Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Sudden Fury (1975)

Growing up in Canada, there were opportunities to see unusual and obscure Canadian films on TV from time to time. This was due to a little thing called Canadian Content Rules. TV stations were required to fill a certain percentage of their schedules with Canadian programming. TV stations, however, believed that no one wanted to see Canadian TV shows and movies, so they used a lot of tricks to avoid actually showing any. The two exceptions were local news and sporting events, which not only counted as Canadian Content but were actually popular. Aside from that, Canadian TV stations used to air several extremely short form programmes in between and/or during popular American and British shows – almost like commercials. If you grew up in Canada in the ’70s and ’80s, you will undoubtedly remember shows like Hinterland Who’s Who. Each episode lasted barely more than one minute, and provided some brief information about a particular form of wildlife that called Canada home. Here is an example from the National Film Board:

There were other short programmes, such as Body Break which provided health and fitness advice in very brief segments, and Canada Vignettes by the NFB. TV stations would air some of these shorts over and over again, and seeing some of them became almost like hearing a favourite song on the radio. I know I would always get excited whenever I saw certain vignettes, like this one called Faces:

Canadian TV stations did show Canadian movies from time to time, but usually late at night or during the summer – when less people were watching. I, of course, was one of those lesser people – and over the years I saw some really memorable movies, like the craptacular shot on video Niagara Strip (1987). I didn’t know this at the time, but it was one of the now legendary low budget movies made by Emmeritus Productions for a TV station in Hamilton, Ontario. In retrospect, I really admire them for making movies like this to satisfy their Canadian Content requirements. At the time, I just thought it was a horrible movie – but it kind of inspired me. If those guys could make a movie this bad and get it onto TV then why couldn’t I? Unfortunately, I never did.

I also saw good Canadian movies on TV, like The Changeling (1980) and Terror Train (1980), but it’s more interesting to think back on the strange ones that I’d never heard of before (and in some cases, since). I’m not even sure what some of them were. I have vivid memories of scenes, or moments, or images – like a young, hippy-ish biker wearing a leather jacket with a Canadian flag on the back. I have no idea what movie that was from. If anyone can tell me, I’d be very interested.

One movie that I did not see on TV back in the day (and had not even heard of until very recently), is Sudden Fury (1975). Oddly enough, since I tweeted (and posted) about watching it last Friday, a few people have told me that they saw it on TV when they were kids – and that it really disturbed and/or frightened them. How cool is that?

Sudden Fury is a suspense thriller that borders on horror at times. It was directed by Brian Damude, whose only other directing credits are a short film from 1974 and a made for TV feature that was apparently shot in 1986 but never released. It’s hard to believe that Damude didn’t have more of a career as a filmmaker because Sudden Fury is masterfully done. He is a film professor emeritus at Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts, so that may explain what he’s been doing with his time since making this movie back in the mid ’70s.

Perhaps Damude’s lack of filmmaking success could partly be blamed on the fact that Sudden Fury was another one of those Tax Shelter films that never got a very wide release. The people that put money into it likely only cared about the tax breaks and didn’t work too hard to ensure that the movie was seen. I knew nothing about it until very recently – and I have a particular interest in Canadian movies from the 1970s so that’s saying something. Still, it’s good to know that some people of my my generation were lucky enough to see in on TV back in the day (before it virtually disappeared). I am so glad that Vinegar Syndrome has now restored and released it on Blu-ray (with the approval and involvement of Damude).

The cast includes Dominic Hogan, a successful theatre actor who spent three years at the Stratford Festival. He has a few TV credits, including the Canadian sci-fi show The Starlost (1973-74) – another weird Canadian production that I remember seeing on TV when I was very young. Hogan apparently died one year after Sudden Fury was made, at age 40. According to a MacLean’s magazine profile of actress Julie Amato, Hogan had been living with Amato for six years when he suddenly died of a heart attack.

Strange Personal Connection: Julie Amato starred in Canadian TV series called House Of Pride (1974-1976), which was partially shot in Winnipeg (my home town). One of Amato’s co-stars was Doreen Brownstone, my friend and favourite (currently) 98 year old actress. I first learned about Amato from Doreen’s stories about working with her on that show. Amato would have been living with Dominic Hogan at the time that Doreen knew her.

Gay Rowan plays Dominic Hogan’s wife in Sudden Fury. She was a regular cast member of The Starlost TV show. I really need to buy the complete series and re-watch it one of these days…

Sudden Fury (1975) is an excellent, gritty, suspenseful 1970s crime thriller. It’s complete lack of commercial success is hard to believe, but it also makes it a #Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic. I will undoubtedly be watching it again (and again) in the future – perhaps on another #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

The Bloody Brood (1959)

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.