1. Double Happiness (Mina Shum, 1994) British Columbia/English/Cantonese
2. Hell at My Heels (Brett Kelly, 2011) Ontario/English
3. Rise of the Black Bat (Brett Kelly, 2012) Ontario/English
4. Dreamspeaker (1976) British Columbia/English
5. Surfacing (1981) Ontario/English
6. By Design (1981) British Columbia/English
7. Ilsa: She-Wolf of the S.S. (Don Edmonds, 1975) (re-watch)
8. Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (Don Edmonds, 1976)
9. City on Fire (1979) Québec/English
10. King Solomon's Treasure (1979) Canadian-British co-production made mostly in Swaziland
11. Death Ship (1980) Québec/English
12. My American Cousin (Sandy Wilson, 1985) British Columbia/English
13. DEFCON-4 (Paul Donovan, 1985) Nova Scotia/English
14. The Dirties
(Matt Johnson, 2013) Ontario
Johnson made this high-school-bullies-get-theirs film when he was 18, so presumably having just graduated from a high school much like the one we see here - or maybe it was his high school. I haven't really looked into it much, I know the film has a certain cult rep, and it's certainly an impressive first feature for a teenager made on a $10k budget. Clearly it's something close to Johnson's heart and to the hearts of lots of geeks out there. It's basically a highly meta story about a couple of would-be filmmakers (Johnson and Owen Williams) who want to make a film project for class about how they get even with the gang of bullies (The Dirties) at the school by murdering them all; there's also a side story about Williams' attempting romancing of the generic school hot girl, and this gradually starts to change the friendship between Matt and Owen (yes, they use their real names), and ultimately serves to broaden the definition of "bullying". I liked this aspect, and also the occasional nods to the camera on the part of Matt which if one were to take this film as "realistic" would indicate that there's a third party involved in the planning of the massacre. It doesn't succeed entirely, I think in part because Johnson's a little too fixated on his (mostly very obvious) influences, like Tarantino and, of course, Van Sant's Elephant
and the real-life school shooting at Columbine that it was based on. But on the whole it was engaging enough and the very low-budget vibe worked for me in this case.
(Gary Burns, 2000) Alberta
The first film in this challenge that I'm close to loving, this is a story after my own heart. A group of four young pseudo-professionals - mostly low-rent data entry or administrative assistant types it seems, though not much is made of their specific jobs - in Calgary have each bet a month's salary on who can stay indoors the longest without going outside even for a moment. A tough challenge you might think except that Calgary is one of those cold northern cities with a very extensive set of skywalks linking much of the downtown core, and further linking office buildings to the apartment buildings where each of the four live. I love this concept - both the film and reality; I remember when I first visited Milwaukee, WI as an adult and finding that it had something of this kind of system in place (though I don't think it's nearly as extensive). I've always loved large, indoor, mazelike or complex structures - the Montreal Réso is another wonderful example, the underground equivalent of what you see in Calgary. The idea that you could go for days or weeks continuing to explore this huge enclosed world...awesome. Anyway this doesn't get as much into the wonder of the idea as I'd like - maybe because the filmmakers are treating it more as an opportunity for satire on the corporate office world at the turn of the century - but it's very amusing and offbeat as a comedy and as a commentary on how much we've all given up in terms of our freedom of expression and movement in the world; there's an ant farm that one of the four keeps that's an obvious metaphor here. Fab Filippo - who kept bugging me throughout because I knew that I'd seen him before, turns out it's from a coupe of early episodes of Buffy
- is our main protagonist and occasional narrator, with a bit more optimism and less cynicism to him than most of the others; Marya Delver is the only woman of the four and the most neurotic - I kept wondering if a romance would develop here and was pleasantly surprised that it didn't; also on hand are Don McKellar as a borderline psycho who staples notes onto his chest, Gordon Currie as a loathsome lothario, and lots of other actors in small, fun roles. It doesn't quite add up to brilliance in the end but it's sure an enjoyable ride for someone like me who misses the textures and sounds of even a closed-in, highly corporate big city world.
