Canuxploitation Presents: Summer of VHS

For many, beautiful weather and long lazy days meant only one thing–the chance to swing by the local video rental store and walk out with as many 99 cent week-long VHS rentals as you could carry. Those days may be gone, but their spirit certainly lives on, which is why we here at Canuxploitation will be attempting to relive our misspent youths by offering up some VHS-centric reviews and blog features all summer long. We’ve got a great review line-up of obscure, VHS-era movies headed your way over the next two months, starting with today’s post of PSYCHO PIKE, a Canadian film thought completely lost for 20 years. So keep checking back for a variety of new 1980s and early ’90s rarities, with the added bonus that you don’t need to adjust your tracking or kindly rewind when you’re finished reading.


Cathode Ray Mission: LINGO (1987-88)

CanTV expert Cameron Archer navigates the often inhospitable landscape of Canadian television for the CATHODE RAY MISSION, our regular blog column that highlights some of Canadian television’s most offbeat offerings.

LINGO(Global/syndicated, 1987-88) is, at first glance, a footnote in the history of Canadian game shows that featured a format later became successful elsewhere. While not as fondly remembered as BUMPER STUMPERS (Global/USA Network, 1987-90), or THE NEW CHAIN REACTION (Global/USA Network, 1986-91), however, the show’s initial run serves as a warning to both American production companies and Canadian game shows.

One might think LINGO is just five letters and bingo. If it was, I wouldn’t make a Canuxploitation article out of it. 

The Basic (B-A-S-I-C) Formula

I refer to Wikipedia and Chuck Donegan’s Illustrious Game Show Page for full LINGO details. In essence, LINGO is bingo, with five-letter words forming the crux of the game. It’s a show best explained by actually watching an episode.

Michael Reagan, the adopted son of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, hosted for the majority of LINGO‘s run. Reagan lasted from September 28, 1987 to February 21, 1988. Officially, Reagan left to promote his book, ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN. In reality, Reagan had a contract dispute with Ralph Andrews Productions, prompting Ralph Andrews to take over hosting duties for LINGO‘s final five weeks.

On-camera announcer Dusty Martell left with Reagan. Margaux MacKenzie became the new announcer, until LINGO dropped out of first run.

The Backgrounder

LINGO was one of many 1980s game shows filmed in Canada, but meant for an American audience. This list includes BUMPER STUMPERS, THE NEW CHAIN REACTION, JACKPOT, the 1980-81 LET’S MAKE A DEAL, PITFALL (syndicated, 1981-82), THE NEW LIAR’S CLUB (Global/syndicated, 1988-89), LOVE ME, LOVE ME NOT (Global/USA Network, 1986-87), THE LAST WORD (Global/syndicated, 1989-90), SUPER PAY CARDS! (CTV/syndicated, 1981-82; CTV, 1973-75 as PAY CARDS!), and SPLIT SECOND (syndicated, 1986-87).

For a game based on five-letter words and bingo, LINGO works well on television, and has many revivals and international versions to its credit. America is most familiar with GSN’s 2002-07 and 2011- versions. LINGO is big in The Netherlands — its version began in 1989, and continues to this day. Quebec’s version, hosted by Paul Houde, aired on Radio-Canada from 1998-2001.

The 1987-88 LINGO promised decent prize money for a Canadian game show — up to $112,000 — and the set looked nice and big, in the manner of 1980s game shows. Compared to efforts like BUMPER STUMPERS, JACKPOT (Global/USA Network, 1985-88), and THE NEW CHAIN REACTION, LINGO was a rarity — a Canadian game show with a solid concept, and decent prize money.

Co-hosts/announcers Dutch Martell and Margaux MacKenzie were eye candy, meant to satisfy Canadian content regulations. This was a quirk of Canadian game shows — if the host wasn’t Canadian, a co-host was tacked on, and given camera time. Martell and MacKenzie weren’t terrible at their jobs, but it’s not like they had much to do beyond sponsor plugs.

Let’s Watch (W-A-T-C-H)

A clip from the first episode. It’s the first trip to the bonus round, or “No Lingo Round.” Since this is the first episode, the rules are explained in detail. Reagan isn’t a bad host, while Martell’s delivery is stilted. The board and the words are generated by a Commodore Amiga.

The second clip, near the beginning of the 65th episode. A team tries for $16,000 in the No Lingo Round. The 65th episode is where many North American affiliates jumped off the LINGO train.

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Fantasia Film Fest 2012: Canadian Picks Announced

Fantasia is just around the corner, and they’ve just announced their schedule for 2012, including more than a dozen new Canadian genre films, plus a very special project that we’re sponsoring this year. Here’s our guide to getting the biggest local bang for your Loonie.


If They Came from Within: An Alternative History of Canadian Horror
Canuxploitation.com is a proud sponsor of the debut of this special all-star touring art show organized by Rue Morgue Magazine editor-in-chief Dave Alexander. The show brings together some of Canada and Quebec’s most celebrated genre filmmakers with some of the country’s best designers and illustrators to create a gallery of poster art for Maple Syrup genre films that don’t exist. Participating filmmakers include Jason Eisener, Vincenzo Natali, Maurice Devereaux,  Bruce McDonald and author Tony Burgess, Lee Demarbre, Eric Tessier, Karim Hussain, Astron-6, Rodrigo Gudiño, George Mihalka, Brett Kelly and Donna Davis and the show will feature original art created by: Rupert Bottenberg, Angus Byers, Donald Caron, Jason Edmiston, Justin Erickson, Vincent Marconi, Matthew Marigold, Richard Patmore, Martin Plante, Ghoulish Gary Pullin, Paige Reynolds, Eric Robillard, whatisadam, Mark Unterberger, Beeforeo and James White.


