Our Feature Film Fest: 12

Shooting high hopes on low budgets

Published: Jul 15 2015, 01:01:am

Prepared for Chuck Davis and The Greater Vancouver Book — June, 1995
[Published in 1997 by The Linkman Press]



THIS IS YOUR PROGRAM guide to a series of 20 movie retrospectives. Together, they include all of the theatrical feature films made in Vancouver and in release as of June, 1995. (Our current program does not include the made-for-TV pictures.) Though we've tried to be as complete as possible, we've almost certainly missed a few. If you know of any, please let us know. [Readers of this website who wish to get in touch with additions or corrections can reach me by using the Reeling Back Contact Me button.]
     Our notes on each picture include its title (and any alternate titles), its year of release, the director, leading players and a brief description.
     Our show continues with . . .


IN THE DAYS OF THE double feature, B pictures were the ones that played the bottom of the bill. The film industry's bread-and-butter work, they often were action melodramas made on tight budgets by craftsmen for whom movies were a business. In Vancouver, where establishing the basis for an industry was always the long-term goal, B productions were a way to break in and, perhaps, break through to commercial success. Hopes as well as dollars were invested in such features as:

ONE MINUTE BEFORE DEATH (1973; d. Rogelio Gonzales) with Wanda Hendrix, Giselle McKenzie, Barry Coe, Mayray Ayers, Pia Shandel. Producing entertainment with an American look for the Mexican market, director Gonzales used an elegant old Shaughnessy mansion to shoot an occult murder mystery about a grieving mother (McKenzie) and her son (Coe), driven mad by the death of his wife. The cast and locations were seen again in Gonzales's second Vancouver feature . . .

THE OVAL PORTRAIT (1973; d. Rogelio Gonzales) with Wanda Hendrix, Giselle McKenzie, Barry Coe, Mayray Ayers, Pia Shandel. A haunted-house thriller based on Edgar Allan Poe's 1842 short story. The film is set after the U.S. Civil War and involves a woman (Hendrix) who visits an old house haunted by its previous occupant (Ayres). The tragic story is told to her by the housekeeper (McKenzie). Director Gonzales and his producer Enrique Torres were attempting to forge links between the domestic film industries of Canada and Mexico, an effort that foundered in the absence of any enthusiasm from Canadian investors.

CHRISTINA (1974; d. Paul Krasny) with Barbara Parkins, Peter Haskell, James McEachin. Planning to make his home here, Biritish-born producer Trevor (The Groundstar Conspiracy) Wallace found B.C. backers for this $1.25-million mystery-romance in which Vancouver-born Parkins plays a mysterious beauty who offers an unemployed engineer (Haskell) $25,000 to marry her. Her disappearance immediately afterwards sets off a search for the truth. A principal location for the shoot was the distinctive Tudor Revival-style Aberthau House in West Point Grey. Wallace's local investors were sufficiently impressed to finance his next feature . . .   

JOURNEY INTO FEAR (1975; d. Daniel Mann; based on the 1940 novel by Eric Ambler) with Sam Waterston, Yvette Mimieux, Vincent Price, Shelley Winters, Donald Pleasence, Zero Mostel, Stanley Holloway, Joseph Wiseman, Scott Marlow, Ian McShane. This all-star remake of the 1942 Orson Welles suspense thriller tells the story of an American oil engineer (Waterston) who is put under the protection of the Turkish police after an attempt on his life. He boards a freighter bound for Italy by way of Greece, unaware that his Intended assassin is on board. Although Vancouver convincingly played all of the ship's Mediterranean ports of call, the $2-million picture's journey into distribution was a difficult one. Its failure at the boxoffice effectively ended Wallace's involvement with B.C. film production.

DEAD WRONG (1983; d. Len Kowalewich) with Winston Rekert, Britt Ekland, Jackson Davies. A debt-ridden commercial fisherman (Rekert) gets involved with drug runners and an attractive undercover RCMP officer (Ekland) in an action feature developed by a BCTV team. Produced and directed by Vancouver's Len Kowalewich, this $750,000 feature showcased the talents of the city's broadcast-trained crews. Filmed as THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION, it is also known as ENTRAPMENT.

LADIES OF THE LOTUS (1986; d. Douglas C. Nicolle, Lloyd Simandl) with Richard Dale, Angela Read, Patrick Birmel. Sinister forces are at work in this tale of a West Coast fashion studio whose models begin disappearing after the boss (Dale) installs a sophisticated surveillance system. The second feature from Lloyd Simandl's Vancouver-based North American Pictures and his first filmed in B.C., this all-Canadian low-budget exploitation movie offered a tale of multi-national gangsters fighting for control of the local white slave, drug and porn trade in our Pacific Rim metropolis.

