LEWIS FUREY

It occurred to me earlier today that I’ve been a dick. A big, viagra gnarly dick. It’s been two and a half weeks since I’ve posted anything — what in the world’s up with that?!?! I’ve been slacking harder on this than I have since I started this blog. I shake my head in shame at my own actions. Hopefully this post will start to make up for it.

LEWIS FUREY – s/t (1975)

I figured that if I was to break my almost-three-week silence here on ECR, I’d better come out of the gate with a record that meant something to me, rather than a title that is just rare and cool.

Enter Lewis Furey. But let me back up a bit –

I’ve recently been very, very obsessed with Canadian cinema of the ’70s. The sound of the previous statement could be misconstrued as being willfully obtuse, or trying too hard to find something that not many others are into just for the sake of doing it, but I’m telling you the truth, and you must believe me when I say that I’m having the time of my life diving into the weird, woolly world of what’s called “tax shelter cinema.”

In the early ’70s, Canada’s film industry blossomed from only making a handful of feature films a year to a much greater number, thanks to the help of the Canadian Film Development Corporation, a governmental office that greatly aided in the state funding of film production, in the interest of creating a new industry for its nation.

Somewhere in the mid ’70s, Canada changed its tax credit law, so that any feature film produced in Canada, with a majority of Canadian talent in front of and behind the camera, went from receiving around a 30% tax credit, TO A 100% TAX CREDIT. Anyone who’s familiar with the plot of the Mel Brooks film “The Producers” will understand, as this new Canadian law enabled anyone who funded a Canadian film to write off THE ENTIRETY of the production funding on their taxes. Therefore — it didn’t matter if the film was profitable — hell, it didn’t matter if the film ever got released — so long as it HAPPENED in some form, in order for the funder to get millions in $$ back from the Canadian government.

What this did for the Canadian film industry was both create a massive “gold rush” type boom in activity, and create a bizarre plethora of films where the content was mostly completely divorced from the commercial reality of the film business. This doesn’t mean that the films are bad on the whole, but it does mean that filmmakers were left to indulge their inner weirdness at the expense of the taxpayer, and this boom produced some amazing singular gems of filmic strangeness.

Canadian cinema of that period lies at the crossroad of the terrifying and the banal — lots of creativity, lots of charm, lots of talent — and often, lots of eyebrow-raising and altogether uniquely Northern takes on what would ordinarily be run-of-the-mill video store cannon fodder if produced in the States.

The easy way to explain all this better is to give you the examples of the early works of David Cronenberg: “Shivers”, “Rabid”, “Scanners”, “Videodrome” and the like are all very Canadian (when you examine them closer), and are the most well-known out of all. To give you a long list of examples of the other stuff here in this post would mean that I’d be sitting here for hours and hours; a way better thing for you to do is to check out the excellent site Canuxsploitation, run by a cadre of like-minded hosers whose job it is is to uncover the very best of the very würst in their homeland’s homegrown moviemaking.

Where is this all leading us here? One of my favorites that I’ve uncovered in my “tax shelter” travels is “The Rubber Gun”, a late ’70s film made in Montreal, directed by Allan Moyle (who would later go on to “Times Square”, “Pump Up The Volume” and “Empire Records”), and starring Stephen Lack, one of the most charismatic and off-kilter film leads that I’ve discovered in recent memory.

This Cassavetes-meets-Warhol-meets-maple-syrup funfest has Lack, who’s essentially playing himself, as the leader of a commune of junkies, reprobates and other colorful characters. Moyle plays a sociology Ph.D candidate who infiltrates the group in order to study them for his graduate thesis. This loosey-goosy tale is energetic, devilish, unpredictable, refreshing, hilarious, stark and very, very Canadian.

