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culture

Reel Toronto: Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

It's a movie so bad that it became an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and it was set almost entirely in one Toronto building.

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.

We’re not going to pretend this one required a lot of detective work (aside from acquiring it), but it was you, faithful readers, who pointed us to this, um, classic, and it’s not our fault it’s basically set all in one building.

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank is firmly in the so-bad-it’s-good category. This status is official and indisputable once a film has been the basis of an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. If you have 90 minutes to spare, that’s definitely how you want to watch this thing.

Of course, it’s hard to know what they thought they were making when they actually shot this back in the early 1980s. Much as, say, Terminator 2 or The Lord of the Rings showed off the state-of-the-art of computer-generated imagery for their times, Overdrawn seems to have been developed to showcase the wonders of chroma key. If you don’t know what that is, you should really watch a lot more SCTV. Gerry Todd is basically the chroma key guru.

Suffice it to say, if you have Instagram on your iPhone, you probably have your hands on more special-effects technologies than these guys ever did.

The movie itself is sort of somewhere between 1984 and Brazil, thematically, and somewhere around your home movies, production-wise. The notable exception is that they somehow got Raul Julia to be in it. Admittedly, it was before he was famous, but (all due respect, folks) the rest of the cast isn’t quite up to his level.

It takes place in a dystopian future and almost entirely in this building…

….wow, that sure is a nice atrium…

…hmmm, what prominent local building has an atrium? Could it be the ATRIUM on Bay? Well, that’s what the always reliable Wikipedia says but it’s actually another early-80s building. Someone who really loves this movie tracked it down and it seems to be this one, at 33 Yonge Street (right across from the Sony Centre and Berczy Park).

And, um, that’s about it for our location detective work, folks!

Actually, this is kind of wonderful too. It’s a TTC subway! At Yorkdale Station! And if you watch the video (as opposed to this still) you get to see the old light sculpture working. That’s kinda worth the price of admission, eh?

Random trivia? It was a co-production by Buffalo’s PBS station (WNED) and Toronto’s RSL productions. RSL was basically around to produce those horrible, late-1970s tax-shelter movies, but wanna guess who the “L” in RSL was? Robert Lantos. No shit!

How early-’80s was this movie? So early-’80s that parachute pants get a shout out in the credits.

Have a good doppel!

CORRECTION: January 28, 2013, 10:15 AM This post originally said that Overdrawn at the Memory Bank was shot almost entirely at the Atrium on Bay. In fact, as first discovered by a reader, the movie was shot at another building, located at 33 Yonge Street.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/the.real.audra.williams Audra Williams

    I am in this movie! I almost get mustard on Raul Julia’s brain! Amazing!

    • David Fleischer

      That is so supremely cool, Audra totally deserves her own screenshot. Everyone agree? Good.

      • http://www.facebook.com/the.real.audra.williams Audra Williams

        Haha fantastic. For the record, the “OWWW” was 100% real when the teacher (the amazingly named Bunty Webb) grabbed my arm to wipe my hands off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.mathien James S. Mathien

    Random cheap shot toward anteaters.

  • Raoul

    Mom. My nuts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pietervanhiel Pieter Van Hiel

    I was fairly certain this was actually filmed in the Esselte Building at Front and Yonge. I actually went to scout it out once, and took some photos comparing the architectural details (see link below). I am willing to accept correction, though my dad worked at the building at the time, and said he remembers it being filmed there. He may remember a different movie filming, of course.
    http://pyat.livejournal.com/781601.html

    • SteveKupferman

      We’ve looked into this, and we’ve decided that you’re right. The post has been corrected.