CanFilm Five: Author and Canadian Film and TV Critic D.K. Latta — Part 1

“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 one, and a second one we will be posting shortly. D.K. sez:

Instead of focusing on a best or greatest movie Top 5 list, I thought maybe I’d connect some films — some good, some bad, some indifferent — by their very Canadian modes of mayhem. Yes, Canada may be the land of “Peace, Order and Good Government” but sometimes it has provided a forum for some singularly Canadian forms of murder…or at least, wilful violence. Since it’s a top 5, I’ve had to make choices, just narrowly excluding GINA and its grisly snowplough death, or the creepy wendigo in GHOSTKEEPER. And I’m sure BON COP, BAD COP could fill up half this list by itself. Which brings us to:

TEKWAR (1994)
William Shatner, in collaboration with Ron Goulart, wrote a series of TEKWAR sci-fi novels that were turned into four TV movies, and then became a short-lived TV series. The novels and the TV series were explicitly set in a future United States but, interestingly, in the TV movies it’s a more ambiguous North American setting. In the first — and the best — of the movies, called simply TEKWAR, a future-era private eye (played by Greg Evigan) investigates a missing scientist’s disappearance. In one scene, the villains fear he’s getting too close to the trail and send a killer android after him — a hockey player android that attacks him at a skating rink.

In this film, Lou Diamond Phillips and Jennifer Tilly play a couple of star crossed1930s era Inuit lovers on the run from both their tribe and the white man. An attempt at a big budget spectacle of the kind Canada rarely tries anymore (and maybe this film’s poor box office partly led to that) in one memorable scene their igloo is attacked by a ravenous…polar bear! (“Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside,” as a polar bear described igloos in an old Far Side comic strip). Not the easiest beasties to train, nor much call for them in movies set a little farther south, polar bear attack isn’t exactly one of Hollywood’s more common cliches!

In the existential horror/satire, Pontypool, a snowed in radio station (inhabited by Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, and Georgina Reilly) is besieged by zombie-fied towns folk who are affected by a virus that is transmitted…through the spoken word. But what gives the concept a Canadian twist is that it’s only English that is the carrier, so to avoid being infected the heroes have to fall back on their French. McHattie’s somewhat chagrined expression when asked how fluent he is in French is probably something more than a few people who struggled through high school French can sympathize with. So, a cautionary tale warning of  Death…by Unilingualism! 

The GINGER SNAPS trilogy followed a couple of girls (played by Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins) — in various incarnations — suffering from lycanthropy. That’s werewolfism to you and me. The third film — GINGER SNAPS BACK — was the most quintessentially Canadian, the action taking place a few hundred years ago at a fur trading fort under siege by werewolves. But it was actually the second film — GINGER SNAPS UNLEASHED — that boasted a most distinctly Canadian instrument of violence, when a character is beaten with…a curling rock. And you thought hockey was violent!

From the Hollywood North era came the brooding suspense flick, THE DISAPPEARANCE. Donald Sutherland plays a hit man who investigates the disappearance of his enigmatic wife (played by Sutherland’s real life significant other, Francine Racette), the characters even making their home — if memory serves — in Montreal’s distinctive Habitat 67 apartment complex. Fellow Canadian icon Christopher Plummer co-stars, as do a slew of familiar British actors (the movie’s a Canada-UK co-production) including David Warner, John Hurt and David Hemmings. So, what’s the distinctively Canadian method of lethality here, you ask? Surely it’s obvious! I mean — how much more Canadian can you get than a gun totting Donald Sutherland?


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