In film nerd circles, Lack is way better known for stiffly and unconvincingly portraying the good-guy lead in Cronenberg’s “Scanners”, a film in which he’s very out-of-sorts. That’s because he’s best left unconstrained by genre conventions, or morbid things like “written dialogue.” In “The Rubber Gun”, he effortlessly tosses off the performance of a lifetime, if only because his own life must’ve been quite a performance. Lack is “on” at all times, and I’m pretty sure it’s not because the camera was present. He naturally exudes the candlepower of a thousand suns, and Moyle wisely lets him yammer at length, knowing that what’s leaving Lack’s mouth is way better than anything he or a team of screenwriters could dream up.

An element of “The Rubber Gun” that makes it so wild and fun is its soundtrack by Lewis Furey, himself a Montreal-ite like the rest of the film’s cast and crew. The six Furey songs that appear in the film all appear on Furey’s first self-titled album, and I’m not sure if the songs were written for the film, or if Moyle chose them because they perfectly fit the mood of the film. Either way, their appearances in the film make you laugh, give you the chills, and give you the impression that any other music, like any other great film casting decision, would’ve been simply the wrong choice.

“The Rubber Gun” is extremely hard to come by: it’s never had a home video release of any kind, and only played Canadian TV a handful of times over the past thirty-odd years. If you’re a torrenting sort, and also a film dork, then you might know about Cinemaggedon, the invite-only online movie sharing service on which an active seeding of an AVI of “The Rubber Gun” lies. That’d be your best bet, as there’s not even a DVD-R bootleg of it to be found on iOffer (at the time of this writing.)

But, for your ears, with cover art by one Stephen Lack, here’s the Furey album. A cross between Waits, Billy Joel, Lou Reed, Dr. John and Paul Lynde. For real, a true original. I think it’s beautiful. Then again — I might just be turning Canadian.

Lewis Furey – s/t LP (ZIP file)

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663 Responses to LEWIS FUREY

  1. Pol Dodu says:

    Hello,

    I am a big fan of Lewis Furey (I have written extensively about his, notably here : http://vivonzeureux.fr/lewisfurey/pidglewisindex.html).
    I am desespairing not so much to watch “The rubber gun” as to listen to its soundtrack !
    Any chance that you might post it ? (I don’t have access to these DVD sites)
    What surprises me extremely in your post is that you mention that all 6 songs from the filmù are on his self-titled 1975 first lp.
    I had always assumed that these songs had been re-recorded in 1976 in London with Roy Thomas-Baker, of Queen fame, for the second album “The humours of” (also with Stephen Lack cover art, like the third), which opens with a song called “The rubber gun show”.
    Lewis Furey has a very good site of projects and archives (www.lewisfyurey.com).
    He has gone back to singing live in recent years, with an impressive recital culled from 30 years of his songs that has already been aired in Montreal, Japan and Paris…

  2. John Storm says:

    Damn this is a good find! If liking it makes you Canadian, I better pack up for Vancouver now…

  3. Eric says:

    Enjoying this offbeat album – and happy to have you posting again.

    Does this mean we can look forward to a Tax Shelter series at Cinefamily?

    Best,
    Eric

  4. bret says:

    Eric, you can bet your ass that I’m trying to put together that Tax Shelter series for Cinefamily. I’ve already been in contact with Frank Vitale, the director of “Montreal Main”, the quasi-companion film to “The Rubber Gun”, made with some of the same folks around the same time period —

    bret

  5. Jim says:

    I bought this album back when it came out and loved it. Haven’t heard it in decades. Thanks!

  6. pnico says:

    You are not a dick. And, please, stop apologizing for allegedly seeming like you’re “trying too hard to find something that not many others are into”. You had me at “obsessive”. Someday, this site will be offline, and probably not archived anywhere, and you’re doing something great here. OK

  7. Yuri says:

    http://www.canuxploitation.com/

    without the “s” . . .and if you’re a dick you’re the best kind of dick.

    thank you.

  8. pinkpressthreat says:

    So you’re back? EGG-Cellent.
    Sorry..that was super-f***ing lame.What an engrossing posting! (sorry again). I only discovered your blog a week or two ago so I didn’t know if the absence was a common occurrence; can I just say what a great blog this is..I’ve been all the way back through your archives and found some total gems so thanks, you;ve made this Englishman very happy.
    One thing I loved was the “Wicked Witch” album, amongst other highlights.
    Don’t go away again for too long.willya?

