Sharing the Blame: The Co-Productions
When the Canadian government designated Canadian film productions as tax shelters in 1974, there were many other countries who wanted to get in on the act as well. American-Canadian co-productions began to flourish as a direct result of these incentives, just as they had during the 1930s, when England offered favourable treatment to films made in British colonies.
By the mid-to-late 1970s, Europe began showing interest in our shelters as well, and several high-profile Canadian cult films have come out of our partnership with one country in particular, France. Nicolas Gessner's The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane was probably the most widely seen of these co-productions, but Eddy Matalon's Blackout and Cathy's Curse have earned respected places as well. Hot on the heels of these successful genre films, many of the craziest and most obscure Canuxploitation films appeared as co-productions with smaller countries like Romania and the current Czech Republic.
Today, the government offers subsidies for films that are not entirely Canadian, but have filled key creative roles (writer, director, highest-paid star) with Canadians. Through their "official co-production agreements" with countries including the U.K., France and Germany, citizens of other countries can also qualify for these positions. And it seems to be working, since Telefilm reported that co-productions were responsible for $870 million in 2001.
While not every one of the films listed below is representative of a distinctive Canadian vision, this page acknowledges these quasi-Canuck efforts which are interesting nonetheless. These lists are by no means complete, and I've limited the inclusion of the the many big-budget Hollywood films being shot in Canada these days.
Aliens in the Wild Wild West
1999, Starring Taylor Locke, Carly Pope, Barna Moricz. Directed by George Erschbamer.
Ex-Quadrant producer David Perlmutter teamed up with Castel Film Romania for a line of Romanian/Canadian family co-productions in the late 1990s including The Excalibur Kid, Teen Sorcery, Shapeshifter and Aliens in the Wild, Wild West, all of which were distributed by schlockmeister Charles Band's Full Moon video under its "Pulsepounders" imprint. This one is a half-baked sci-fi/western genre mix-up about a snotty kid (Locke) and his bitchy older sister (Pope) who are dragged to a touristy Old West ghost town by their parents. While bickering, they uncover a handheld time machine under some rotted floorbaords that sends them back to the 1880s. This turn of events doesn’t even faze them, nor does the subsequent arrival of a CGI UFO that lands behind the farm of the square-jawed teen cowboy (and romantic interest) that wants to help them (Moricz). Before the budding teen sleuths can investigate, however, two bumbling rustlers nab one of the goofy Sid and Marty Kroft-reject aliens and take her back to town. The kids find a second creature onbaord the ship named Jiffy who pleads with them to rescue his mother, and they head off to confront the crooked sheriff before he sells Jiffy's mom to the circus. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial is the obvious comparison for this sparsely plotted, unfunny family film that never surpasses the quality of an average syndicated TV drama. While it does offer some different locations besides the castles and blandly modern public buildings where the other Pulsepounders are set, the effects are dismal, especially the poorly articulated Jiffy, who looks like an apple doll tribute to the Muppet's Sweetums.
Starring Robert Carradine, Jim Mitchum, Ray Milland, Belinda
Montgomery. Directed by Eddy Matalon.
Visiting French director Eddy Matalon's Blackout is a major improvement over his wretched CanHorror pic Cathy's Curse. This Cinepix-helmed international co-production, partially shot in New York, is a nicely made highrise thriller with just the right amount of sleaze. When the Big Apple is blanketed in darkness from a power failure, a prison bus crashes and four trigger-happy convicts (Robert Carradine, Don Granberry, Terry Haig, and Victor B. Tyler) break out and take cover in a nearby apartment building. A lone cop (Jim Mitchum) called to the scene tries to stop them as they terrorize the residents for money and some means of transportation. Robert Carradine is wonderfully scummy as Christie, the literate leader of the escapees who ends up going head-to-head to Mitchum in the exciting, car-crashing finale. An aging Ray Milland also gets a brief but memorable role as a hardnosed millionaire whose refusal to cooperate with the thugs results in the torching of his priceless collection of Picassos. Definitely worth a look, though the level of CanCon is minimal.
1988, Starring John Martin, Sal Viviano, Karen Planden. Directed by John Fasano.
After crafting the wildly surreal Thor vehicle Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, fledgling director John Fasano continued to mine the heavy metal horror vein with this silly, but still engaging B-flick shot jointly in Ontario and the director's home state, New York. In this one, popular rock act Black Roses is about to kick off their world tour in the sleepy town of Mill Basin, but the PTA is up in arms over their dark lyrics. And as well they should be--the band's vocalist, Damien (Sal Viviano) is actually a demon who hypnotizes his teenage fans to engage in murder and other lewd acts. A big step up from the dime store production values of Rock 'n' Roll Nightmare, Black Roses still maintains the same goofy 1980's atmosphere with dozens of weird puppets, bizarre dialogue and hair metal soundtrack cuts. Don't miss the screen debut of The Soprano's Vincent Pastore, who is sucked into a stereo speaker. Silly but undeniably fun to watch—they just don't make 'em like this anymore!
Born For Hell
Naked Massacre) 1976, Starring Mathieu Carrire, Debra
Berger, Andre Pelletier, Carole Laure. Directed by Denis
A complete 180 degree turnaround from his earlier maple syrup porn films, Denis Hroux's Born For Hell is a very nasty little number indeed. Based on the Richard Speck murders, but relocating the real-life tragedy to revolution-torn Belfast, the film stars Mathieu Carrire as a marooned and penniless Vietnam vet who begs for food at a boarding house for student nurses. When one of the girls takes pity on him, he is reminded of his wife back home and snaps, returning that night with a switchblade. Once inside, the increasingly insane vet holds all eight nurses hostage in an upstairs bedroom, taking one or two downstairs at a time to humiliate, rape and murder them. This grim Canadian/West German/French/Italian co-production is technically well made, but it isn't much fun to watch. There's almost no exposition in the gratuitously bleak story at all—not only is it never revealed exactly why this Speck substitute is hellbent on killing the girls, but he's never even given a name. German star Carrire plays the killer vet with an understated evil that is undeniably creepy, while sole Canadians Andre Pelletier and Carole Laure make up part of the body count. Despite the almost unpalatable final half-hour, Born For Hell is still an interesting film, though it probably has more in common with Eurosleaze flicks than with Canadian film.