HIGH STAKES (1987; d. Larry Kent) with David Foley, Roberta Weiss, Winston Rekert. Making a return visit to Vancouver, local feature film-making pioneer Kent cast local broadcasting legend Jack Webster as a television anchorman in an action-comedy about newsgathering and a lost Nazi treasure. Making his feature-film debut in this independent production, David Foley played an inept cub reporter with dreams of journalistic glory.

MALONE (1987; d. Harley Cokliss; based on the 1981 novel Shotgun by William Wingate) with Burt Reynolds, Cliff Robertson, Cynthia Gibb. Hedley, Princeton and suburban Vancouver play rural Oregon in this action-thriller about a vacationing former CIA agent (Reynolds) who happens upon a white-supremacist conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government. The British-based Cokliss directed on behalf of Hollywood's Orion Pictures.

SILHOUETTE (1990; d. Lloyd Simandl) with Tracy Scoggins, Marc Singer, Brion James. In this urban mystery from prolific director Simandl, a murder investigation brings an idealistic attorney (Scoggins) into conflict with ruthless corporate executives. Shot on the downtown streets, Simandl's fifth Vancouver feature is set in an urban milieu populated by prostitutes and their sinister clients. Also known as ULTIMATE DESIRES.

HOME MOVIE (1992; d. Fred Frame) with John Pyper-Ferguson, Ian Tracey, Suki Kaiser, Kerry Sandomirsky, Venus Terzo. Shot in Vancouver's fashionable Yaletown district, this low-budget film about low-budget film-making was the feature debut of second-unit director Fred Frame. A sharply satirical tale of friends increasingly confused about what is real in their lives, it features a script by B.C.-based actor Peter James Bryant.

EXQUISITE TENDERNESS (1994; d. Carl Schenkel) with Isabel Glasser, James Remar, Peter Boyle, Malcolm McDowell, Sean Haberle. Blamed for the death of a patient by her former lover (Haberle), a dedicated surgeon (Glasser) experiences self-doubts in this psychological thriller filmed in Riverview Hospital. Having shot his 1992 thriller Knight Moves in Vancouver, German director Carl Schenkel returned with an international cast to make this U.S./U.K co-production. It is also known as THE SURGEON.

HARD EVIDENCE (1994; d. Michael Kennedy) with Gregory Harrison, Cali Timmins, Joan Severance. Framed for the murder of his mistress (Timmins), a philandering real-estate developer (Harrison) finds an unexpected ally in his wife (Severance). The first feature from the Vancouver-based James Shavick Film Company, it was actually the prolific B-moviemaker's seventh producer credit. Another of his companies, Shavick Entertainment (founded in 1993), continued making features, made-for-TV movies and TV series episodes in Vancouver for the next 20 years.

CRASH (1995; d. Charles Wilkinson) with Michael Biehn, Leilani Sarelle, Matt Craven. Computer discs unlock the secrets of a criminal empire for an undercover agent (Sarelle) and her partner (Biehn), a freelance adventurer. The imaginative writer-director of such independent films as 1989's Quarantine, Wilkinson used bucolic Steveston and the iconic Hotel Vancouver as locations for this tech-based thriller. Also known as DIRTY MONEY and BREACH OF TRUST.

POWER OF ATTORNEY (1995; d. Howard Himelstein) with Danny Aiello, Elias Koteas, Rae Dawn Chong. Shot on such locations as Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre, Coquitlam's Riverview Hospital and New Westminster's Law Courts, this suspense drama is the story of a former prosecutor (Koteas) with his own reasons for defending a notorious New York mobster (Aiello). An American production intended for theatres, it ended up as a direct-to-video release.

The above is Part 12 of a 20-part restoration of a Greater Vancouver Book article by Michael Walsh originally published in 1997. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Postings in this Feature Film Festival series include:
Part 1 [Introduction & Vancouver Firsts]
Part 2 [God's Country]
Part 3 [Cybercity]
Part 4 [Documentary]
Part 5 [Youthquakes]
Part 6 [Lovely Couples]
Part 7 [Encore]

Part 8 [Self-Portraits]

Part 9 [Encore II]

Part 10 [Local Heroes]
Part 11 [Directorial Tribute - Jack Darcus]
Part 12 [The B-List]
Part 13 [Things that Go Bump in the Night]
Part 14 [Cabin Fever Dreams]
Part 15 [Law and Order]
Part 16 [Terminal City Comedy Club]
Part 17 [Man's Best Friends]
Part 18 [In Other Words]
Part 19 [Midnight Madness]
Part 20 [On the Road Again]

See also: The seven-part series "Feature Films Made In Vancouver and B.C." from The Vancouver Book published in 1976 —  Part 1 [Introduction; the Silents]; Part 2 [Outside Vancouver, 1932-38]; Part 3 [Outside Vancouver, 1942-75]; Part 4 [Vancouver, 1932-68]; Part 5 [Vancouver, 1969-71]; Part 6 [Vancouver, 1972-75]; Part 7 [Miscellany & Sources].