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Every Six Minutes: The Story of Emmeritus



Niagara Strip

1987, Starring Ron Byrd, Paul De La Rosa and April Johnson. Directed by Jim Makichuk.

Emmeritus goes to the Falls for this heroin-smuggling procedural set in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone else except the "punks" (who look like A Flock of Seagulls pretending to be W.A.S.P.). The federal cop, the local cop, and the shady businessman are all old football buddies, and the offed drug runner's widow went to the same school. While Niagara Strip is as visually tacky and dramatically overdrawn as Emmeritus' other films, it actually does manage to capture a mood wistful, melancholic, unfulfilled. Essential to this is Paul De La Rosa as the small town cop with pictures of Hollywood cops on his walls emotionally stunted and agonizingly immature, his character spells the themes with uncommon precision, so lost that he's tragic. There's also something about April Johnson's pretty, uncomplicated widow that makes you get what these guys see in her. Even its zero-budget tawdriness captures its time and place, with a nice eye for detail. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)


Night Trackers

1987, Starring Hereward Pooley, Leslie Carelse, Robyn Sheppard. Directed by Richard Oleksiak.

Synopsis: A woman and a small-town sheriff investigate a laboratory whose toxic waste might be causing genetic mutations in the local fauna.


The Porn Murders

1985, Starring Jamie Spears, Terry Logan, Peter Brikmanis, Stephanie Sulik, Henry Malabranche. Directed by Charles Wiener.

Before serving up great Canadian sleaze with classic fare like Fireballs and Dragon Hunt, camera-for-hire Charlie Wiener made his debut with this cheap, convoluted thriller about a bloodthirsty anti-porn crusader. When a zealot in a cheap plastic clown mask starts killing off all the local pornographers and hookers, crime beat reporter Dan Blake (Jamie Spears) teams up with Police Lieutenant Rossey (Terry Logan) to break the case wide open. The mysterious murderer, who frequently calls Blake and demands that he clean up the streets, takes the pair on a bizarre and increasingly nonsensical journey as he slaughters his prey and leaves behind replicas of his mask. After what seems like forever, they eventually finger the nebbish Kenneth Markham (John Woodhill) as the culprit, but Blake and Rossey believe that he's simply the pawn of a much more sinister mind. Even though there are dozens of characters in the film, many involved in seemingly unimportant subplots, the killer is easily identified within the first five minutes of the film, making the rest of the tedious running time an exercise in audience frustration. Belying the title of the film, there's little blood and absolutely no sex in the filminstead, the sole value of The Porn Murders lies in its fascinating Toronto location work, that takes the viewer to scummy T.O. landmarks like the Brunswick House and, shockingly, the Metro Theatre, Toronto's last standing adult motion picture house.



Price of Vengeance

1985, Starring Edmund James. Directed by Alistair Brown.

A narrative of the Hamilton mafia: an upwardly mobile businessman is called back to his sleazy roots when his hockey-player-gone-bad brother is murdered. As he pieces together clues, the businessman finds himself on a collision course with some Italian gangsters he's known since childhood. Bizarrely, the Don is actually one of the most sympathetic characters in the piece, certainly more so than the protagonist the more appalling details of his brother's conduct emerge, the more single-minded the businessman becomes about avenging him. It's self-consciously gloomy and almost "existential," which is never a good idea for shot-on-video productions, since the lacklustre surface automatically negates all atmospheric tension. As usual, illogic is rampant the hero recovers awful fast from a beating, and the still-camera-in-the-fish-finder routine is unredeemed by its procedural detail. In addition, lead actor Edmund James does not convey the moral complexities that the director seems to be tilting at. At least there's some nice use of Hamilton Harbour, a climactic shootout on the Skyway and, most impressively, a sidekick who's a black hockey player. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)


Race to Midnight

1987, Starring John Tench, April Johnson, Simon Richards, Patrick Myles, Austin Schatz.Directed by Peter McCubbin.

Synopsis: A car-wash attendant finds a fortune in cash and is chased by crooks and the police.


