Our Feature Film Fest: 20

Taking the picture show on the road

Published: Apr 25 2016, 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 concludes with . . .


FREEDOM, SYMBOLIZED BY the open road, is at the heart of what's known as "the American Dream." In common with our U.S. neighbours, Canadians enjoy the idea of personal mobility. The movies invite us to share in this freedom fantasy with various kinds of road, escape and pursuit pictures. And so, we conclude The Greater Vancouver Book's Feature Film Festival with a look down some local highways.

THE SUPREME KID (1975; w./d. Peter Bryant) with Frank Moore, Jim Henshaw, Don Granberry, Helen Shaver. A pair of young drifters (Moore, Henshaw) meet a would-be bandit (Granberry), and the trio go on a search for adventure that includes a liberating encounter with a hippie girl (Shaver). Anticipating the anxieties of Generation X, Simon Fraser University Film Workshop graduate Bryant made his feature debut with this independent road movie shot on Vancouver streets and the highways and byways of B.C.'s Lower Mainland.

CERTAIN FURY (1985; Stephen Gyllenhaal) with Tatum O'Neal, Irene Cara, Nicholas Campbell, Peter Fonda. Escaping police custody, a young streetwalker (O'Neal) and an uptown doctor's daughter (Cara) bond while on the run in Westminster, Conn. Inspired by 1958's The Defiant Ones, director Gyllenhaal told a tale of urban female felons. His debut feature, it was made for U.S. exploitation studio New World Pictures in Vancouver's streets, sewers and marinas.

WE'RE NO ANGELS (1989; Neil Jordan) with Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Demi Moore. Two escaped convicts (De Niro, Penn) masquerade as Catholic priests as they make their way to the Canadian border. For his homage to the classic 1955 screen comedy of the same name, Irish director Jordan had an entire 1930s town built near Stave Lake Falls in the Fraser Valley. His first big-budget Hollywood feature, it was released by Paramount Pictures.

BIRD ON A WIRE (1990; John Badham) with Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, David Carradine. Targeted by a vengeance-seeking cop killer (Carradine), erstwhile lovers (Gibson, Hawn) go on a cross country odyssey. Stakeout director Badham's second B.C.-made feature, this Universal Pictures action comedy was a continuing exercise in illusion as local neighbourhoods, buildings and businesses doubled for six different Eastern U.S. cities.  

NARROW MARGIN (1990; d. Peter Hyams) with Gene Hackman, Anne Archer, James B. Sikking. Hired assassins pursue a Los Angeles district attorney (Hackman) and a murder witness (Archer) as they make their way across B.C. by train. The first of Timecop director Hyams's three B.C.-made features, this Tri-Star Pictures suspense thriller was filmed on locations that included Grouse Mountain and B.C. Rail's Howe Sound line.

RUN (1990; Geoff Burrowes) with Patrick Dempsey, Kelly Preston, Ken Pogue. After accidentally killing an Atlantic City mobster's son, a Boston law student (Dempsey) and the female witness who can prove his innocence (Preston) find themselves one step ahead of the revenge-seeking mafia don (Pogue). Australian director Burrowes's only U.S. feature, this Hollywood Pictures pursuit thriller used the full range of urban Vancouver locations to double for its New England setting.

PURE LUCK (1991; Nadia Tass) with Martin Short, Danny Glover, Sheila Kelley. Vancouver provided the urban American locations for a buddy comedy about a klutzy guy (Short) helping a detective (Glover) find a missing heiress (Kelley) who's missing in the Mexican jungle. Australian director Tass's first U.S. feature, this Universal Studios comedy was a remake of the 1981 French comedy La Chèvre.

LEAVING NORMAL (1992; Edward Zwick) with Christine Lahti, Meg Tilly, Maury Chaykin. An ex-stripper (Lahti) and a runaway wife (Tilly) leave a small town in Wyoming to pursue a dream of Alaskan independence. Squamish is among the rural B.C. locations that Universal Pictures director Zwick used in his tale of female buddies on the road. He returned to Vancouver in 1993 to shoot his western epic, Legends of the Fall.

NORTH OF PITTSBURGH (1992; Richard Martin) with Jeff Schultz, Viveca Lindfors, Robert Clothier. A desperate small-time drug dealer (Schultz) helps his grandmother (Lindfors) pursue her quest for widow's compensation from a Pennsylvania coal-mining company. On his second feature film outing — after 1990's Matinee — Vancouver-born director Martin duplicated the look of the rust-belt eastern U.S. by using local back roads and industrial sites, such as the Versatile Pacific Shipyard.

HARMONY CATS (1993; Sandy Wilson) with Kim Coates, Jim Byrnes, Lisa Brokop. An unemployed Vancouver Symphony violinist (Coates) takes up the bull fiddle, and helps a backup singer (Brokop) hone her performing talents while on tour with a country and western band. The ornate Orpheum theatre is among the local musical venues playing themselves in this third feature from independent filmmaker Wilson, previously known for 1985's My American Cousin and American Boyfriends (1989).  

THE RAFFLE (1994; Gavin Wilding) with Nicholas Lea, Bobby Dawson, Teri Lynn Rutherford, Mark Hamill. Determined to create a unique lottery, two dreamers (Lea, Dawson) conduct an international search for its intended prize, the world's most beautiful woman (Rutherford). An independent exploitation comedy, Vancouver-based director Gavin Wilding's second feature managed a world tour shot on Vancouver locations.

The above is Part 20 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].