I would have liked to work at a video store. I mean back when I was a teenager, or young adult. I got my first job (not counting a paper route) when I was 16, and it was in a restaurant. At first, I mainly washed dishes, cleaned tables, and swept and mopped the floors. Eventually, I worked my way up to operating the cash register and cooking. After two or three years I switched restaurants, and continued cooking. It was while I was working at a third restaurant, that I finally hit the wall. I was tired of getting cut and burned and going home smelling like grease and smoke. I was also tired of the abusive behaviour of my bosses. Nowadays, they would call that third restaurant a “toxic work environment” – and it really was.
By chance, that horrible place was right across the parking lot from a Jumbo Video store. I used to rent movies there all the time. It was great because it was open 24 hours. No matter what time of night you had the urge to watch an obscure slasher film, or cheap action movie, you could be sure to find one there. I may have talked about this place before…
One day after work, I was waking home past Jumbo Video when I noticed a sign in the window: Help Wanted. It was like a bolt of lightning hit me. I hated my current job. Why not work at a video store? Continue reading →
One of my obsessions is Canadian cinema, particularly movies that were made before there was much of an industry for making films in Canada. This would include movies from the 1970s and 1980s – although those decades were in some ways quite good for Canadian filmmaking (the famous Tax Shelter Days as they are often called) – but more importantly, films that were made before the 1970s. I’m less interested in the 1990s and beyond, because by that point there was a fairly healthy system of independent filmmaking in Canada. On the plus side, this meant a lot of interesting filmmakers got to do their thing, including people like Winnipeg’s Guy Maddin (although he technically got started in the ’80s). On the down side, it meant many more serious, art-house pictures were being made – and not so much genre output (which is, of course, my main interest).
Anyone who knows me, knows that I love horror movies, and vigilante movies, and women in prison movies – basically all kinds of B-movies and exploitation movies. And any of those films that were made in Canada are of particular interest to me – especially if they were made a long time ago. The term Canuxploitation is sometimes used to describe those movies, but no matter what you call them, some of my favourites can be found among their ranks.
When Séan Weathers invited me to be a guest on his YouTube series, Rotten Apples FIlm Reviews, I asked him if he had a list of movies he was hoping to feature. He did, and as I skimmed through the titles one jumped out at me immediately: Rituals (1977). It is a movie that could be described as Canuxploitation – and it is also a movie I happen to love. So right away I told Séan that I wanted to do it. I wrote a blog post about the movie, and you can watch the episode of Rotten Apples… on Séan’s YouTube Channel. You can also watch it on my YouTube Channel, but if you go to Séan’s you can watch the entire movie there (as well as many other fine episodes of the show).
For those who don’t know, Séan Weathers is an accomplished filmmaker who, according to Wikipedia, “specializes in making low-budget films primarily in the erotic and horror genres using skeleton crews and guerrilla filmmaking tactics.” How cool is that? He’s got a page on Wikipedia!
Seriously, he makes low budget genre films, which are the best kind as far as I’m concerned. Check out that filmography!
I had a great time talking about Rituals with Séan, and he graciously invited me to come back and talk movies again sometime. Having looked at his list a little more closely, a second title had already jumped out at me: The Bloody Brood (1959).
The Bloody Brood is another Canuxploitation classic (or not quite classic, depending on your point of view). What makes it particularly interesting (and unique) is the fact that it was made in 1959. That’s very early for English-language Canadian cinema of any kind. Yes, there are some isolated examples of earlier films. But it was a pretty rare thing – especially for a genre film – to be made in English-language Canada prior to about 1970. Not that this is the definitive measuring stick, but a quick search on the IMDb reveals a list of 146 movies tagged with the keyword “canuxploitation” – and only three of them were released before 1970. The Bloody Brood is, in fact, the first one on the list.
The Bloody Brood was directed by Julian Roffman, who was a pioneer of Canadian (and Canuxploitation) filmmaking. He is perhaps best remembered for his second feature, The Mask (1961) which was filmed partly in 3D. He went on to produce several movies, including the often admired Canuxploitation classic The Pyx (1973).
I’ve seen The Bloody Brood more than once over the years, and I quite like it. Séan, on the other hand, recently watched it for the first time. What did he think? What weird areas of film and social history did our discussion illuminate? What do Alfred Hitchcock, Roger Corman, Orson Welles and William Shakespeare have to do with it? And what exactly is a Beatnik, anyway? Just go to Séan’s YouTube page and watch the video to find out. And after we’ve finished discussing The Bloody Brood, you can stick around and watch the entire movie – for free. What could be better than that? I can’t think of anything, so head on over and get started.
As mentioned previously, I have a lot of records (LPs, EPs,12″ singles, etc). Digging through bargain bins of old vinyl has been a favourite pass-time of mine since I was a teenager. When you do this in a lot of thirft stores, you start to notice certain records (or artists) popping up with varying degrees of frequency. One name that I would come across from time to time was Hagood Hardy. I had no idea who he was, but after inspecting the backs of a couple of his albums I noticed that he appeared to be Canadian. I have a certain affinity for Canadian artists, particularly ones who were recording in the pre-CanCon days, when it was so much harder for Canadian artists to get airplay on Canadian radio stations. Hagood Hardy appeared to be such an artist, having started recording in the 1960s.
