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 wÃ¼rst 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.