Last week I was in Toronto for a wedding, so I neglected to post a new Movies in Longshot. This week, I’ll make amends by doing the entire James Bond series (or at least certain highlights) in one go.
The wedding party in question featured a gathering of some old-guard Canadian film-industry figures who date back to the glorious tax-break days of the 70’s and early 80’s. This was a period when our government funding came in the form of generous tax breaks for anyone who invested in a Canadian production regardless of the calibre of the project. With no one picking and choosing what was worthy of funding, the result was a unique stretch of time when our country actually produced lots of commercial movies. True, many of them were absolute crap, but at least they were chasing an honest buck, which made for a self-sustaining movie mill. Of course, people inevitably balked at the idea of tax breaks being handed out to slasher flicks and sex comedies, all of which were shot here, but none of which actually took place in Canada or portrayed the great Canadian experience (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang aside). So the system was changed, leading to the stuffy setup we have now, with most home-grown movies incapable of drawing an audience even at the gunpoint of Canadian content legislation.
To this day, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many people who strongly advocate the old tax-break system, even if it did produce our longest-standing box office smash (Porky’s) and gave rise to the career of David Cronenberg, widely celebrated as our finest director (who back then was directing the killing spree of Marilyn Chambers‘ armpit in Montreal’s Eve porn house). I, however, regard that era fondly. And it was fun to hear the battle-hardened vets reminisce about their glory days shooting great Canadian epics like Pick-up Summer, My Bloody Valentine, The Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck, Loving and Laughing, and inevitably, Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia (the only film to have successfully killed off everyone’s favourite she-wolf/harem keeper/wicked warden/etc.) The stories tended to revolve around how many mind-altering banned substances were consumed in the name of artistic inspiration, and how many stunt men were nearly killed by these low-rent operations that didn’t have the budget to fake mortal peril and therefore had to go with the real thing.
Look hard enough and you can find many of these films available on DVD or as copyright-violating downloads. Believe it or not, though, there are places to go on the web to download movies in a perfectly law abiding fashion. No kidding. This site offers piles of public domain films from decades past. You can enjoy all sorts of propaganda, exploitation and comedy shorts from ages ago. There are even some cheesy B-films (of the hour-long variety) and a genuine classic or two. If you’re looking for a TeleSynch bootleg of Spider-Man 2, you’re out of luck. But if you’re an indiscriminate film nut like me, it’s a real treasure trove.
Now if only they would post some Canadian content…