The TSL’s Grindhouse: Fast Company (dir by David Cronenberg)


Released in 1979, Fast Company is a Canadian film about fast cars and the fast-living people who drive them.  Lonnie Johnson (William Smith) is a veteran drag racer who is so good at his job that his nickname is “Lucky Man.”  He rarely loses a race.  He’s never without an adoring fan or two, though he always remains loyal to his girlfriend, Sammy (Claudia Jennings).  Lonnie is so lucky that, even when one of his cars explodes, he walks away without even a scratch.

Lonnie and his protégé, Billy (Nicholas Campbell), are being sponsored by Fast Company, an international oil consortium.  The money is okay but Lonnie is getting old and he would like to step back and spend some more quality time with Sammy.  Unfortunately, the team boss is Phil Adamson (John Saxon) and the viewers knows that Phil is a bad guy because he’s played by John Saxon and, instead of driving to the races, he pilots his own private plane.  When Lonnie starts to rebel against Phil’s management, Phil schemes to not only replace him and Billy with rival driver Gary Black (Cedric Smith) but he also plots to repossess Lonnie’s prized car!

Okay, so it’s kind of a silly and predictable film.  In fact, there’s really only two reasons why Fast Company is remembered today.  

One is because it was the last film to feature B-movie star Claudia Jennings before her death in a traffic accident. Jennings was nicknamed the “Queen of the B movies” and, over the course of her brief career, appeared in a lot of films about fast cars.  She gives a likable performance as Sammy, even if the film’s script doesn’t really give her much to do.

Secondly, this film was directed by David Cronenberg.  This was Cronenberg’s first time to direct a film that he hadn’t written.  This was his first job as a “director for hire” but, interestingly enough, it was while directing this film that Cronenberg first worked with some of his most important future collaborators, including cinematographer Mark Irwin and actor Nicholas Campbell.  Cronenberg directed Fast Company in between Rabid and The Brood and Fast Company might as well take place in a different universe from either of those films.  To be honest, there’s not much about this film that would lead anyone to suspect that it had been directed by Cronenberg if they hadn’t already seen his name in the credits.  Cronenberg’s signature style is really only evident when the camera lingers over the scenes of the mechanics working on the cars.  In those scenes, there’s a hint of the Cronenberg that everyone knows, the Cronenberg who is fascinated by both the relationship between man and machine and how things work inside the body of both the driver and the car.

For the most part, Fast Company is a typical 70s racing film, one that was made for drive-in audiences and which makes no apologies for that fact.  (Nor should it.)  There’s a lot of shots of denim-clad Canadians cheering as their favorite driver crosses the finish line.  William Smith brings a world-weary dignity to the role of Lonnie Johnson but, while John Saxon is always fun to watch, Phil Adamson is so evil that he threatens to throw the tone of the film out of whack.  The light-hearted scenes of Lonnie, Billy, and head mechanic Elder (Don Francks) don’t always seem to belong in the same movie with scenes of John Saxon scheming to cheat and risk the lives of his drivers.  

In the end, though, the important thing is that the cars are fast and so is this quickly paced movie.  I’m enough of a country girl that I have to admit that I have a weakness for fast cars that leave a cloud of dust behind them.  On that level, I enjoyed the film and really, that’s the only level that matters when it comes to a film like Fast Company.

Cronenberg returns to Cannes with the Crimes of the Future teaser!


David Cronenberg’s been keeping busy with his latest, Crimes of the Future. It looks like Existenz, but with major upgrades. The film stars Academy Award Nominee Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence), Léa Seydoux (No Time to Die), and Academy Award Nominee Kristen Stewart (Spencer). I can’t begin to understand what the plot’s about, but given it’s Cronenberg, we’re all in.

Crimes of the Future will compete in this years Cannes Film Festival for the coveted Palm d’Or.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Stardom Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

With the Oscars approaching, it seems appropriate to pay tribute to stardom with 4 shots from 4 films!