  9. Ted says:

    Lewis Furey is totally new to me and this album is fantastic. Thank you very very much for turning me on to so many incredible artists.

  10. WelcomeBack says:

    Stephen Lack is a genuinely fascinating person, and I’ve always felt he’s suffered for giving an intentionally detached performance in SCANNERS. In many ways, Lack portrays his character exactly as someone like that would mature in real life.

  11. WelcomeBack says:

    Wait a minute…rar files? I won’t go so far as to say that makes you a gnarly dick, but it’s certainly not the convenience I’ve grown to love from this site. Oh, well…

  12. libertine says:

    Thanks for this incredibly great album. I’ve so far only known Lewis Furey from Tom Robinson’s album “Cabaret 79″, where he plays “Closing a Door” (which has always been my favourite) an introduces it by quoting some lines from the opener to prove Furey is “a strange Canadian”. I’d love to hear more of his music.

  13. dan says:

    I’m going to go ahead and ape pnico’s post. You’ve made some really amazing stuff available and turned me on to a number of things I had no idea about; and while I hope that doesn’t end any time soon, it certainly doesn’t make you a dick to be getting to a point where providing content on a weekly (or better) rate is difficult or unrewarding. Please, by all means, keep posting, man — but don’t guilt yourself into running away from the site outright. The new music is always welcome, but your insight is, too.

  14. foster says:

    If you’re looking for a lost classic of 70′s Canadian exploitation, check out Skip Tracer (1977)… A sort of sleazy, punkish pre-Repo Man type deal. Not sure how easily accessible it is on tape, but I know some of the universities have the 35mm for rentals. [ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075228/ ]

    The director that film went onto make Terminal City Ricochet, a movie that no one outside of Canada ever saw but most know due to the Alternative Tentacles soundtrack…

    I’ve worked for a couple of those notorious tax shelter-era producers/directors over the years… a cracked out bunch for sure… most of them are convinced they made art, and would balk at the exploitation tag… One especially would frequently refer to his dirty little slasher film as “the first North American film to deal with the AIDS crisis” (by having a knife-wielding psychopath brutally murder homosexuals in the city’s bathhouse, glory hole filled underbelly). I was never sure how that “dealt with” the AIDS crisis (at least in a way you could be proud of).

  15. Doug Harvey says:

    Hey – thanks for the post and tip on Rubber Gun — I saw it in the theater back in the day, and have wanted to see it again ever since. I met Stephen Lack once in the mid 90s and told him how much his performance impressed me and he said he didn’t want it (or Monteal Main) re-released until his kids were grown up!

    And if you’re looking for crazy Canadian films, check out Eliza’s Horoscope by Gordon Sheppard; 1975 with Tommy Lee Jones as a radical native activist and The Band’s Richard Manuel as a mysterious rich dude AKA “Bearded Composer” — I found it on one of those 50 movie DVD packs and got a little obsessed. There’s some wild glitchy editing that was apparently a mechanical failure during the pirating of the original, but which I think make it even more artistically remarkable. He also made a documentary short about Hugh Hefner that’s on one of the Playboy After Dark box sets. Find out more here http://www.gordonsheppard.com/ and here http://sites.google.com/site/bisson/themakingofeliza%27shoroscope

  16. Doug Harvey says:

    Weird – I just noticed a link to a forgotten blogpost of my own on that second site I linked to! My initial impressions. http://dougharvey.blogspot.com/2009/12/fearful-symmetry-of-mind.html
    One thing that occurred to me and a couple of other viewers that might be worth mentioning is the similarity of Richard Manuel’s fraternity hijinx to those in Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. Having been such a fan of Sheppard’s associate Arthur Lipsett, it’s not unlikely that Kubrick saw Eliza’s Horoscope.