Perusing the shelves of my local video stores, I would often see VHS copies of both Rolling Vengeance (1987) and Rolling Thunder (1977). I knew that one of them was supposed to be good, but which one was it…? Unsure, I would often pass both of them up and rent something else. Eventually, I figured out that Rolling Thunder was the more admired of the two – and it is indeed a very good movie. But any title that includes the word Vengeance is automatically appealing to me. So, when I found a reasonably priced VHS tape of Rolling Vengeance in a bargain bin, I grabbed it and headed for the till.Continue reading →
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).