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culture

Reel Toronto: Starship Invasions

Aliens invade Toronto in a '70s sci-fi flick that's not quite good enough to rank as a B movie.

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.

2014 09 03 starshipinvasions<br />
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Folks, no one has done more for bad movies than the City of Toronto. When we hear someone tried to make a good movie here, our heart bleeds for them, but at the end of the day it’s their own fault. Like, look at this crazy Starship Invasions (aka Project Genocide—really). We don’t understand—is it a bad movie trying to be a good movie or a bad movie that’s so bad it’s really good? No, folks, the shot-on-video Overdrawn at the Memory Bank was just bad enough to warrant a revisionist treatment from Mystery Science Theatre 3000, but Starship Invasions never did. It’s still the same horrific embarrassment it must have been when it was shot in 1977. Folks, it’s awful, and as you can see from these screencaps, it obviously and mercifully has not yet been given the remastered high-def treatment it so richly does not deserve.

2014 09 03 farmer

Anyway, describing the plot beyond that it involves a really lame alien invasion that actually takes place in Toronto is probably pointless. But you can see it starts when we meet this farmer. We’d like to tell you we know where this farm is but we don’t (although we guess it’s probably a subdivision now).

2014 09 03 UFOenters

This bucolic scene is interrupted by a UFO—a bona fide, old school flying saucer, no less. You can’t see the strings but it doesn’t take much imagination.

2014 09 03 models

The model work here—well, it looks like someone filmed a bunch of models.

2014 09 03 farmerprobe

Naturally the farmer gets probed by the aliens.

2014 09 03 moreprobing

And so does this nice young lady.

2014 09 03 weirdnude

Yeah, sometimes the story is interrupted by really weird…

2014 09 03 happyfarmer

…and incongruous nudity. But the farmer doesn’t much mind.

2014 09 03 alien

Perhaps you noticed the aliens aren’t given to particularly radical attire? You tell us: is this an alien or just a guy with poor fashion sense and a fondness for the prog-rock stylings of Yes?

2014 09 03 chickcorea fingergun

This is just sad: the head alien is actually Christopher Lee. That’s right. He’s been Dracula and Count Dooku and Saruman and he almost killed James Bond (despite a superfluous third nipple!) and also Ramses. That’s right, Ramses. And sometimes, while Chick Corea–style music plays in the background, he shoots this weird finger-mounted gun that, based on appearances, is probably not an accurate shot beyond three inches. (Did we mention the aliens communicate telepathically, so they never actually move their mouths? Yeah, that’s the deal.)

2014 09 03 TOskyline

Anyway, locations, right! Hey, here are UFOs blazing past our skyline! At this resolution it’s hard to be sure but that looks like the CN Tower going up on the left there. You can definitely make out the Toronto Star building, First Canadian Place, and the TD Centre.

2014 09 03 downtown onwaytodatacontrol

So, we fly to the data control centre, via the Financial District…

2014 09 03 robarts

…and then land outside it, though you can see…

2014 09 03 robartswider

…it’s actually the exterior of Robarts Library.

2014 09 03 alien robartsstarbox

Hey, look, they’ve even got a vintage Toronto Star box outside!

2014 09 03 starfront2

But we can do better: it’s a fake front page!

2014 09 03 starfront

Here you can see ’70s leading man Robert Vaughn

2014 09 03 shaver

…who is joined in the cast by local gal Helen Shaver.

2014 09 03 sciencecentre

But if you’re making a crappy sci-fi movie, you need more brutalist architecture than Robarts can provide on its own. Here…

2014 09 03 android osc

…we have a pathetic excuse for a pretend-robot navigating the staircases at the Ontario Science Centre.

2014 09 03 UFOdogfight

The unequivocal highlight of the movie (Toronto-wise, anyway) is this UFO dogfight…

2014 09 03 byebmo

…which culminates in the destruction…

2014 09 03 byebyebmo2

…of First Canadian Place (which was pretty new at the time).

2014 09 03 goodysint

A few ancient places we wish we could ID but that maybe you’ll recognize are this grocery store…

2014 09 03 goodysext

…called Goody’s. They’re even open on Sunday! The place next door has smoked fish—yummy!

2014 09 03 popo

And this arrest scene…

2014 09 03 popowider

…involving a friendly, neighbourhood Metropolitan Police officer. (It’s not quite the same but it does remind us of this Green P lot by Broadview Station.)

2014 09 03 school

Finally, there’s this school and, darn it, you can almost read its name, can’t you?

2014 09 03 schoolhood2 (640x449)

The screen resolution isn’t even good enough to make out the word “STOP” on the street sign…

2014 09 03 schoolhood (640x453)

…but these are a couple of shots in the same neighbourhood.

According to Wikipedia, the Globe and Mail panned the film saying it was no better than “those dubbed Japanese movies usually seen on Saturday afternoon television,” but that could just be their anti-Star bias coming through. The good news is that the aliens don’t destroy the city and the bad news is that no one destroyed this movie. It’s still out there, in all its beautiful awfulness.

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