4 Shots From 4 Films About Being A Star

Mulholland Drive (2001, dir by David Lynch, DP: Peter Deming)

Chicago (2002, dir by Rob Marshall, DP: Dion Beebe)

Maps to the Stars (2014, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Peter Suschitzky)

The Neon Demon (2016, dir by Nicolas Winding Refn, DP: Natasha Braier)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special David Cronenberg Edition


4 Or More Shots From 4 Or More Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy birthday to one of our favorite directors, David Cronenberg!  Cronenberg has a new film coming out later this year, one that we’re all looking forward to.  Crimes of the Future (which shares its name with one of Cronenberg’s early, experimental films) will be Cronenberg’s first film since 2014’s Map of the Stars and it will also reunite him with Viggo Mortensen.

For now, here are….

4 Shots From 4 David Cronenberg Films

The Brood (1979, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

The Fly (1986, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

Dead Ringers (1988, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Peter Suschitzky)

A History of Violence (2005, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Peter Suschitzky)

 

International Horror Film Review: The Brood (dir by David Cronenberg)


O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Canada!  It always seems like such a nice country until you watch a David Cronenberg film.  Hailing from Toronto, Cronenberg started his film career with two satirical, black-and-white science fiction shorts and then went on to become one of Canada’s best-known filmmakers.  At a time when most people associated Canada with politeness and maple syrup, Cronenberg made visceral and often-disturbing films, ones that often mixed sexuality with graphic body horror.  At a time when the genre was being dominated by Italian filmmakers, Cronenberg brought a uniquely Canadian sensibility to horror.

Take 1979’s The Brood, for instance.

The Brood tells the story of one very doomed marriage.  Frank (Art Hindle) and Nola (Samantha Eggar) Carveth are fighting for custody of their five year-old daughter, Candice (Cindy Hinds).  (Not coincidentally, Cronenberg was going through his own custody battle when he first came up with the idea for The Brood.)  Nola, who has been emotionally scarred by both her alcoholic parents and her troubled marriage to Frank, is a patient at Somafree Institute.  Her psychotherapist, Dr. Hal Raglan (Oliver Reed), practices a technique called “psychoplasmics.”  Though it’s not easy to describe (and, wisely, Cronenberg doesn’t spend too much time trying to justify the science of it), it basically involves channeling anger and suppressed emotions into body modification.  What you or I might consider to be a hive or a welt is what Dr. Raglan would call a major breakthrough.

Frank is skeptical about Dr. Raglan’s theories but he still takes Candice to visit her mom.  However, when Candice returns from one visit bruised and scratched, Frank is convinced that Nola has been abusing her.  Hoping to both win custody of Candice and prove that Dr. Raglan’s methods are dangerous, Frank starts his own investigation into just what exactly has been happening at the Somafree Institute.

That’s when the children start to show up.  The children are small, with pale skin and light hair and oddly featureless faces.  They never smile.  They never speak.  They show up without any warning and violence always seems to follow them.  They attack both Nola’s mother and father.  When Nola suspects that Frank might be having an affair with Candice’s teacher, two of the children suddenly appear in her classroom.  Candice is scared of the children but still seems to have some sort of connection to them…

Even if you didn’t know this was a Cronenberg film, it would take just one look at the snow-covered landscape to identify The Brood as being a Canadian film.  As was often the case with Cronenberg’s early horror films, the imagery is frequently cold and chilly.  However, The Brood is not a cold film.  With its look at dysfunctional families and its emphasis on Frank’s attempts to protect his daughter, The Brood is actually one of Cronenberg’s most emotional films.  It’s a film about not only anger but also how people deal with that anger.  The killer kids are both literally and metaphorically children of rage.

Even by the standards of Cronenberg, things get grotesque.  Fortunately, the film’s talented cast keeps you interested, even when the bloody visuals might make you want to find a nice comedy to watch instead.  Art Hindle and Cindy Hinds are sympathetic as the father and daughter.  Oliver Reed keeps you guessing as to what exactly Dr. Raglan is actually trying to accomplish.  Nicholas Campbell and Robert A. Silverman, two members of the Cronenberg stock company, both make an impression in smallish roles.  And Samantha Eggar totally throws herself into her role, turning Nola into an absolutely terrifying monster.

