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Retrontario’s Cable TV Throwback: October 1986

TV_throwback

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.

PSYCHOTRONIC LISTING

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:

BODY DOUBLE LISTING

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).

Superchoice Oct 1986

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.

Company-of-wolves-poster

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.

Return-of-the-Living-Dead

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

TV_throwback

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

PTJULY85

murderinspaceJUN85teaser

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

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Retrontario’s Cable TV Throwback: April 1986

TV_throwback

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.

APRIL 1986

PTAPR86

listenCity

In its heyday FIRST CHOICE*SUPERCHANNEL broadcast a raft of cool Canadian flicks that have shamefully passed into the ether over the last 30 years. Even the gluttonous content orgy in which we now exist thanks to the Internet cannot abide, and many of these films have simply vanished. Had they not been fully or in part recorded on VHS tapes back in the day, there would be no trace of them at all beyond error-ridden, tumbleweed infested IMDB listings.

LISTEN TO TEH CITY

One such title is surely LISTEN TO THE CITY (1984), a bizarre Toronto-based soft sci-fi/musical scored by Gordon Deppe of The Spoons (the amazing LP soundtrack also featured the debut appearance on an album of the band’s massive singles “Romantic Traffic” and “Tell No Lies”). To date, the film remains the sole fiction film by local documentary maven Ron Mann, his legacy buttressed by the likes of GRASS, TWIST and COMIC BOOK CONFIDENTIAL rather than this oddball curio. The film starred HALLOWEEN’s P.J Soles as a crusading reporter, but also features “smiling” Jack Layton in a cameo as a hospital patient (you can see him in the above clip). In spite of continued interest in The Spoons, this title seems likely to remain exiled in home video limbo.

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Retrontario’s Cable TV Throwback: March 1983

TV_throwback

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.

MARCH 1983

FC MAR 1983

By March 1983, Pay TV in Canada was barely one month old, but from a layman’s perspective it was the competitive service FIRST CHOICE’s game to lose. With a decent stable of modern Hollywood hits, sport and music events, and a salacious late night PLAYBOY block, FIRST CHOICE was clearly the most attractive package, although it was slightly more expensive than the more family friendly SUPERCHANNEL service (forever and erroneously remembered as the “poor man’s FIRST CHOICE”).

In addition to big guns like SUPERMAN II, CANNONBALL RUN and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, the March 1983 line-up on FIRST CHOICE included a healthy slate of prime home grown Canuxploitation, including a pair of films usually identified as our country’s first forays into the genre of horror. Bless.

reincarnate_poster_01

1971’s THE REINCARNATE resembles a chamber drama more than what we’ve since come to associate with a horror movie, but it remains somewhat of a curate’s egg. Starring our own mad media prophet Dr. Brian Oblivion himself (the gravelly voiced Jack Creley), THE REINCARNATE concerns itself with a wealthy lawyer who discovers he is dying and must find a replacement for his re-incarnated memories during a ceremony that must conclude with virgin sacrifice (hubba hubba). Aside from being considered the first major Canadian “horror” picture, this shot-in-Toronto cheapie most memorably features a scene in which THE FOREST RANGERS alum and POLKA DOT DOOR host Rex Hagon is mauled to death by a cat after fondling a stand-in for Trudy Young’s breasts.

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Retrontario’s Cable TV Throwback: January 1986

TV_throwback

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.

 

JANUARY 1986

 

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.

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