Carry On, Sergeant, 1928, 35mm, 98mins, 7pm, Bytowne Cinema, Nov 9th
Accompanied by LIVE MUSIC from Mike Dubue and Mike Essoudry!
Carry On, Sergeant! was shot at Trenton Studios in Ontario and in the surrounding countryside by British Director Bruce Bairnsfather, with legendary Canadian filmmaker Gordon Sparling working as his assistant director. With a budget of $500,000, it was the biggest-budget film produced in Canada up to that time. Much of that budget went to recreating WWI-era France, with sprawling sets and battlefield scenes featuring hundreds of extras.
The story follows a group of workers from Hamilton who join the army to fight in WWI, and the travails and temptations that befall them during the war. The film has excellent production values and presents a drama that may feel surprisingly modern to today’s audiences. Bairnsfather’s insistence on portraying the soldiers as flawed human beings resulted in some criticism from those who expected a straightforward glorification of Canada’s war effort.
Produced as a silent film just as theatres were transitioning to sound, it had only a brief run at the box office before it was removed from circulation in January 1929. It fell into obscurity for many years before Gordon Sparling donated a print to Library and Archives Canada, resulting in a complete restoration of the film. That restored print is the same one we will be showing with a brand-new live soundtrack composed by Ottawa’s own Mike Dubue (Hilotrons). Similar screenings of other silent films that have been held around town in the past couple of years have sold out quickly, so please make sure to show up early to ensure a seat.”
Rabid stands as one of David Cronenberg’s most political, and most explicitly Canadian, horror films. It’s a tale of medical experimentation gone wrong, resulting in a parasite-borne plague rapidly spreading from an isolated rural medical clinic to the big city of Montreal, along with concomitant anarchy. The film initially gained its notoriety for featuring Ivory Snow soap box model/porn star Marilyn Chambers in one of her short-lived attempts to ‘go legit’. She is actually one of the film’s strongest features, putting in an unsettling performance as the plague’s ‘Typhoid Mary’ who infects the male populace of the city with the insanity-inducing parasites.
Astute viewers will note that Rabid offers a jaundiced view of Canada’s society as one in which powerful institutions, both public, and private, cannot be trusted to fulfill their duties without some measure of negligence and/or incompetence. With the Quebec setting of the late 70s there are naturally echoes of the earlier October Crisis, an event that will always have some place in the psyche of Canadians when considering issues of social order and governmental authority.
Rabid is the only Cronenberg film that wears its Canuck identity proudly on its sleeve. French accents, wintry locales, and rural farmlands reaffirm the sheer Canadian-ness of it all. The Canadian location is paramount, since the threat posed in Rabid is most effective in a society with a concentrated governmental control of services. Rabid proposes a broad examination of the cautions of state control…It is an effective film, biting, clever, dark, timely and ultimately Canadian.