In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Emmeritus Triple Bill Part Deux

With it being Canada Day weekend, it felt right to do another Emmeritus Triple Bill. 

For those who didn't see my first post, Emmeritus was an Ontario-based film company that made a slew of shot-on-video titles in the eighties that also played on local TV station CHCH. Thanks to a friend, I recently acquired a bunch of their titles and here is the trio I watched this week. Up first, was Peter McCubbin's Assignment KGB aka Ladybear

This was the third of three titles that McCubbin made for Emmeritus and featured a librarian named Anna (Carol Poirier) who begins having flashbacks about being in Russia as a child. Surprise! She'd just forgotten she was actually a trained KGB operative code named Ladybear, which I guess was catchier than just, sow.

Isn't it heartwarming to know that Ontario and Russian winters are indistinguishable on film? It was quite amusing to see how much - contrary to what the cover would have you believe - espionage and spy mongering was going on in Toronto in the eighties. I had no idea there were KGB agents working out of the Russian embassy, or that there was even a Russian embassy here. Perhaps most hilarious was the assertion that “most of the traffic from the CIA and British MI5 goes through Ottawa.” Does it though?

It's super coincidental that I picked this weekend – when another flick about a female secret KGB agent named Anna came out – to watch this movie. Sometimes things just line up like that. And just like any spy “thriller” there were many twists and turns. Ladybear however, has an unironic romantic boat ride.

Ladybear isn't good, but again much like Mark of the Beast, I enjoyed the kitsch of seeing worldly things happen in eighties Ontario.

Now, I bet you are thinking - Hey Jay, if Emmeritus made dozens of titles, there must be an anthology in there somewhere. Well, you would be correct! It's Steve DiMarco's Shock Chamber.

It was subtitled a Trilogy of Terror, but it's more aptly a trilogy of say, mild discomforts that consist of three stories and a wraparound about four ill-fated brothers. Naturally the brothers were quadruplets of course, so they only had to pay one actor (Doug Stone). The stories (namely the first and third) have a Tales From The Crypt quality to them, so apart from their cheapness they were half-palatable.

One-fourth of Doug Stone in Shock Chamber.

In Symbol of Victory, a man buys a love potion to get the woman of his dreams and, well you know things don't turn out the way he planned. Next, in Country Hospitality, a man runs afoul of some shady characters in a small Southern town. This was the first time I'd seen an Emmeritus movie that actively pretended to be in the US even though the cars still had Ontario plates – one truck had it inexplicably (and inadvisably) sticking off the side Horror Hospital style.

At the onset, it felt a little like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre without the Texas, or Chainsaw, or Massacre. I do have to wonder if the production went the route of Rock N' Roll Nightmare and cut a deal with Coca-Cola because it was everywhere in this segment.

The final segment called The Injection could be the most Crypt-y of the bunch and features the old pretend-your-dead-and-buried-and-I'll-dig-you-up-later insurance scam. Always one-hundred per cent fool proof right? 

This one had some choice random characters, like the two hookers in a scene that felt like it was thirty-two years early for Twin Peaks: The Return. Without question though, most bonkers was Sue Morrison's appearance as the landlady. I would really love to know whether that performance choice was that of the director or the actress.

Also, I'm pretty sure they used this apartment in the first segment, as well.

Lastly, Allan Levine's 1812: The King's Regiment was a title I'd heard brought up before when people talked of Emmeritus, as this was the company's ambitious stab at a period piece. 

At first I figured they just shot this at Black Creek Pioneer Village, but it turns out there were actually three other Pioneer Villages in Ontario at the time in Kitchener, Stoney Creek and Rockton. Who knew? With likely the biggest cast of any Emmeritus flick, you can imagine the accents ran the gamut from enthusiastic to laughable. I was legit impressed by this guy's smoke ring game though.

1812's story was surprisingly convoluted and I assume mostly fictional, as I had to wonder why the King of Spain was hanging out in Canada incognito while the Yanks & Brits fought it out. It was pretty dry for the most part, but not as painful as I was expecting. As you can imagine, a lot of it was men in decidedly authentic looking uniforms, running around in forests and fields. And at over ninety-minutes I did find my lids getting a little heavy by the end.

This movie often felt like a Canadian Heritage Minute. You know, now that I think of it, the whole Emmeritus catalogue could be considered Heritage Minutes, as everything from political intrigue to global conspiracies have gone down in our fair country.

So, on that note, have a great Canada Day weekend!

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