Casey Walker’s romantic zombie comedy in which a groom-to-be is infected via a mosquito-borne outbreak (Quebec Premiere).

In Jason Lapeyre’s crime drama, a female police officer has to keep a prisoner from escaping a nearly abandoned hospital unit at the same time his violent partners come looking for him (Quebec Premiere).

David Boutin and Maxime Dumontier star as a pair of estranged brothers who exorcise their family demons while forced to spend a week together as a condition to an inheritance (World Premiere).

Boris Rodriguez’ Denmark/Canada co-production is a dark comedy about a painter who rediscovers inspiration when he befriends a sleepwalking cannibal,starring Thure Lindhardt, Georgina Reill and Stephen McHattie (Canadian Premiere).

Braden Croft takes viewers inside the mind of a serial killer who desperately wants to be a good person  (Quebec Premiere).

In Michael Peterson’s LARPing comedy, three male college students do battle against Derek the Unholy, a dark wizard determined to hold onto his title as champion of the LARPers (Quebec Premiere),

Seth Smith’s hallucinatory tale of a lonely musician’s descent into the shadowy world of a living drug leads to a mysterious island where a battle of body and soul is waged (World Premiere).

Astron-6 returns in this sci-fi/horror outing featuring a motley pack of misfits defending Earth against Count Draculon’s robo-Nazivampires from Hell (Quebec Premiere).

Rob Grant’s (YESTERDAY)  blood-soaked comedy about two friends whose “‘get-rich-quick” plan to kidnap their boss’s daughter goes awry (World Premiere).

Selma Blair, Josh Close and Rachel Miner star in Jeremy Power Regimbal’s home invasion thriller, in which a family’s cottage vacation is violently interrupted by a killers in search of the “perfect” life (Canadian Premiere).

Andrew Bush’s comedy with East coast troupe Picnicface has one man taking back his roller-skating-obsessed town from video game shilling gangsters (Quebec Premiere).

A porn producer tries his hand at producing a children’s puppet show in Aaron Houston’s mockumentary (Montreal Premiere).

When her child goes missing, a mother looks to unravel the legend of the Tall Man, an entity who allegedly abducts children in Pascal Laugier’s horror tale (Canadian Premiere).


RIP Ernest Borgnine

Canuxplotiation was saddened to learn of the death of Ernest Borgnine this past weekend. Although the always respectable Mr. Borgnine was well known for his high profile roles in some of cinema history’s greatest classics, he was also incredibly prolific. Little surprise then that, like many of his contemporaries, he made his way north of the border during the tax shelter frenzy of the late 1970s to appear in a handful of Canadian genre films. Though far from his most celebrated roles, Canuxploitation will always remember Mr. Borgnine in two of the better Canadian films of the period–Harvey Hart’s gun paranoia parable SHOOT (1976) and the violent crime thriller SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY (1974). And, um, he appeared in underwater sci-fi spectacle THE NEPTUNE FACTOR (1973) too.



CanFilm Five: Author and Canadian Film and TV Critic D.K. Latta — Part 2

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

The Masked Movie Critic, otherwise known as D.K. Latta (or is that the other way around?) is a sometimes writer of science fiction and of non-fiction, and a self appointed (and strangely self-important) commentator about, and opiner on, Canadian film & TV and has been for years. His website The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) contains capsule reviews of literally thousands of Canadian movies and TV series and, when it started in the late 1990s, boasted it was the most extensive English-language Canadian site of its kind on or off the web. Not that there was a lot of competition for that particular bragging right. It’s probably less so now but, hey, he still likes it. It is also associated with his blog — Pulp and Dagger Blog — which is intended to cover a broader range of movie, TV and pop cultural topics, and does…but still tends to focus a lot on Canadian films and TV.

D.K. contributed two excellent lists–this earlier one on Canadian modes of movie mayhem  and this one on everyone’s favourite Canadian character actor, Michael Ironside!

Michael Ironside has become one of Canada’s most enduring exports. And has attained that singular distinction of arguably being a “cult” actor. Sure, any actor would love to be a matinee idol or to have a few Oscars under his belt. But the “cult” actor is, in his way, perhaps a more stalwart figure — a recognizable face to some, a vaguely recognized name to others…and an icon to many. He may not always appear in the best movies — indeed, “cult” actors are often usually described as being better than their material — and often in genre films of sci-fi, action and horror. But that’s kind of their appeal: their lack of pretension. They come. They do their job. And we love ‘em for it. And if you can tap into that vein successfully, you can look forward to a long career. Ironside himself once commented that in an industry where most actors were unemployed, most of the time…he’s worked steadily for years. Wonder if Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling will be able to say the same a few decades down the line?

But Ironside’s roles have often been dictated by his distinctive presence and demeanour. It’s not that he has a face only a mother could love — it’s not like he’s ugly or anything — merely that he has a face only a mother wouldn’t be very, very scared of. And with a growling voice and the perfect surname to go with it! And so whether playing heroes or villains, Ironside is usually cast as the tough guy: the murderous killer, or the gruff anti-hero. But there’s more to his career than that! So let’s look at some of Michael Ironside’s more unusual roles.

Okay, yeah, this is very much what you’d expect from him. But as probably his first major role, the one that put him on the cinematic map, it’s worth starting with. Ironside had already paid his dues in Canadian film with TV guest spots, and movie bit parts, and grunt work (on the movie NOTHING PERSONAL, he had a bit part as a motorcycle cop…and behind the scenes was, according to him, doing the laundry of the film’s star, Donald Sutherland!) by the time he was cast as the telepathic villain in David Cronenberg’s gory milestone — the movie that, arguably, helped take Cronenberg out of the ghetto of cult fandom and into the mainstream.

But now let’s consider some of his atypical roles:

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