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Canuxploitation!

Sharing the Blame: The Co-Productions



Father's Day

2011, Starring Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie, Matthew Kennedy, and Conor Sweeney. Directed by Astron-6 (Troma).


Like Hobo With a Shotgun before it, Father's Day was originally conceived as a trailer for a non-existent genre film, only later springing to life as a fully realized film. In this case, New York's Troma Films helped Winnipeg's five-man filmmaker collective Astron-6 make the jump from shorts to features with this straight-faced genre farce that doesn't just push taboos, it bulldozes through them. It's almost more action than horror as Ahab (Adam Brooks) tracks down serial rapist Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock) who sodomizes middle-aged dads in front of their children. Looking to get revenge for Fuchman's attack on his own father, Ahab is joined by his stripper sister (Amy Groening), gay prostitute Twink (Conor Sweeney), and a priest (Matthew Kennedy) in a sardonic ride that takes them all the way to hell and back (literally!). Clearly born out of Astron-6's desire to go beyond their original trailer, the final twist in the story pushes the film in a jarring direction, but the story's mostly besides the point--it's the buckets of gore, man-on-man rape, penis mutilation and daring car stunts that make Father's Day a memorable, if not unforgettable effort. Astron-6's short films already displayed their flair for reinventing the hidden trash of the VHS delete bin, but there's a sense of danger and daring here that makes it a more exhilarating experience--Father's Day is exploitation filmmaking at its most unhinged.


Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders

1989, Starring Vince Murdocco, Robyn Kelly, Tony Travis, Morgan Fox, Melissa Mounds. Directed by Howard Ziehm



Turned off by the sophisticated wit and highbrow art of Heavy Metal? This may be the film for you. Howard Ziehm, director of the inspired 1972 Flesh Gordon movie trades the raunchy sci-fi frat humour of the original for distasteful scatological jokes. The bad guy, known only as "Evil Presence," develops an impotence ray, which he unleashes on the universe. Flesh is apparently immune to this ray because he possesses the "virile force," and so EP and his mad scientist sidekick Master Bator launch a plan to steal Flesh's manhood by using his girlfriend Dale as bait. An interplanetary chase through attractions like "Mammary Mountains" and "The G Spot Caf" reveal a stop-motion penis creature that resembles a California Raisin and "The Turds," a race of people dressed in actual poo costumes. Flesh Gordon Meets The Cosmic Cheerleaders suffers from a lack of taste, logic or acting skills. While these aspects might be considered secondary to the action in an "adult" film, the first Flesh Gordon holds up with all the hardcore scenes edited out for television, so why should this one be so terrible? Needless to say, this film may have more in common with "Turd Town" than just featuring it in one scene.


The Glove

1979, Starring John Saxon, Rosey Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Jack Carter. Directed by Ross Hagen (Tommy J. Productions.).



After directing The Mask in the early 1960s, Julian Roffman faded into the background of Canadian film, producing several B-efforts like The Pyx and Explosion. His last big screen production, The Glove, is a decent, L.A.-shot quickie directed by character actor Ross Hagen. John Saxon is typically solid as a bounty hunter looking for a killer who has been laying out off-duty prison guards with a 5lb riot glove. Turns out that it's an ex-con played by ex-footballer Rosey Grier, who has been getting revenge on those who beat him up while he was serving time for a crime he didn't commit. Though Canadian connections are tenuous, The Glove is fast-paced and (barely) passably directed, but it paints itself in a corner by portraying Grier just as sympathetic as Saxon, requiring some ingenuity to pull off the ending. It's not a particularly memorable genre exercise, but it's still an agreeable timekiller.


Goblin

2010, starring Gil Bellows, Tracy Spiridakos ,Camille Sullivan, Donnelly Rhodes. Directed by Jeffery Scott Lando (Reel One).


Since getting his start on West coast genre filmmaking with Savage Island and Decoys 2, director Jeffery Scott Lando has been caught up in SyFy's cable movie-of-the-week pull, handling several of the channel's CGI-laden paint-by-numbers films largely shot in Vancouver. Breaking out of the usual giant monster mold, Goblin is certainly one of the better entries, eschewing the usual camp tone for a few slasher-style bloody thrills as teens are picked off in the woods by the titular baddie. Seasoned Canadian character actor Donnelly Rhodes (The Hard Part Begins, The Neptune Factor) has a nice part as a wizened old drunk in this film about a family (headed by Gil Bellows) in the midst of a cottage getaway who come face to face with a large goblin in a black hooded cloak who wants to steal their baby to fulfill a Halloween curse placed on the town centuries before by an evil witch. The inclusion of a last reel plot twist gives this a (slight) leg-up on other similar cliché-ridden SyFy outings, but there's not much Canadian content in the film beyond the beautiful B.C. wooded landscape.