Lloyd A. Simandl - lingerie, shower & leather fetishist, purveyor of awful cinema
This is the only image that comes up in a quick Google search:
Similarly, I can find almost no information about the guy. Born in 1948 in Poland it sez on IMDb so we'll have to go with that. All of his early films seem to have been entirely Canadian productions; later films are often Canada/Czech co-productions. If IMDb is to be trusted - and I wouldn't bet on it with a director this obscure making mostly straight-to-video stuff that virtually nobody has seen - he's done 46 feature-length films/videos between 1979 and 2011, and judging from the titles and images, most are sexploitation, frequently combined with science fiction/horror/fantasy, all done on very low budgets. Judging from the 5 films I saw - his first five - he likes to showcase beautiful women in corsets, bustiers, nylons, etc; he's got at least one shower scene in each film; he also likes to have his camera linger over asses - and he likes good-looking males also; if not an equal-opportunity exploiter he's at least conscious that maybe there are a few women or gay men in the audience; and there's some light leather/vinyl bondage fetishism here also. All but the first of these had co-directors, either Michael Mazo (on the 2nd, 4th and 5th films) or Douglas C. Nicolle. All of these were 4x3 VHS rips and the first three looked pretty bad, not that it probably matters.
16. Autumn Born
This "film" still had a little bit of a cult reputation when I was working in video stores due to a lingering fascination with the lead actress, the tragic Vancouver-born Dorothy Stratten; this was her third film and first starring role, and this is the VHS box cover which I well remember
Stratton was a Playboy Playmate and started to develop a relationship with director Peter Bogdanovich, who cast her in a significant role in the 1981 release They All Laughed
; between this film and that she made Galaxina
, her only other significant role; a jealous husband ended her life at 20 in 1980. I've never seen the Bogdanovich film, and while I've seen Galaxina
it was a long, long time ago, so I don't know what kind of actress Stratton was developing into; certainly in this film and in the next she was not cast primarily for her thespian abilities, though to be fair she's probably more competent than anyone else in this unholy mess, filmed in Winnipeg though only those really knowledgeable of the city would be likely to recognize anything from the few exterior shots. Most of this is in a couple of rooms in some remote mansion where heiress Stratton is being held and gradually mind-controlled so that she'll sign away all her money to her greedy uncle. She gets bathed and whipped (pretty gently) a lot and made to wear lots of frilly negligees. That's about it. I have less patience for softcore crap masquerading as real movies than just about anything else and this came pretty close to the limit of my patience. Oh let's have a minimal story about some girl trying to find Stratton with a minute of dialogue about it, then cut to 10 minutes of semi-nude scenes and soft-core lesbian loving, then back to our minute of plot just so we can pretend this has a story. Repeat. At least it's only 74 minutes. Worst film I've seen this month and one of the worst ever.
17. Ladies of the Lotus
(1987) British Columbia
/English FIRST CHECK
What did Mr. Simandl do in the 8 years between his first and second credits, I wonder? Are there other undiscovered films out there? Did he do small, uncredited jobs on bigger films we might have heard of? Maybe he was a gopher for Atom Egoyan or Guy Maddin early in their careers? More likely he directed porn or did nude photoshoots, as this film, like the first, is really just an excuse for abundant female nudity, lingerie (it's about a modeling agency that's a front for a prostitution/slavery ring) and of course, a bit of showering. One thing I'll give it over the first film is a bit more variety - a larger number of naked women, though none of them are probably as cute as Stratton. On the other hand, though this does have slightly more plot, what it has is pretty incomprehensible and I quickly gave up trying or caring to know what was going on, if anything. I think there was a dude who was looking for his sister or girlfriend or something. I don't care and you won't either; it's no wonder mine was the first check. I rated this and the previous film both "1" and I don't know that I've ever done that for two films seen in a row, let alone two from the same director. Well done Mr. Simandl!
