Our Feature Film Fest: 8

Vancouver actually playing Vancouver

Published: Feb 08 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 . . .


VERSATILITY IS THE KEY to Vancouver's popularity as a film location. While the ability to pass for Seattle, New York or Nagoya, Japan, attracts business, it's also a sore point with civic boosters. "Vancouver is never Vancouver in the movies" goes an oft-heard complaint. But sometimes it is. Examples include:

JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON (1949; d. William Castle) with Howard Duff, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea. International drug dealers are tracked to their downtown Vancouver lair by a heroic U.S. Treasury agent (Duff). In 1948, with talk of federal film quotas in the air, U.S. movie industry lobbyists were dispatched to Ottawa to propose the "Canadian Co-operation Project" — essentially a promise by the Hollywood studios to include more references to Canada in their films. They didn't promise the references would be nice, though, and the brief scenes shot outside the railroad station at the foot of Granville Street in this Universal Pictures crime thriller were among the results.   

THE SWEET AND THE BITTER (1962; d. James Clavell) with Yoko Tani, Paul Richards, Torin Thatcher. Intent on avenging the death of her father, a Japanese fisherman interned during the war, a dutiful daughter (Tani) comes to Vancouver looking for the Scots businessman (Thatcher) who stole her father's boats. Instead, she falls in love with the businessman's son (Richards). Locally financed, this social-justice drama was produced by the same company (Commonwealth Productions) that built West Vancouver's $1.5-million Panorama Studios. Shot on Steveston locations, it remained unseen until 1967, then premiered to damning reviews at Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre. Released in the U.S. as SAVAGE JUSTICE.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE (1975; d. Lou Lombardo; based on the 1974 novel Kosygin Is Coming by Tom Ardies) with George Segal, Christina Raines, Denholm Elliott. An RCMP corporal (Segal) uncovers a plot to assassinate Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin during his 1971 state visit to Vancouver. Urban locations abound, building to the AVCO Embassy film's action climax, a shootout on the distinctive green roof of the Hotel Vancouver.

SKIP TRACER (1977; d. Zale Dalen) with David Petersen, John Lazarus, Rudy Szabo. Death threats bring about some lifestyle changes for a hard-driving Vancouver repo man (Petersen). This intense, independent Canadian feature avoids the postcard-pretty city views, using both West End and suburban locations for their gritty realism.

COLD FRONT (1990; d. Allan "Paul Bnarbic" Goldstein) with Martin Sheen, Michael Ontkean, Beverly D'Angelo. A U.S. drug enforcement agent (Sheen) works with an RCMP partner (Ontkean) to stop a renegade Soviet assassin at large in Vancouver. Another independent Canadian feature, this unintentionally funny spy thriller made good use of Granville Island locations, where it repurposed a dockside restaurant as the movie's notorious Rickshaw Club.

SHOOT TO KILL (1988; d. Roger Spottiswoode) with Sidney Poitier, Tom Berenger, Kirstie Alley. Tracking a deranged killer to Vancouver, an FBI agent (Poitier) stakes out Robson Square, leads the hot pursuit through downtown and shoots it out aboard a B.C. ferry. Touchstone Pictures also made use of Squamish and wilderness locations such as Buntzen Lake and the Coquihalla and Nairn Falls provincial parks to double for Washington state. Released in the U.K. as DEADLY PURSUIT.

THE BURNING SEASON (1993; d. Harvey Crossland) with Akesh Gill, Ayub Khan Din, Dale Azzard. Bored with her life in the Vancouver suburbs, a young Indo-Canadian matron (Gill) has an affair with  her college instructor (Din), a dashing Rajput prince. Reflecting the diverse makeup of B.C.'s population, this independent feature was filmed on locations in Vancouver's East-Asian neighbourhoods, as well as in India itself.

IMPOLITE (1993; d. David Hauka) with Robert Wisden, Christopher Plummer, Susan Hogan. A boozy reporter (Wisden) manages the extra legwork needed to cover Howe Street and get a big scoop for the Vancouver Gazette. Among the picturesque downtown locations seen in this somewhat surreal independent feature is the city room of Vancouver's Province newspaper.

INTERSECTION (1994; d. Mark Rydell; based on the 1967 novel Les Choses de la Vie by Paul Guimard) with Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Lolita Davidovich. Actor Gere plays a Vancouver architect with an Arthur Erickson-like style and a personal life complicated by the demands of a wife (Stone) and a lover (Davidovich). Not unexpectedly, locations for this Paramount Pictures remake of the 1970 French feature Les Choses de la Vie include Arthur Erikson's actual Gastown offices and his visually arresting Museum of Anthropology on the University of B.C. campus.  

The above is Part 8 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].