Great White Death

1981, Starring Glenn Ford. Directed by Jean-Patrick Lebel (Megalomedia Productions).



While back in his hometown of Montreal for his role in iconic Canadian slasher Happy Birthday to Me, Glenn Ford also took on a voiceover gig for the 1981 mondo-style shark documentary Great White Death. Featuring disturbing real-life footage of shark-bitten divers (as well as plenty of phony scenes), this France-Canada co-production arrived in the wake of Jaws' box office success, hoping to attract viewers with the promise of gore and intimate shark footage. Moonlighting European director Jean-Patrick Lebel spaces out the more stomach-turning sequences with mundane scenes in which Ford rattles off a pseudo-philosophical lecture on the nature of humankind and the sea while stock footage of sharks unspools. Still, it never seems to settle on a tone—short on actual scientific information, it preaches conservationist messages in some moments while also suggesting that deadly sharks need to be exterminated to protect humans. Seemingly in favour of the "kill 'em all" approach is the harrowing footage of Henri Bource, a diver whose leg was chomped off by a great white in Australia in 1964. Bource is on hand to discuss the non-fatal bite but the actual scenes in which he appears ghost-white and shaking on a boat deck while others provide first aid aren't easily forgotten. Later re-released as Sharks! Pirates of the Deep, the doc was produced by French-Canadian pop singer Jean-Pierre Ferland.


Happy Hell Night

1989, Starring Nick Gregory, Laura Carney, Ted Clark, Frank John Hughes, Charles Cragin. Directed by Brian Owens (Pavlina Ltd.).



Canadian horror had all but fizzled out by the onset of the 1990s, making this joint Canada/Yugoslavia slasher something of a lone voice in the wilderness. The film teams experienced producer David Mitchell (Food of the Gods II) with director Brian Owens (Brainscan), in the tale of a Nosferatu-like priest whose penchant for slaughtering frat boys with his trusty scythe landed him in a lonely asylum cell. Now, 25 years later, a fraternity prank sets him free, and he wreaks havoc on a new generation of backwards ballcap-wearing mooks. Happy Hell Night is a jumbled mess of a film that lacks a clear protagonist, an explicit reason for the murders, and even linear editing, but it's got it where it counts: a menacing slasher who rampages through well-done scenes of gratuitous bloodshed. Darren McGavin, who starred in the Alberta-shot Firebird 2015 A.D. a decade earlier, only appears for about five minutes as a survivor of the original killings. Look for a nurse watching a video copy of Busted Up, a 1986 Canuxploitation boxing film also produced by Mitchell.


The Hitman

1991, Starring Chuck Norris, Michael Parks, Al Waxman, Bruno Gerussi. Directed by Aaron Norris.



Don Carmody and Cinepix's Andre Link co-produced this thriller that was B-action legend Chuck Norris' only feature north of the border. Shot and partially set in Vancouver, this scattershot, plot-heavy film is unfortunately among Norris' most dire, one of his last before he experienced a late period TV resurgence as the star of Walker, Texas Ranger. This time, Norris is a hitman who's really an undercover cop infiltrating the local Italian, French and Iranian drug gangs. It gets confusing fast, especially when Norris must also mentor a local kid against a racist bully in an overly sentimental subplot and avoid a gangster from the past who knows his real identity. At least there's some decent Canadian talent on display—Al Waxman is appropriately slimy as the Italian godfather who hires Norris and The Beachcombers' Bruno Gerussi plays hilariously against type as his torture-obsessed right hand man. Norris sports a mullet in this film, perhaps as a tribute to its country of origin. Distributed by Cannon Films.


The Housekeeper

1986, Starring Rita Tushingham, Ross Petty, Shelley Peterson, Jackie Burroughs. Directed by Ousama Rawi.