Though it never quite reaches the flamboyant heights of either Scanners or ShiversThe Brood is still an effective horror film.  As opposed to some of his other films of the period, Cronenberg actually seems to not only care about the characters in the film but it also comfortable with encouraging us to care about them as well.  As a result, The Brood becomes about more than just trying to shock the audience.  The Brood is a film that sticks with you.

The Brood (1979, dir by David Cronenberg DP: Mark Irwin)

Horror Scenes That I Love: Michael Ironside vs Stephen Lack in Scanners


Scanners (1981, dir by David Cronenberg)

Be warned! Today’s scene that I love is a messy one!

Actually, I should call this a scene that we love because TSL founder Arleigh Sandoc is a fan of it too. He shared this scene a few years ago. Unfortunately, the YouTube video that he embedded in the post was later taken down. (Hate it when that happens!) So, I’m happy to share it a second time on behalf of both of us!

From David Cronenberg’s Scanners, here is the video of a scene that we love, the final battle between Stephen Lack an Michael Ironside….

Oh my God! It’s age restricted! Well, that’s probably for the best because these guy like set each other on fire and rip their skin off their flesh. I mean, it’s intense but it’s brilliant and it perfectly captures just how powerful the Scanners really are! It’s also a perfect visual representation of the extreme body horror that has always been a Cronenberg trademark. So, click on the video below and go watch it on YouTube if you’re old enough.

4 Shots From 4 David Cronenberg Films


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Since today is Canadian Thanksgiving, it seems like the perfect day to pay tribute to one of the great Canadian horror directors!  It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 David Cronenberg Films

Videodrome (1983, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

The Dead Zone (1983, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

The Fly (1986, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

Dead Ringers (1988, dir by David Cronenberg, DP: Peter Suschitzky)

Horror On TV: Friday the 13th: The Series 1.12 “Faith Healer” (dir by David Cronenberg)


Tonight’s episode of Friday the 13th is all about fake faith healers but, even more importantly, it was directd by none other than David Cronenberg!

Be sure to keep an eye out for Robert Silverman, a Cronenberg regular who had important roles in The Brood and Scanners and who has appeared in a host of other Cronenberg films over the years.  He also appeared in Prom Night, playing the creepy janitor who is briefly used as a red herring before the identity of the real murdere is revealed.

This episode originally aired on February 13th, 1988.  (Originally, I got excited when I saw that date but, checking with a calendar, I saw that this show aired on a Saturday the 13th and not an actual Friday the 13th.)  Unfortunately, due to budget cuts after the show’s first season, Cronenberg would be Friday the 13th‘s last celebrity director.

(Cronenberg would, however, go on to appear in Jason X.)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special David Cronenberg Edition


4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films is just what it says it is, 4 (or more) shots from 4 (or more) of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 (or more) Shots From 4 (or more) Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy birthday to one of the best and most influential directors of all time, Canada’s own David Cronenberg!  It’s time for….

4 Shots From 4 David Cronenberg Films

The Brood (1979, dir by David Cronenberg DP: Mark Irwin)

The Dead Zone (1983, dir. by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

The Fly (1986, dir. by David Cronenberg, DP: Mark Irwin)

Naked Lunch (1991, dir by David Cronenberg, DP:Peter Suschitzky)

4 Shots From 4 David Cronenberg Films: Scanners, The Dead Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’ve been using 4 Shots From 4 Films to pay tribute to some of our favorite horror directors!  Today, in honor of Canadian Thanksgiving, we recognize the talents of the one and only David Cronenberg!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Scanners (1981, dir by David Cronenberg)

The Dead Zone (1983, dir. by David Cronenberg)

The Fly (1986, dir. by David Cronenberg)

Naked Lunch (1991, dir by David Cronenberg)