Psychotronic NFB: YOU’RE NO GOOD (1965)

The National Film Board of Canada may be the nation’s venerable award-winning public film producer and distributor, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t weird gems lurking on the fringes of its impressive back catalogue. “Psychotronic NFB,” attempts to filter through the earnest docs on social problems, overserious animation and World War II newsreels to uncover the NFB’s weirdest works.

Juvenile delinquency—scourge of our modern era! The sight of teens in black leather jackets may not exactly send us clutching for our pearls anymore but, during the 1950s and 60s, even a hint of such non-conformity or rebellion was enough to cause parental consternation. Educational filmstrip producers like McGraw Hill, Coronet and Sid Davis Productions got much mileage out of depicting the society-threatening vandalism of moody teens and, more importantly, just what could be done about it. Even Ottawa’s Crawley Films got in on the act, producing notable works like AGE OF TURMOIL and EMOTIONAL MATURITY. Not to be left behind, the NFB also managed a handful of similar shorts, including George Kaczender’s 1965 film YOU’RE NO GOOD, where an impulsive motorcycle joyride ends in anger and pain.

YOU’RE NO GOOD—a lurid title sounds more like a exploitation film than a educational work—still manages an unorthodox approach, eschewing the McGraw-Hill school of overbearing narrators directly comparing reenactments of bad behaviour with good. Instead, the film turns on some notable dramatic moments—Eddie confronted by a youth worker in the pool hall, his juvenile fantasies of admiration and destruction, the iconic shot of him running down the middle of Yonge street before unleashing his pent-up anger in an abandoned office building. It’s far more similar to another NFB production from the previous year, Don Owen’s NOBODY WAVED GOOD-BYE, in its portrayal of disaffected youth unable to find an acceptable social outlet.

Still, YOU’RE NO GOOD remains a juvenile delinquency film at heart, even though Eddie is often seen in a sympathetic light. Of course by today’s standards,  Eddie’s ride on the stolen bike isn’t unconscionable behaviour, it’s just confused–he seems unable to separate his fantasies from his real responsibilities. Though it’s hard to believe that the Toronto police would expend this much time and energy tracking down the perpetrator of a largely victimless crime, it’s also no surprise that Eddie’s impulsive act finally catches up with him and he pays the price for his actions. The focus may be different, but the ultimate message here is not that far removed from AGE OF TURMOIL and countless other instructional film shorts—behave!

Like many Canadian directors of the era, Kaczender’s early work for the NFB taught him the tools he needed to become a successful director of feature films. The promise he shows in this film bears out in his later theatrical works, including 1973’s “angry young man” movie U-TURN and the right-wing conspiracy thriller AGENCY (1981).

Finally, we must give a special mention to the film’s theme song—an awesome garage-flavoured track by Ontario band The Mercey Brothers before they turned to full-on country crooning in the 1970s. It’s a wild and even aggressive rock track that really drives home the mixed-up emotions that Eddie goes through over the course of the film—a far cry, for example, from the limp folk hootenany of NOBODY WAVED GOOD-BYE.

Bizarrest moment: Eddie’s random rock star daydream, complete with bikini-clad go-go dancer.

Lesson learned: Don’t wait until the cops are on your trail to ditch your stolen motorcycle. They may not be the Mounties, but it appears they always get their man.

Tags: , ,
  1. Beau says:

    LOVE that Mercey Brothers track. A lot of their early music was pretty good!

  2. Dan says:

    Hey thanks for sharing this. I actually found it on another site but the host that it shared was slow and your upload, loaded faster for me. The movie was pretty good, but i found it confusing when the shots changed from locations without any actual progress to the location. I guess that’s why it’s about his fantasy side that he’s unable to come out of usually.

    Thanks again for sharing this.