Our Feature Film Fest: 3

The future is filmed here

Published: Nov 20 2014, 01:01:am


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

[PART 3: Cybercity]


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 . . .


WHEN SUPERSPIES AND SPACEMEN replaced cowboys as popular screen heroes, Vancouver finally came into its own as a filmmaking centre. Its fresh look and cutting-edge architecture fit right into tales of near-future worlds full of technological wonders and worries. Science-fiction features shot here include:

THE GROUNDSTAR CONSPIRACY  (1971; d. Lamont Johnson; based on Leslie P. Davies's 1968 novel The Alien) with George Peppard, Michael Sarrazin, Christine Belford. An Amercian spymaster (Peppard) uses an amnesiac scientist (Sarrazin) to trap the foreign agents responsible for blowing up a U.S. space research centre. Drawn by the futuristic look of Simon Fraser University to shoot his science-fiction thriller on location in Vancouver, Universal Pictures producer Trevor Wallace later relocated to B.C. to make his own independent features. Although he was not personally successful, he was right in his conviction that Vancouver was about to become a major production centre.

FOOD OF THE GODS (1976; d. Bert I. Gordon; inspired by the 1904 novel by H.G. Wells) with Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Ida Lupino. When growth hormones from outer space turn Bowen Island rats into monster rodents, a vacationing B.C. Lion (Gortner) calls the plays like a professional exterminator. Vancouver Island and Vancouver's Empire Stadium, then the home field of the B.C. Lions football club, were among the locations that American producer-director Gordon used for his low-budget shock feature, an American International Pictures (AIP) release.

ICEMAN (1984; d. Fred Schepisi) with Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse, John Lone. Frozen for millennia in the high Arctic, an ancient Inuit (Lone) is reawakened by cryobiologists (Hutton, Crouse) working in high-tech labs built on Panorama Studios sound stages. Norman Jewison, the film's producer, brought the Universal Pictures project to Canada, where exteriors where filmed near Churchill, Manitoba, and Stewart. B.C.

RUNAWAY (1984; d. Michael Crichton) with Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes, Gene Simmons. Future cops (Selleck, Rhodes) battle the criminal robots controlled by a mad scientist (Simmons) in a 21st century metropolis. Best-selling author and film director Crichton found the urban look he needed for his big-budget future-noir thriller in and around Vancouver, shooting a particularly memorable chase scene for this Tri-Star Pictures release on the Burrard Street Bridge.

QUARANTINE (1988; d. Charles Wilkinson) with Beatrice Boepple, Garwin Sanford, Jerry Wasserman. A young rebel (Boepple) recruits a research scientist (Sanford) to fight a dictatorial senator (Wasserman) and his government's ruthless use of a health crisis to enslave its people. An independent Canadian production with a European sensibility, producer-director Wilkinson shot his picture in Vancouver and New Westminster.

BEYOND THE STARS (1989; d. David Saperstein) with Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone. A young space scientist (Slater) makes some shocking discoveries about the Apollo 11 moon mission and his personal idol, a retired astronaut (Sheen). Director Saperstein, best known as the story writer on the Cocoon features, filmed his science-fictional speculation on NASA's secret files in Huntsville, Alabama, and its urban double, Vancouver.

TIME RUNNER (1993; d. Michael Mazo) with Mark Hamill, Rae Dawn Chong, Brion James.  A fugitive from an imperilled future Earth (Hamill) finds an ally in a present-day scientist (Chong) for his fight with alien fifth columnists preparing an invasion. Established in 1978 to make low-budget features, independent Canadian producer Lloyd Simandl's North American Pictures took its U.S. stars on location to Kelowna and Summerland (as well as Vancouver) for this Terminator-like thriller.

TOMCAT (1993; d. Paul Donovan) with Richard Grieco, Maryam d'Abo, Natalie Radford. In this health-care crisis thriller, a genetic researcher (d'Abo) makes a new man of her patient (Grieco), one with ferocious feline urges. Aimed at the market for erotic thrillers, this softcore sex feature is also known as DANGEROUS DESIRES.

TIMECOP (1994; d. Peter Hyams; based on a 1992 story by comic book writers Mike Richardson and Mark Verheiden) with Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ron Silver, Mia Sara. An incorruptible near-future lawman (Van Damme) faces danger in the past to thwart a crooked politician (Silver) planning to steal the U.S. presidency. On his third working visit to B.C., Universal Pictures director Hyams used the full range of Vancouver locations to tell a tale set in Washington, D.C.

CYBERTEENS IN LOVE (1995; d. Brett Dowler) with Martin Cummins, Justine Priestly, Hagan Beggs. The addictive power of illicit brain implants threatens the fragile happiness of an orphan (Priestly) and her streetwise boyfriend (Cummins). Vancouver-based Brett Dowler made his directorial debut with this independent feature, partially funded by BC Film and Canada's National Film Board.

CRYING FREEMAN (1995; d. Christophe Gans; based on the 1986-1988 manga by Kazuo Koike and Ryoichi Ikegami) with Mark Dacascos, Julie Condra, Rae Dawn Chong, Tcheky Karyo. An artist (Dacascos) programmed to kill for a Chinese Triad, falls in love with a woman (Condra) he's been told to assassinate, adding complications to the investigation of a Vancouver police detective (Chong) and her Interpol counterpart (Karyo). A Franco-Canadian co-production, French director Gans used B.C. locations to stand in for both San Francisco and Tokyo.

CYBERJACK (1995; d. Robert Lee) with Michael Dudikoff, Suki Kaiser, Brion James. An ex-cop (Dudikoff) working as a janitor for a 21st-century bio-research centre must stop a high-tech robber (James) determined to steal a computer virus developed by a corporate scientist (Kaiser). Vancouver-based Robert Lee made his directorial debut with this Die Hard-like thriller, an independent feature that's also known as VIRTUAL ASSASSIN.

STARLIGHT (1995; d. Jonathon Kay) with Rae Dawn Chong, Billy Wirth, Willie Nelson. A beautiful extra-terrestrial geneticist (Chong) awakens love in a suicidal First Nations youth (Wirth), whose grandfather (Nelson) believes in the alien origins of all Earthmen. Winnipeg-born writer-director Jonathon Kay blends New Age philosophy with traditional First Nations lore to put a psychedelic spin on the this independently-made Canadian feature.   

The above is Part 3 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].