Reel Toronto: Strange Brew
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.
The two great Canadian heroes prep for an adventure, Shakespeare-style.
Strange Brew is not a great film, but it sure is a fun film. If you first saw it as a kid, you probably didn’t realize that it’s really “Bob and Doug do Hamlet.” Reel Toronto loves it because it gives us a chance to relive the era of stubbies and yellow cop cars.
The recent announcement that the Mackenzie brothers are staging yet another comeback made this a perfect time to check out this Cancon classic.
Bob & Doug were meta before anyone even knew what meta was.
It’s in the opening sequence, even before the credits, during which you really get to see a nice slice of downtown Toronto. We open to see a horrible low-budget sci-fi film produced by the brothers, which an audience turns out to be watching inside the University Theatre.
Art deco, shmart deco. We want our gourmet kitchenware!
When the audience realizes the movie sucks, our heroes are forced to avoid a riot, dashing outside onto Bloor Street, which allows us to see the theatre exterior.
Once a landmark movie house, in 1986 the University preceded the Eglinton and Uptown into oblivion. Its façade was left to stand on Bloor Street for years and years before being integrated into the Pottery Barn store. You can still see it, even on Google Maps’ satellite photo.
From Danish jewellers to faux-hipster cafés, this locale has seen it all.
The boys dash across to their van, which is parked outside of Georg Jensen, at 95A Bloor Street West. The 1956 building is notable for being the only known Toronto building by the Montreal architectural firm of Rother, Bland, Trudeau, and it was added to the city’s heritage inventory in 2003. The silversmith closed up shop years ago and, more recently, the building served as the home for Coke’s failed Far Coast café.
With this much Toronto-love before the credits, how can you go wrong?
Finally, it’s time for the credits and some downtown cruising, starting with the Bay-Bloor area.
Before Broadway North, there was Ed’s Warehouse.
Before you know it, they’re cruising down King Street and passing the now-gone-but-fondly-remembered old Ed’s Warehouse. The Mackenzie-mobile even cruises through Chinatown.
Eventually, they make it home, where their dad is voiced by Mel Blanc and their dog drinks beer from its bowl. The suburban street scenes were shot in Etobicoke and Ajax.
It’s two, two, two architectural triumphs in one!
Most of the movie takes place inside the Elsinore Brewery. The exterior is a really great bit of design, combining two Toronto landmarks: Casa Loma (on the left) and the RC Harris filtration plant (on the right).
As in Undercover Brother, the poor building gets blowed-up. Blowed-up real good.
After that, there is an Oktoberfest finale which, as far as we can tell, was filmed at the big do in Kitchener, but it’s hard to tell for sure. Either way, there’s no major Toronto scenery after that. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy remembering what Brewer’s Retail stores used to look like, but if you wanna see the flick, come for the Toronto shots but stay for the beer and hockey jokes.