Starring Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, T. Ryder Smith. Directed by
Because almost everything takes place in one house, there's not much that stands out as Canadian about this sci-fi/horror co-production made in Quebec. Edward Furlong stars as a spoiled-rich yet disenfranchised teenage horror fan who thinks he's seen it all when he buys a new CD-Rom horror game called Brainscan. On popping it in, he experiences something like a virtual reality slasher film where he is the heartless killer. He loves it until he realizes that a real murder took place at the same time down the street. Confused, Eddie calls the company at which time an evil gnome named the Trickester appears and forces Eddie to play the game three more times. In each, he kills again, much to his own horror. Finally he is forced to face the Trickster (his other self) in the bedroom of the curiously unattractive girl he has a crush on while the police close in on him. There's some good special effects for the budget here, but unfortunately, Eddie and the Trickster's relationship comes off kind of like an adult version of the Fred Savage/Howie Mandel classic Little Monsters. The material is somewhat original, but Brainscan takes itself way too seriously (as evidenced by the dreary musical score) and is seemingly confused in it's message about the nature of violent entertainment.
(AKA Cauchemares) 1977, starring Randi Allen, Alan Scarfe, Sylvie Lenoir, Beverly Murray. Directed by Eddy Matalon.
As co-productions began to play an increasingly important role in the late 1970s, Cinepix tapped French director Eddy Matalon's talents for two Montreal-lensed films: Cathy's Curse, a horror film in the vein of The Excorcist, followed the next year by the action/thriller Blackout. Cathy's Curse is hands down one of the worst films Canadian horrors of the 1970s, sunk by a terrible script, indifferent acting and a palpable cheapness. Randi Allen stars in her only role ever as Cathy, a girl who moves into her father's boyhood home, and is compelled to kill by the spirit of her dead aunt whose spirit is embodied in a doll and a spooky portrait painting. Thrills are just about as sparse as the film's budget, and although the climax features better-than-average special effects, they only serve to remind the viewer how talky and tedious the first 80 minutes are. Cathy's Curse makes little acknowledgment of its Canadian heritage, but this is one case where I'm thankful of that fact.
Class of 1984
Class of 1984 provides a sleazy updating of one of the best known delinquency films, Blackboard Jungle. The plot involves music teacher Mr. Norris (Perry King), who has moved to a new "inner-city" school. Although many of the students are clean cut go-getters like Arthur (Michael J Fox), there are many tough punks like Stegman and his crew, razor carrying, dope dealing vandals, who recruit prostitutes and cocaine dealers at a Teenage Head concert. When Arthur's friend buys some angel dust from Stegman, he climbs the flagpole and falls to his death. Mr Norris tries to bust the punks, but in retaliation, they drop a Molotov cocktail in his car and kidnap his wife. Then it's time for revenge-- teacher style! Strangely enough, this film was scored by Lalo Schifrin, and features the theme song "I Am The Future" by Alice Cooper. Although Class of 1984 is cheap and exploitive, it is also fun. It's the kind of film you can watch with your friends and laugh. Filmed in downtown Toronto.
Starring Sam Groom, Sara Botsford, Scatman Crothers, Cec Linder, Lisa
Langlois, Lesleh Donaldson. Directed by Robert Clouse (Golden Harvest).
Hong Kong kung-fu kingpins Golden Harvest Films invade Hogtown in Deadly Eyes, a killer rat movie directed by genre stalwart Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon). In the film, rats feeding off steroid-laced grain grow to uncomfortable sizes and attack humans, including "special guest star" Scatman Crothers. High school teacher Paul (Sam Groom) and health inspector Kelly (Sara Botsford) are the bland, middle-age love interests who fight back. Deadly Eyes is infamous for its cheap effects, which included disguising a pack of small dogs to portray the marauding rats, but it does wring some entertainment value out of its well-worn premise. The finale has the rats overrun a movie theatre (showing a Bruce Lee movie, natch) before attacking subway system patrons. In the end, Deadly Eyes is a co-production that's most notable for an interesting turn by Lisa Langolis as a cheerleader intent on seducing her teacher, and a surprising amount of footage of downtown Toronto.
1980, Starring George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso and Sally Ann Howes. Directed by Alvin Rakoff (Artemis Films/Astral Bellevue Path).
While it initially earned a reputation as one of the worst horror films of the 1970s, Death Ship is surprisingly decent nightmare fuel from City on Fire director Alvin Rakoff. Drifting in a lifeboat, the last few survivors of a devastating luxury cruise ship crash, including the captain (George Kennedy), discover a long vacated, rusty vessel anchored in the middle of the sea. They climb aboard, unaware that they have stumbled upon floating Nazi concentration camp haunted by the spirits of the past. Before long, each member of the party is threatened by the ship’s possessed machinery and the captain himself, who has apparently been taken over by a Nazi ghost. This British/Canadian co-production doesn’t have much of a budget, even swiping stock footage from other 1970s films, but Rakoff still manages to crank up the haunted house tension throughout, making the titualr vessel a moody, sinister setting that echoes with Nazi radio calls and speeches. Kennedy is also notable as the scene-chewing star of the piece, who really goes over-the-top in the intense climax and gets a suitable comeuppance. An underrated CanCon classic!