A brief look into his past revealed that he was mainly a jazz and easy listening musician, which meant that he fell outside of my usual areas of interest. He had a hit song called The Homecoming in 1975. It’s an instrumental single that charted in both Canada and the USA, and went gold in Canada. A quick internet search provided many ways to hear the song, and I must say that I knew it really well. I had no idea what it was called (being an instrumental), but I used to hear it all the time back in the ’70s (and probably the ’80s). It’s one of two or three iconic instrumentals from my childhood. I’m sure they used to play it on the old Environment Canada Weather Channel, which my parents used to leave on in the background when no one was watching TV.
This gave me a certain respect for Hagood Hardy, and The Homecoming was definitely a nostalgic blast from the past, but it still wasn’t the kind of music I would typically collect, so I continued to pass his records by when I would see them in the bins. One day I stumbled upon one that I did not recognize called Tell Me My Name. For some reason I turned it over and looked at the back…
The second song on side two was called Reunion (Theme from Rituals).
Theme from Rituals?! The Canadian horror film from 1977? A film that I have had a particular fondness for since I was a kid? Could Hagood Hardy have actually written the theme from that movie?
I looked closer. He did write the song. And it was clearly labelled “Theme from Rituals”. And the record was released in 1977 – the same year as the movie. It would be too much of a strange coincidence for this be a different movie, or TV series – or whatever. It seemed to me that I had found an unexpected treasure; an old LP that contained the official theme of an obscure Canadian horror film from the ’70s – and one of my favourites to boot.
It goes without saying that I had to buy this record.
I couldn’t help but notice that two other tracks on the record were also identified as a “Theme” from something. And since that time, I have confirmed that Hagood Hardy scored several films and TV shows, including Anne of Green Gables (1985) and Anne of Avonlea (1987).
The fact that he did Rituals blows my mind.
Rituals (1977) is a movie that I have a had a relationship with since, probably, 1983.It was directed by Peter Carter, who made the Canadian classic The Rowdyman (1972) and the truck-driver comedy High-Ballin’ (1978) – which is a movie I loved as a kid. His final film, Highpoint(1982), seemed like it must have been a good idea that went bad somewhere along the line. I have a copy in my collection, but I really need to take a closer look at it someday to try to figure it out.
Rituals has a stellar cast of character actors – including Hollywood Icon Hal Holbrook. It’s a horror film, but it’s also a drama, with great scenes of dialogue and character conflict that make it feel almost like a play at times (even though it takes place in the rugged outdoors). Characters struggle through dangerous terrain in a attempt to reach safety, but they are also on a more personal, inner journey of self-discovery – and they must face up to many unpleasant truths along the way.
Rituals could be described as a survival horror film, and it was almost certainly influenced by Deliverance (1972). But in some ways, Rituals is more like a slasher film (and that’s the way that my teenage mind perceived it back in the day) even though the slasher genre really didn’t get started until after Halloween (1978).
Rituals was made during the Tax Shelter Days of Canadian filmmaking. The Tax Shelter was a double edged sword, because it made getting a film financed a lot easier, but it also meant that the financiers didn’t really care about getting the film in front of an audience – they just wanted a tax write-off. So, Rituals fell victim to that attitude and was never widely seen. I might have never known about it if it hadn’t been for one person: Stephen King.
Yes, THAT Stephen King. Horror writer extraordinaire, whose stories have been made into many successful movies. Stephen King told me about Rituals way back in the winter of ’83… or was it ’84…?
I recently told the whole story to New York City Guerrilla Filmmaker Séan Weathers on an episode of Rotten Apples FIlm Reviews. We talked about Rituals at length, exploring many different aspects of the film. For those who are interested in hearing what we had to say, you can check out the video on Séan’s YouTube channel. You will also get to see some clips from the movie – and you even have the option of sticking around and watching the entire uncut version of the film for free.
But speaking of uncut horrors, you will also see yours truly sporting an uncut Covid beard. Yes, that’s right. I haven’t trimmed it since this whole pandemic started back in March of this year. It wasn’t a plan, it just sort of happened. I guess I figured why bother trimming it when no one is going to see me…? But now you ARE going to see me. So, be warned about that…
I suppose I could claim it’s thematically relevant to Rituals. I’m paying homage to the bearded characters at the end of the film (played by Jack Creley and Michael Zenon). Watch the movie and you’ll see what I mean.
Some other things I find interesting about Rituals (that Séan and I did not have time to discuss):
Robin Gammell plays a gay character at a time when that was unusual. His straight friends just accept him as one of the guys, and the fact that he is gay is not even talked about until fairly deep into the movie.
Jack Creley, who plays one of the bearded mountain man at the end of Rituals, also played the iconic Brian O’Blivion in one of my other all time favourite movies, Videodrome (1983).
Hagood Hardy did compose the theme to Rituals, as well as the entire score. I like it very much, because it is a style of melodic soundtrack music that you don’t often hear anymore -particularly in modern horror films. Here is a sample from the very record that I purchased all those years ago (if you like it, consider buying a copy wherever fine music is sold):
Reunion (Theme from Rituals) by Hagood Hardy (from my personal vinyl LP)
Many thanks to Séan Weathers for reaching out to me, and making it all happen. It was my first time as a guest on a YouTube show, and my first time Zooming (my computer is so ancient that I had to borrow another one). I enjoyed our conversation very much, and look forward to doing it again in the not too distant future (about a different movie, of course).