Every Six Minutes: The Story of Emmeritus
(AKA Deadly Pursuit, Shock Chamber) 1985, Starring Doug Stone, Jacqueline Samuda and Russell Ferrier. Directed by Steve DiMarco.
While Emmeritus' attempt at an anthology thriller falls on the earnest side of their sensibility, it can't help but tap into Lionel Shenken's usual brand of campy underachievement. "A Symbol of Victory" is the classic nebbish-slips-babe-the-love-potion story with a gangster twist, and it achieves a degree of pathos even though the characters are remote and the storyline is preposterous. "Country Hospitality," the middle episode, is a murderous hick thriller with a dash of frustrated waitress. Of the three stories, this one has the most energy, a plot that comes close to making sense, and an inspired twist ending even though the villain is a one-dimensional putz. The end piece, "The Injection," deals with two down-at-the-heels dudes who set out to cheat an insurance claim, with unpredictably tragic results. Pretty dumb, but there's something compelling about the hopeless losers at its centre, and the production values are so low that it lends the skid-row setting an authenticity that can't be bought. The jaded sex-worker dialogue in the diner is a true highlight that has nothing to do with camp. Greedy Terror's framing device has a mother telling a reporter the stories of her three sons (all played by Stone) in a church, but weren't the protagonists of "The Injection" brothers themselves? (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)
(AKA Las Vegas Hit, The Borrower) 1984, Starring Jeff Holec, George T. Cunningham and Jan Taylor. Directed by Peter McCubbin.
If you can cut through the chintz, this familiar tale of an immature shlub (Jeff Holec) that bilks the bank he works for is pretty watchable, with more considered camera placement than usual and even a few reasonably elegant dolly moves. But, as is usual with Emmeritus Productions, the film's relative success relates to character and theme rather than style; we get to know Holec through scenes of his daily routine, while his genuinely painful intrusion into a yacht party sets up a pervasive class-consciousness. Though typically dull and ugly with something missing at its centre, The Highrollers tight and smart script almost nudges it into the upper tier of Emmeritus' output—at least until the preposterous climax, a twist that comes out of absolutely nowhere, undermines everything the film had going for it up to that point, and suddenly transforms the whole thing into a camp masterpiece. It's dumb, it's audacious, it's trashy, and it works better if you don't see it coming, so please forget you read this review! (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)
The Hijacking of Studio Four
1985, Starring Jack Zimmerman, Bill Boyle, Tom Nursall, Karen Cannata, Russell Ferrier. Directed by J.A. Gaudet.
Not a bad little film—at least by Emmeritus standards—The Hijacking of Studio Four represents the very essence of Shenken's concept of budget-minded entertainment. The film has an aging father (Jack Zimmerman) trying to free his daughter after she is unfairly arrested on Kanzaal, a Caribbean island run by a corrupt Prime Minister (Hadley Sandiford). When the Kanzaal PM comes to Hamilton to be interviewed about his controversial reputation for a local TV show, dear old dad shows up with a homemade bomb and plans to hold everyone hostage until he sees TV footage of his daughter arriving back safely in Canada. Like most Emmeritus productions, The Hijacking of Studio Four is talky and padded with boring scenes, but it does build a little bit of suspense and remains impressive in its shoestring conception—besides a few establishing shots done in St. Kitts, it was filmed almost entirely at the CHCH TV station, with the bulk of the plot taking place in an empty studio. There's the usual mix of (far too many) inexperienced actors struggling through their parts, but keep an eye out for Lionel Shenken himself, who appears briefly as the cold-hearted station owner.
1986, Starring Nadia Capone, Silvio Oliviero, David Phillips. Directed by Raymond Belanger.
Synopsis: An ex-convict recruits his former cellmates to help him pull off a casino robbery.
The King's Regiment
(AKA The Chronicle of 1812, 1812) 1984, Starring Simon Henri, Craig Williams and Simon Clery. Directed by Allan Levine.
With zero production values, incredibly blunt disregard for historical fact and outrageously inaccurate Scottish, English and Yankee accents, this tall tale of 1812 is a glorious farce, maybe even a self-aware one. By all rights it should have been a turgid disaster, with smart- and dumb-asses prancing around the Bruce Trail in tall hats and epaulets, but in fact it's as close as Emmeritus ever came to Cormanesque lightness and verve. The villains bug out their eyes and stamp their feet, the good guys wisecrack, riff and twinkle, and everyone radiates such bounding enthusiasm that it transcends nitpicking questions of artistry. The narrative makes no sense whatsoever how did the King of Spain get mixed up in this? What kind of moron would fall for the film's document-switcheroo scheme anyway? but that only adds to the fun. The real giveaway is when one of the gratuitous "arr-arr" pirates lapses into a word-for-word Captain Highliner tribute! What a hoot. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)
(AKA Assignment KGB) 1985, Starring Carol Poirier, Claudette Roach. Directed by Peter McCubbin.
