Retrontario’s Cable TV Throwback: January 1986


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.




JAN 1986



1986 got off to a wonky start On First Choice*Superchannel with a New Year’s Day showing of the glacial bore 2010, preceded by Goldie Hawn in PROTOCAL, YENTL and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT. Was this an omen of the year to come? Sanity was restored thankfully with premieres of John Carpenter’s pensive but brilliant STARMAN, John Landis’ LA noir INTO THE NIGHT and nudity strewn pictures like PREPPIES, NIGHT PATROL and Rock Hudson in THE AMBASSADOR thrown in for insomniacs and hungry-eyed teenage boys.



Canadian fare included the minor horror classic CURTAINS, THE PARK IS MINE, ONE NIGHT ONLY, SLIPSTREAM, DEADLY HARVEST, GOLDENROD, ODDBALLS and omnibus “movie” versions of all 16 episodes of Harlan Ellison’s bargain basement Sci-Fi series THE STARLOST.

Directed by Ryerson grad Steven H. Stern, THE PARK IS MINE was somewhat of a marketing triumph. Born in the wake of Rambo fever, this cheapie made-for-cable movie managed to make its diagetic universe seem a lot bigger than it actually was (Toronto parkland doubled for Central Park, natch). Stern directed many howlers in his time, including Monster truck revenge tale ROLLING VENGEANCE (featured recently in the amazing VHS doc REWIND THIS!), and the interactive murder mystery MURDER IN SPACE, a galactic snoozefest.


As was always the case, the programmers at First Choice*Superchannel saw to an eclectic winter stew of new and old titles in January of 1986, from high-brow to low and all points in between, the likes of REAR WINDOW, UNDER THE VOLCANO, NIGHT OF THE COMET, MIKE’S MURDER, DARK STAR, MODERN TIMES, AVENGING ANGEL and D.C. CAB.

JAN Grid-thumb

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Bizarrely, First Choice*Superchannel treated Danny Steinmann’s sleazy installment of FRIDAY THE 13TH : A NEW BEGINNING as if it were XXX rated: Running only once in the entirely of the month (January 31st), it was buried at midnight and never shown again. Part 4 aka THE FINAL CHAPTER was shown immediately afterwards, creating a nice slice’n’dice double bill for those surviving the freezing temperatures in early 1986.

Amidst the frozen tundra of a cold Canadian winter, those with VCRs were once again heroes, liberating forbidden fruit like FRIDAY THE 13th PART V and CURTAINS to share with those not so fortunate friends whose parents didn’t subscribe to First Choice*Superchannel…