Our Feature Film Fest: 14

Exploring mad, mad, mad worlds

Published: Aug 07 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 . . .


NOT EVERYTHING THAT FRIGHTENS us lives outside. The mind is capable of creating its own demons and countless screen obsessives, compulsives and dangerously deranged villains have emerged from its dark depths. Consider, for example, Vancouver's own psycho-thriller caseload:

THE MAD ROOM (1969; Bernard Girard; based on the 1940 stage play Ladies in Retirement by Reginald Denham and its 1941 screen adaptation) with Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters, Michael Burns, Barbara Sammeth) The lady's companion (Stevens) to a wealthy widow (Winters) brings her teenaged brother (Burns) and sister (Sammeth), a pair of recently released mental patients from Toronto, into her employer's Vancouver home. Girard, a veteran American television director, used a gated Shaughnessy mansion as the primary location for this Columbia Pictures release, the first of his two shot-in-B.C. features.

THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK (1969; Robert Altman; based on the 1965 novel by Peter Miles) with Sandy Dennis, Michael Burns, Susanne Benton. A lonely, delusional spinster (Dennis) brings an umbrella to a young drifter (Burns) in Kitsilano's Tatlow Park. She then offers him shelter in her Killarney Manor luxury apartment. Set, as well as shot in Vancouver, this was the first of director Altman's two filmed-in-B.C. features.

THE KEEPER (1976; Tom Drake) with Christopher Lee, Tell Schrieber, Sally Grey, Ian Tracey. It's hard to tell the patients from the administrator (Lee) of the Underwood Asylum in director Drake's tongue-in-cheek look at institutional bedlam. With no record of a theatrical release, this independently-made Vancouver feature was thought lost for many years. It eventually made it to television in the mid-1980s, with a 1987 release on videotape as a "cult classic."

MR. PATMAN (1980; John Guillermin) with James Coburn, Kate Nelligan, Fionnula Flanagan. Insanity proves contagious for a Vancouver psychiatric asylum orderly (Coburn). An Irish charmer, he identifies too closely with the patients on his ward, an empathy complcated by an affair with a working colleague (Nelligan). Shot on Vancouver locations that included Coquitlam's Riverview Hospital, this Cannon Films release is also known as CROSSOVER.

LOW VISIBILITY (1984; Patricia Gruben) with Larry Lillo, David Peterson, Sue Astley, Marc Diamond, Jerry Wasserman. Found in a state of confusion on a snowy mountain road, an amnesiac (Lillo) is hospitalized. While being treated by a doctor (Wasserman), a police detective (Peterson) investigates the possibility that he may have survived a plane crash by cannibalizing a female companion. Made for $160,000, this first fictional feature directed by  Simon Fraser University film-production instructor Patricia Gruben (who also wrote, produced and edited it), was shot on a Vancouver hospital ward and in Manning Park.

ABDUCTED (1986; Boon Collins) with Roberta Weiss, Lawrence King Phillips, Dan Haggerty. Vancouver Island writer-director Collins used North Vancouver wilderness locations for the story of a pretty marathon runner (Weiss) who is kidnapped by an unbalanced mountain man (Phillips) and ultimately rescued by her captor's father (Haggerty). Loosely based on the 1984 abduction ordeal of U.S. biathlete Keri Swenson, this independent B.C. production was followed by . . .

ABDUCTED II: THE REUNION (1995; Boon Collins) with Raquel Bianca, Debbie Rochon, Donna Jason, Lawrence King Phillips, Dan Haggerty.  Having survived his apparent death in the previous film, the now cave-dwelling crazy man (Phillips) captures three young women (Bianca, Rochon and Jason) camping in the mountains. After its release, director Collins's sequel benefited from a positive endorsement from U.S. radio personality Howard Stern.

THE STEPFATHER (1987; Joseph Rubin) with Terry O'Quinn, Jill Schoelen, Shelley Hack. "Father knows best — or else" is the shock message in this tale of a domestic disciplinarian (O'Quinn) who marries into, then murders, whole families. On the first of his many visits to B.C., character actor Terry O'Quinn worked on autumnal Vancouver suburban locations dressed to look like neighbouring Seattle.

POSSESSION (1987; Lloyd Simandl, Michael Mazo) with John R. Johnston, Sharlene Martin, Cat Williams. A nurse (Martin) discovers that her intense suitor (Johnston) is the serial killer currently terrorizing the city's young women. A Vancouver mansion and regional woodlots are among the locations used by independent producer Lloyd Simandl in the first of his three directorial collaborations with Michael Mazo. Also known as UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART.

AMERICAN GOTHIC (1988; John Hough) with Yvonne De Carlo, Sarah Torgov, Rod Steiger. Bowen Island provided the isolation for this story of a murderously mad Ma (De Carlo) and Pa (Steiger). They meet their match when a recently-released Seattle mental patient (Torgov) pays a call. Vancouver-born Yvonne De Carlo made a rare visit to the old hometown to work with veteran British horror director John Hough on this U.K.-Canada independent feature.

MATINEE (1990; Richard Martin) with Gillian Barber, Beatrice Boepple, Jeff Schultz, William B. Davis. When her local movie house schedules a Halloween horror film festival, a Fraser Valley girl (Boepple) learns that serial killing runs in the family. Chilliwack stands in for writer-director Martin's fictional Holsten, B.C., with its Paramount Theatre providing the cinema's exterior. Interiors were shot variously in Vancouver's Ridge and Vogue Theatres and in the New Westminster Paramount.

DEEP SLEEP (1990; Patricia Gruben) with Megan Follows, Damon D'Oliveira, Stuart Margolin. An unbalanced West Vancouver girl (Follows) and a Downtown East Side bar musician (D'Oliveira) uncover terrible secrets about U.S.-Asian relations. This was the second fictional feature written and directed by Patricia Gruben, the founder of Simon Fraser University's Praxis Centre for Screenwriters.

DEADLY AMBITION (1995; Harvey Frost) with Kelly LeBrock, Wolf Larson, James Brolin. An attractive matron (LeBrock) is trapped in a snowbound chalet with an unhinged weekend guest (Larson). A disgruntled employee of her billionaire husband (Brolin), he makes her the object of unwanted sexual attention. Though Toronto-based television director Frost specialized in family-friendly projects, he attempted R-rated material in this, his second feature film. A Shavik Entertainment project shot in the mountains above Vancouver, it was released on video as TRACKS OF A KILLER.

MALICIOUS (1995; Ian Corson) with Molly Ringwald, Patrick McGaw, John Vernon. Breaking training for an after-hours adventure, a rookie baseball star (McGaw) becomes the obsessive love object of a dangerous, demanding college coed (Ringwald). Molly Ringwald's third working visit to B.C. was her first as an adult actress. This independent U.S. production not only gave her the opportunity to play a psychopath, but to do a semi-nude scene. North Vancouver, West Vancouver and University of B.C. locations stand in in for San Francisco.  

NO FEAR (1995; James Foley) with Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, Alyssa Milano. Urban tribalism rules when a grunge rocker (Wahlberg) stalks a 16-year-old Seattle girl (Witherspoon), bringing his gang along to lay siege to her parents' seaside home. After establishing shots filmed in Seattle, the production settled into familiar Vancouver locations. Wahlberg follows Witherspoon through the City Square Mall, and they make out during a ride on the Exhibition Park roller coaster. Also known as FEAR, the picture was released by Universal Pictures.

The above is Part 14 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].