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culture

Reel Toronto: Videodrome

David Cronenberg's early classic is set in Toronto, and it's not hard to tell.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

Like some of David Cronenberg’s other films—including The Fly, and Dead RingersVideodrome actually takes place in Toronto. The director is pretty subtle about it, but don’t worry: there are plenty of other elements of the movie that are a bit more, um, in your face.

So, you don’t have to be a Toronto media expert to get that Civic TV, the station James Woods works for, is based on CityTV. Back in the day, City was famous for airing Baby Blue movies, which were, semantics aside, soft porn. The blue-style movies in Videodrome were actually shot at Global’s Toronto office.

There are a couple of shots like this one, on the station’s roof…

…that place it in the Financial District.

There’s also this bit, where Woods goes out the station’s back door into an alley. Wherever it is, it doesn’t seem to be there anymore. The fine folks at IMDB say it was at 6 Wellington Street. That makes sense, since that whole block is now part of Brookfield Place, meaning the closest you could get to the location today would be to visit the atrium. And it’s pretty, so why wouldn’t you?

On the other hand, IMDB isn’t always correct. They say the Spectacular Optical location is at 801 Queen Street East, but it’s actually at number 728, which houses the Broadview Bakery today. (We’re not pretending we’re Sherlock Holmes over here. You can see the number, IMDB!)

Nice glasses, Jimmy!

You can see a TTC streetcar, with what would have been new livery in 1982. And that’s the Queen Street Bridge off in the distance a bit.

If you prefer the older Red Rockets, you can see them here.

A key location is the Cathode Ray Mission. If you’ve got a keen eye (or hours to spend on Google), you can tell this is actually the building at Bathurst and Adelaide that now houses the Factory Theatre.

In this interior shot you can actually see some of the proscenium in the back. Indeed, according to this fine article, the upstairs was the headquarters for the film’s effects department.

This video library is also in the building.

Woods lives at this apartment building, on St. Clair.

Here he is down by the Port Lands. This looks like it’s pretty close to where the Docks are now.

And we confess this handsome building from the finale is one we’re not sure of. The dashing brown-brick interior and its concrete pillars are reminiscent of the North York Civic Centre or the nearby federal government building

…but then the layout doesn’t seem quite right, even though it’s clearly of the same modernist vintage. Wherever it is, we hope they’ve replaced the carpeting over the years.

In any case, with CityTV now firmly in the hands of corporate Rogers, Videodrome might be your best bet for revisiting the old days. Oh, and also to see someone use their internal organs as a VCR.

CORRECTION: November 21, 2012, 1:30 PM A previous version of this post stated that CityTV is owned by CTV. It is owned by Rogers.

Comments

  • Antoine Rouge

    The banquet hall is the Westin Bristol Place by Dixon/427. According to Mark Irwin’s commentary it was “some hotel by the airport” and Westin is thanked in the credits.
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=D&oi=plus&q=https://maps.google.ca/maps?ie%3DUTF8%26cid%3D3530069147021146019%26q%3DThe%2BWestin%2BBristol%2BPlace%2BToronto%2BAirport%26iwloc%3DA%26gl%3DCA%26hl%3Den

    The “Samurai Dreams” video within the film was shot at CTV’s Scarborough studio.

  • David Fleischer

    Hi Antoine – The Criterion essay linked above says Samurai Dreams was shot at Global but I suppose it could be wrong. The credits do thank *A* Westin hotel, but it’s the Harbour Castle, which doesn’t seem right for that scene. The Bristol is still as good a guess as any!

    • KC

      It was shot at The Constellation Hotel which sadly exists no more. Go to BlogTO and search Toronto’s Forgotten Landmarks: Regal Constellation Hotel

  • musicbear613

    The trade show sequence was shot at the Regal Constellation Hotel at Dixon and Carlingview, which, sadly, was closed and later demolished. One of the most famous (to genre fans) conventions to be held here was Toronto Trek, which later became Polaris. In the second-last photo posted here, the camera is facing north, and the doorway that James Woods uses to come into the corridor and later exit led to an outdoor parking lot that faced Carlingview. The “main show” scene was filmed in the hotel’s ballroom, which actually is across the corridor from that entrance.

    Some of the background buildings have changed their appearance somewhat over the years. For example, there’s a shot in which the car that Max is in pulls over in front of Spectacular Optical. In the background of this shot we see a business called “China Cinema”. This is currently the location of the Opera House at 735 Queen Street East. For the most part the facade has changed over the years, but the window frame on the second storey still looks the way it did in the film.