One suspects that he knew that his espionage plot made no sense, so writer/director Peter McCubbin attempted to distract viewers by piling on twist endings like Jenga blocks the boss knew it all along, the dad isn't dead after all, the shrink is a spy, the librarian is a spy, and so on. This is doubly disorienting because, while all this is going on, other plot elements implode uselessly, such as when the British guy that Lady Bear is supposed to be spying on heads home unannounced after one brief scene, never to be seen again. Lady Bears clownish RCMP boyfriend never does figure out what the hell's going on, even after much firsthand observation and hearty exposition. And anyway, he was gauche enough to put the moves on the female spy immediately after she announced she was the Commie's mistress, and she was flaky enough to bite. What planet are we on here? The planet Emmeritus, of course, where women have nightmares about KGB karate class and men film infidelities with Bolexes in the heating ducts of unlit bedrooms. Lady Bear is so low energy, sober-sided, and incomprehensible that it takes on a certain fascination in spite of itself. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)
1986, Starring Jane Seaborn, Charlotte Hammond, Robin Dene. Directed by Alastair Brown.
Synopsis: A former hit man’s anonymous life is Australia is shattered when he re-enters the drug underworld in search of a friend
Marked for Death
1987, Starring David Sisak, Roger Montgomery and Karen Cannata. Directed by David Nisbet.
Businessman witnesses gangland hit from his subway window. Reports the killing to a cop. Cop is corrupt. Cop and gangsters conspire to rub out witness while he's out jogging. Sounds simple? Not when you're dealing with possibly the dumbest and pokiest gangsters ever to appear on screen. Instead of just grabbing the guy and throwing him off a bridge, they tail him until they run into parked cars, they stake him out and get parking tickets, they wait in the park but get caught up reading the paper, they wait in the park but a little girl wants to chat, they wait in the park, they wait in the park. And if they seem stupid, get a load of the homicide cops, who have their own tail on the bad guys every step of the way, yet somehow never manage to figure out that their man's in on it even as he shiftily misplaces witness reports and invites guys in trenchcoats over to his place for Chinese food. Good thing for them that when Bad Cop finally does corner the jogger, he considerately takes the time to spell out every last detail of his scheme, because they never would have figured it out by themselves. It's remotely possible that the comedy is intentional, but Marked For Death's contempt for basic logic still boggles the mind. Not as horrendously ragged as The Bounty Hunters, but almost as oafish. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)
Mark of the Beast
1986, Starring James Gordon, Carolyn Guillet and David Smukler. Directed by Robert Stewart.
In the opening scene, a couple of Mohawk College TV production students are quietly invited to videotape a secret political rally on the lawn of City Hall, immediately raising several questions for viewers, such as what the hell is a "secret" political rally? And why do the eight working men who comprise the audience still have their hard hats on? This scene sets the tone for one of the tackiest and breeziest of all Emmeritus productions, for which you are virtually obliged to check your brain at the opening credits. The kids end up taping a political assassination, and the trail leads to a cult of cowled masterminds of world government some kind of Mr. Dressup Freemasons, a snapshot out of David Icke's nightmares. The beastly cabal's disciples reveal themselves in ever greater numbers, identified by tattoos of a dollar sign with a coiled snake for the "S" on their wrists. While the filmmakers do go for suspense and malevolence, there's no They Live-style social commentary here; it's sci-fi/horror puff, pure showmanship. This jives exceptionally well with the comic shtick of the leads goofball cinematographer James Gordon and hottie nurse Carolyn Guillet (who comes with even hotter nurse sidekick Charlene Richards at no extra charge). Gordon's wise-cracking lunkhead is an absolutely perfect Emmeritus character; from his megaphone shtick in the outrageous film-within-a-film flashbacks to his rat-a-tat repartee with Guillet in his broken down car, the comedy is way livelier than you expect. Mark of the Beast's lighter tone overwhelms the heavy stuff and redefines the movie as pure wicked fun.
1987, Starring Kenneth J. MacGregor, Bonnie Beck, Ross Manson. Directed by Michael Wray.
Synopsis: A director of avant garde fashion videos is plagued by a killer who Is murdering his models.