The first of two adaptations of the 1977 crime novel A Judgement in Stone by British mystery author Ruth Rendell (the second being the 1995’s La Crmonie), The Housekeeper is a slow-moving but decent entry in the psychological thriller canon. This Canadian/U.K. co-production stars Rita Tushingham (A Taste of Honey, Dr. Zhivago) as Eunice Parchman, an introverted, illiterate, middle-aged woman who leaves her dreary life in England for a live-in maid position to Dr. Coverdale (Ross Petty) and his well-to-do family in the United States. But unbeknownst to her employers, Eunice has a sociopathic personality, the result of a traumatic childhood being ridiculed for dyslexia and later, constantly criticized as an adult by a cruel, controlling father — and a murderous past. When she befriends a local religious fanatic outcast (Jackie Burroughs), the pair’s combined dislike for the Coverdales results in a shocking and bloody climax. Helmed by prolific cinematographer (and Tushingham’s soon-to-be husband) Ousama Rawi (Zulu Dawn, TV’s The Tudors), The Housekeeper benefits greatly from award-winning Tushingham, who gives a performance that is both unnerving and sympathetic in the same breadth. Can-Con favorite Burroughs exudes an appropriate over-the-top manic energy as the former prostitute-turned-church zealot which helps to offset the wooden performances of stage actor Petty and newcomer Shelley Peterson (wife of former Ontario Premier David Peterson) as his spouse. Standing in for small-town U.S.A is snowy, picturesque Woodbridge, Ontario, and the film boasts some nice photography. Though inferior to Rendell’s classic novel, the film is sufficiently entertaining to make it worth a viewing. (James Burrell)


Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks

1974, Starring Dyanne Thorne, Victor Alexander, Michael Thayer, Richard Kennedy. Directed by Don Edmonds.



Cinepix commissioned the sequel to Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. This time, the "most dreaded Nazi of them all" shows up in the Middle East. The lustful El Sharif (Victor Alexander) depends on Ilsa to run his white slavery ring, which kidnaps young American girls and sells them to the highest bidder. Between auctions, Ilsa trains the girls to please their new masters, rich oil barons looking for new additions to their harems. When secret agent Commander Adam (Michael Thayer) shows up to investigate, Ilsa risks the security of El Sharif's operation as her sexual desires once again outweigh her duties. No longer trapped in the dingy, wooden concentration camp, the lush Arabian palace setting is used to full advantage, with vibrant colors, bright sunny exteriors, and more interesting production design. Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks is also a little lighter on flagellation, but perhaps even more cartoon-like than the first film. By not being quite as focused on pushing extremes, the sequel settles into a relaxed pace and makes is simply a more endurable film. The only really excessively unpleasant scene, involving a diaphragm crafted out of plastic explosives, is much more disgusting in concept than execution. Keep your eyes peeled for Russ Meyer supervixens Uschi Digart (Cherry, Harry and Raquel) and Haji (Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!) in El Sharif's harem.


Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS



1974, Starring Dyanne Thorne, Gregory Knoph, Richard Kennedy. Directed by Don Edmonds.

Not many recognize Ilsa, the most notorious character in exploitation films as a Canadian creation, but she was invented by the demented minds at Montreal's Cinepix. In her first adventure, a Nazi medical camp provides the backdrop for brutality as Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) and her minions perform bizarre experiments. A truckload of fresh prisoners, both male and female, are subjected to insidious torture as Ilsa tries to prove that women have a higher threshold for pain and suffering than men. At night, Ilsa indulges in a liaison with one of the new inmates, an American named Wolfe (Gregory Knoph) with abnormal sexual powers. While Ilsa prepares to show off her cruel scientific breakthroughs to the General (Richard Kennedy), the other inmates plan a revolt to get their revenge. A cut above the sequels, this film features sickening Nazi atrocities including a vicious castration, flesh eating maggots, and gratuitous whipping. It's all pulled off with tongues planted firmly in Nazi cheeks, of course, but even with a sardonic sensibility, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS makes for an unsettling viewing experience.


Incubus

1982, Starring John Cassavetes, Kerrie Keane, Helen Hughes, Erin Flannery, Duncan McIntosh. Directed by John Hough.








John Hough made this film in Guelph, Ontario after he finished Watcher in the Woods, a live-action "horror" film for Disney. Incubus is a violent effort that mixes rape, the occult and heavy metal into a stew that has managed to repel viewers of all ages. Coroner Sam (John Cassavetes) lives in Galen, Wisconsin with his 18 year old daughter Jenny. Jenny is dating a descendent of the founding family, Tim Galen, who lives with his grandmother Agnes (played by Helen Hughes). Tim has an interesting problem in that he keeps having the same nightmare of a woman on a rack, being tortured by men in hoods who repeatedly say "Tell me!" When Sam is called in to investigate several rapes that match a pattern of attacks that occurred 30 years ago, Tim believes that he is unconsciously committing the acts. One day he falls into a trance and ducks inside a theater where British metal pioneers Samson are playing Goblin-esque synth rock. Another girl is raped in the bathroom of the theater, and this time Tim tells Jenny he believes he is the rapist. Then we find out about a shape shifter (also known as an incubus), who tries to impregnate witches. Tim is taken back to Sam's house, where Sam believes that by inducing the dream, he can catch the creature. Critics were quite unkind to Incubus because of it's rather repulsive look at sexuality.


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