Deadly Companion starts with John Candy sitting in a mental institution and snorting cocaine while happily talking to his roommate, Michael Taylor (Michael Sarrazin). Michael has been in the institution ever since the night that he walked in on his estranged wife being murdered. Because of the shock, he can’t remember anything that he saw that night. When his girlfriend Paula (Susan Clark) comes to pick Michael up, Michael leaves the institution determined to get to the truth about his wife’s murder. Once Michael leaves, John Candy disappears from the movie.
Michael suspects that his wife was killed by her lover, Lawrence Miles (Anthony Perkins) but there is more to that night than Michael is remembering. Deadly Companion is a typical low-budget shot-in-Toronto thriller from the early 80s, with familiar Canadian character actors like Michael Ironside, Al Waxman, Kenneth Welsh, and Maury Chaykin all playing small roles. Michael Sarrazin is a dull lead but Anthony Perkins gets to do what he did best at the end of his career and plays a thoroughly sarcastic bastard who gets the only good lines in the film.
What’s interesting about Deadly Companion isn’t the predictable plot and it’s certainly not Michael Sarrazin. Instead, what’s strange is that several cast members of SCTV show up in tiny supporting roles, though none of them get as much of a chance to make as big an impression as John Candy. Deadly Companion is a serious thriller that just happens to feature Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and Dave Thomas. It’s strange to see Michael Sarrazin trying to figure out who killed his wife while Eugene Levy loiters in the background. It leaves you waiting for a punchline that never comes.
The SCTV people are in the film because it was directed by George Bloomfield, who also directed several episodes of SCTV. Since this film was made before SCTV really broke into the American marketplace, it was probably assumed that no one outside of Canada would ever find the presence of John Candy in a dramatic murder mystery distracting. Of course, when Deadly Companion was later released on VHS in the late 80s, Candy and the SCTV crew were all given top billing.