Our Feature Film Fest: 16

Sending in the clowns

Published: Dec 12 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 . . .


BEING FUNNY IS NO JOKE, and providing audiences with comic relief is one of the hardest jobs there is. Fortunately, film-makers keep trying, often shooting their features in our city by the sea. Among the just-for-laughs Vancouver-made features are:

RENO AND THE DOC (1984; d. Charles Dennis) with Kenneth Welsh, Henry Raymer, Linda Griffiths. A Whistler ski lodge is the scenic setting for this snow-sports comedy in which two forty-something buddies (Welsh, Raymer) who are experiencing a mid-life crisis establish a telepathic link. This independent production was the directorial debut for Toronto-born actor-writer Charles Dennis.  

HOME IS WHERE THE HART IS (1987; d. Rex Bromfield) with Valri Bromfield, Leslie Nielsen, Eric Christmas, Ted Stidder. Old jokes abound in this tale of elderly twins (Christmas, Stidder) who call in the sheriff (Nielsen) when their 104-year-old dad (Joe Austin) runs off with his live-in nurse (Valri Bromfield). After filming his fourth independently-made feature in a vintage Vancouver mansion, Toronto-based writer-director Rex Bromfield relocated to B.C., where he continued his career directing episodes of such TV series as Danger Bay, The Beachcombers, Max Glick and The Odyssey.

THE EXPERTS (1989; d. Dave Thomas) with John Travolta, Arye Gross, Deborah Foreman. Something of a cinematic Chinese puzzle, SCTV veteran Thomas's Vancouver-made feature is set in a Soviet-built replica of an American town where a pair of New York hipsters (Travolta, Gross) are duped into revealing U.S. pop cultural secrets to the KGB. This Paramount Pictures release was shot on location in the Vancouver suburb of Delta.
WHO'S HARRY CRUMB? (1989: d. Paul Flaherty) with John Candy, Jeffrey Jones, Annie Potts. Hired to find a kidnapped California heiress, an inept, disguise-happy private eye (Candy) bumbles about in a Vancouver disguised as Los Angeles. Made for Tri-Star Pictures by Paul Flaherty, a former SCTV writer-producer (and SCTV performer Joe Flaherty's brother), the film included comic moments at the airport and the Exhibition Park race track.

SHORT TIME (1990; d. Gregg Champion) with Dabney Coleman, Matt Frewer, Teri Garr. Thinking himself terminally ill, a Seattle cop (Coleman) risks all in the hope of winning death-in-the-line-of-duty insurance benefits for his wife (Garr) and family. The son of screen dancers Marge and Gower Champion, Gregg Champion made his directorial debut with this Twentieth Century-Fox cop comedy that includes a showy car chase filmed in Yaletown and downtown New Westminster.

MYSTERY DATE (1991; d. Jonathan Wacks) with Ethan Hawke, Teri Polo, Brian McNamara. In this mistaken identity farce, a college kid (Hawke) poses as his older brother (McNamara) to impress a girl (Polo) and then runs into all of his sibling's worst enemies. Set in an unnamed U.S. city that's home to Chinese mafiosi, South African-born Jonathan Wacks's Orion Pictures feature used a variety of nocturnal downtown Vancouver locations, including the Graceland dance club.

STAY TUNED (1992; d. Peter Hyams) with John Ritter, Pam Dawber, Jeffrey Jones. Commercial broadcasting is the satirical target in this look at the devil's own cable network, its promise of 666 channels, and the suburban couple (Ritter, Dawber) condemned to live inside "hellvision." The second of his three made-in-Vancouver features — the first was 1990's Narrow Margin; the third was Timecop (1994) — cinematographer-director Peter Hyams was based in Burnaby's Bridge Studios during the filming of this Warner Bros. special-effects fantasy.

MAN OF THE HOUSE (1995; d. James Orr) with Chevy Chase, Jonathan Taylor, Farrah Fawcett. A mean little kid (Taylor) disapproves when his divorced mom (Fawcett) finds a new boyfriend  (Chase), and makes the Seattle lawyer work really hard to win his affection. Montreal-born James Orr's third feature, this Buena Vista Pictures release includes Vancouver's city hall and North Vancouver's steep streets among its locations.  

BIG BULLY (1995; d. Steve Miner) with Rick Moranis, Tom Arnold. Posing the question "do they ever grow up?", this domestic comedy offers the story of a writer (Moranis) who returns to his Minnesota hometown, where he takes a high school teaching job and re-encounters his childhood nemesis (Arnold). Vancouver's Kitsilano Secondary was the principal shooting location for this tale of reconciliation, released by Warner Bros.

The above is Part 16 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].