Street Games

1987, Starring Richard Zeppieri, Patricia Strelioff, Barry Tull. Directed by Raymond Belanger.

Synopsis: Teens participating in mock war games using paint guns discover the contest growing dangerously out of control.


Superconductor

1988, Starring Christine Reeves, Gary Brennan, Warren Dexter Beatty. Directed by Andre Markiewicz.

Synopsis: A device capable of storing and transmitting electrical energy is the center of a probe into a scientist's death.


Survival Earth

(AKA Survival 1990) 1985, Starring Nancy Cser, Jeff Holec and Craig Williams. Directed by Peter McCubbin.

The best Lionel Shenken productions overwhelm their own cheap, shallow essence with pacing, wit or energy. So, a post-apocalyptic drama is not likely to catch them at their best. Apocalypse movies inevitably use their setup as a peg for philosophic hand-wringing, and the only novelty here is the utter vague aimlessness of the discourse. The "hero" here is bent on re-establishing nuclear family domesticity in his old stone foundation, which inspires not the slightest hint of critique on the contrary, the gender politics here are candidly boneheaded and ensures that Survival Earth is hopelessly rooted to the ground in its deadly verdant setting. The opening newsreel montage features a nuclear explosion, but in contrast the dialogue refers only to some kind of market meltdown, which would explain why the air and water in their park refuge are still so lovely and clean. Loincloth babe Nancy Cser's "mutant" and Jeff Holec's mysterious lurking clone are total dead-end diversions, and the outbursts of witty repartee are unbelievably stupid and wrong check out the uproarious improv-to-fade at the end. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)


The Tower

1985, Starring Ray Paisley, Kenner Ames and Paul Miklas. Directed by Jim Makichuk.

It's a long way from Vancouver where Makichuk was Philip Borsos' production partner in a previous life to this bizarro Hamilton of the mind, where a computerized office tower sucks people's life energy through the light sockets. Makichuk's first contribution to the Emmeritus canon comes with a very peculiar agenda: the office tower is clearly supposed to be some kind of commentary on the tyranny of the energy conservation movement! Silly and interminable, yet the kind of movie you want to watch again and tell your friends about, The Tower is endearing in a very stupid way. The bickering crew of mismatched fugitives-from-death are quite amusing, and the film's sub-HAL computer, with its 1980s digital-animation readout, is a nice way to break things up. While it wouldn't be fair to award The Tower bonus points for being so stuck-in-the 1980s, Jennifer Cornish's bird's nest-forward perm really is mesmerizing. And if you're going to be bad, you might as well repeat the same walking shot three times within one five-minute stretch for maximum entertainment value. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)


Virgin Paradise

1987, Starring Charlene Richards, Zuzana Marlow and Gloria Gifford. Directed by Ron Standen.

Directed by the brother of Robert Standen, who made the inspired Mark of the Beast for Emmeritus a year earlier, Virgin Paradise is a disappointment that centres on three newly-graduated hottiesa rich kid, a boy toy, and a dragwho hop down to Tortola on Daddy's dime (and yacht), only to become ensnared in a highly improbable gem-smuggling plot. The girls are charming (except for the drag), and the Toronto-based double-cross is amusingly preposterous. But, except for Ron Byrd's shticking henchman, the cops, criminals and gangsters are all strictly rote and dull as dishwater. Of course it doesn't make sensewhat Emmeritus movie ever does?but Virgin Paradise's interminable sunbathing sessions and telephone conferences provide too much time to ponder the illogical storyline. The best thing about the movie is a transparent afterthoughtin the linking narration scenes, Zuzana Marlow is fully out of character, surrounded by teddy bears and talking in an absurdly flirtatious little-girl voice. This stuff really is tawdry enough to be entertaining, at least until the script tells the same joke for the 10th, or 15th, time. (Reviewed by Jonathan Culp)


Where There's A Will

1987, Starring Pam Richardson, James Gordon, Marianna Pascal. Directed by Rob Stewart.

Synopsis: An heir poses as his own chauffeur to woo the girl he must marry to claim his fortune.


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