediscovery on home video and HBO. Though Katharine Isabelle is conspicuously absent, Emily Perkins helps fill in the blanks along with Fawcett, Walton, producer Steve Hoban and FX guy Paul Jones, among others. It’s a fairly comprehensive piece that really explains how the film happened in horror film-averse Canada at the time and how American approval helped launch the film’s popular success, even though the interviewees’ comments occasionally contradict each other.

Those a little wary of Fawcett and Walton’s claims of the film’s originality will definitely want to check out “Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films,” a 30-minute panel discussion by horror journalists and filmmakers Axelle Carolyn, Kristy Jett, Heidi Honeycutt and Rebekah McKendry. This very nice context piece, chaired by Jett, fills in a missing blank from the other doc by helping to situate the film within the history of female-centred horror cinema. A handful of works such as CARRIE, TEETH and JENNIFER’S BODY are discussed before the conversation more or less gives way to a welcome discussion of how female sexuality is generally presented in horror films.

Rounding out the disc’s fully packed lineup of extras are almost 30 minutes of (usually thankfully) deleted scenes, a vintage promotional featurette, some mildly interesting auditions, set and FX footage, trailers, and separate audio commentaries with director John Fawcett (more technical) and screenwriter Karen Walton (more thematic) ported over from the previous release.

Shout Factory has been treating Canadian cult film fans to lovingly produced discs on locally-shot films like DEADLY EYES, SCANNERS II & III, VISITING HOURS and TERROR TRAIN, and this looks to be another essential addition that really looks at the GINGER SNAPS phenomenon and helps show it’s true place in the history of horror cinema, and werewolf films in particular. Now almost 15 years old, it’s certainly the perfect time for GINGER SNAPS to outgrow it’s awkward teen phase and become a self-confident Canadian horror landmark. And Scream Factory has certainly helped it do just that.

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Canuxploitation on DVD: Summer 2014 Preview

It’s been a slow year but finally another fine slate of offbeat Canadian films is hitting DVDs this season. Remember that clicking through these links helps support our efforts is rediscovering classic Canadian cult film, and that the Amazon links on the sidebar are always updated with the latest new release announcements for your viewing pleasure.

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Scanners DVD/Blu-Ray Combo (Criterion)
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Read Our Review

Louis Del Grande’s exploding head in HD? Please.

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GINGER SNAPS DVD/Blu-Ray Combo (Shout Factory)
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Read Our Review

The classic werewolf film that revitalized Canadian horror for the 21st century has never gotten a fair shake on home video–until now!

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Deadly Eyes DVD/Blu-Ray Combo (Shout Factory)
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Read Our Review

Rats (well, costumed dogs) ravage the streets of Toronto in this totally entertaining B-monster classic from Enter the Dragon director Richard Clouse! A co-production with Golden Harvest that won’t disappoint.

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Curtains Blu-ray and DVD (Synapse)
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Read Our Review

Another one MIA on DVD, the creepy Canadian tax-shelter slasher CURTAINS finally hits the shelves in a release that promises to delve into its troubled production history.

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PORKY’S R2 Blu-Ray (Arrow)
Release Date: May 26, 2014

This is already out in R1 from Fox, but this Steelbook edition from the UK-based film fans at Arrow is a thing of beauty.

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