(1987) British Columbia
This is a small step up, thankfully, though it's still a Lloyd Simandl film through and through. It starts out as something resembling Psycho
very broadly, with a young man with a mother fetish living in a big house who brings women home in the hopes of pleasing her and himself, and has killed a whole bunch of them. It has some nice night-time city photography actually - an early shot over the credits is a cityscape, and then a slow pan down to an overhead of a woman running, quite nicely done. Some good cars and lights against the city backdrops too. Anyway the girl in that nice shot is the next would-be victim, Madeline, but she gets away - there follows a not horrible chase sequence (though the gun battles are your typical really low-budget type where you see a guy firing a weapon in one shot, cut to the next and see the other guy fall down) climaxing in (of course) the explosion of a boat which the killer was escaping on. BUT NOT SO FAST... at this point it becomes essentially just any generic 80s slasher movie - with lots of lingerie, a long shower sequence, and a bathtub scene - as the girl goes with her friends for a weekend in the country and the killer (somehow) follows her and kills lots of people along the way who happen to be her friends & whatnot. Like the first two films, this exists only to showcase hot babes naked or close to it, though it spices things up with a couple of hunky stripper-dudes as well. It's just slightly more interesting and does have a vaguely coherent plot, but it's still in the end quite terrible.
19. Empire of Ash
aka Empire of Ash II
(1988) British Columbia
20. Empire of Ash III
(1989) British Columbia
So this is a confusing little series of two films - the first film was retitled with the "II" when "III" came out - if I had to guess I'd say there were plans to make a prequel to the existing first film and call that "I" but I really have no clue and as with Mr. Simandl's other films there doesn't appear to be a lot of real info available in a 5-minute search, which is all I'm willing to give this crap. There are some funny reviews on Letterboxd though. Anyway these are bare-bones post-apocalyptic action films, with Melanie Kilgour - who is only in these films; Simandl's films seem filled with actors that worked with him once or twice then disappeared from the industry; I wonder why? - as a young woman initially looking for her sister after she gets separated from sis and their grandpa as they try to get away from the Mad Max rejects that run "New Idaho" (but really British Columbia). Sis gets captured by the bad leather-black t-shirt-black jeans-boots crowd, who are led in the first film by this vinyl-clad hair metal band reject
There's stuff about a virus (ooh, contemporary relevance) or plague or something that's killed off most people or turned them into mutants (we don't see any of these until the second I mean third film) and lots of pretty mediocre action, and lingerie, leather or vinyl fetish wear, and of course showering - even though it's the post-apocalypse and presumably power and running water are scarce, you can always find a little waterfall out in the woods to bathe under, particularly if you're totally hot, female, and about 20. There are a couple of Vietnam War vets we run into who turn out to be sort of good guys - they show up again in the second I mean third film but are re-cast - Kilgour is the only returning actor. And in the sequel we also have William Smith, one of the great American action character actors of the 60s-80s, best known for the 10-minute fistfight with Clint Eastwood that ends Any Which Way You Can
. Here he plays some pseudo-religious zealot because of course the bad guys have to be part of some cult with a New Bible and such. There's also a sort of primitive A.I., there's the evil girl in the second film getting oiled up by her minions, and so much more that I really don't need to remember. And bad music - mostly lame instrumental grade-z generic 80s hard rock, but both films end with Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild", as our Mad Max style cars and bikes race around a gravel pit (is there a more typical location for your standard grade z post-apocalyptic shoot?). And a castle in the middle of the woods. Both of these are steps up from the previous films but not big enough steps. Baby steps where he needed giant leaps.
I think in the end this director's films all start from a premise of "we got some cute chicks who'll get naked, now we've got to have a story around that so we can sell it to drive-ins". At least the last three of them; the first two really don't bother with the story aspect at all, and given the general level of filmmaking/acting/etc quality you're really not left with anything but the hot naked chicks, and there's porn for that.