Vintage Toronto Ads: Connecting Canadians and Cannibals
Source: Cinema Canada 13, April/May 1974.
How do you attract attention to a film-production facility deep in the heart of west Etobicoke in the mid-1970s? Follow the trend of many theatres trying to stay in business at the time—offer a hint of nudity. To ensure the right amount of Canadian content, ask the model to seductively grasp a maple leaf.
The “recent original productions” hit theatres between 1972 and 1975. Most of the titles listed are safely classified as B-movies, most with a sprinkling of international talents to bring in bookings—want to see an undersea disaster epic with Ernest Borgnine that isn’t The Poseidon Adventure or an early Tommy Lee Jones vehicle? The best known of the bunch might be Cannibal Girls, a 1973 horror-comedy that helped launch the careers of Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, and Ivan Reitman.
Filmed in ten days around Richmond Hill with a twelve-thousand-dollar budget (most of which appears to have gone towards grooming Levy’s hair and moustache), Cannibal Girls turned a tidy profit after it was picked up for distribution by American International Pictures. At a horror film festival in Spain, Levy and Martin earned best actor and actress awards for their work.
Local critics were unimpressed—the headline over Clyde Gilmour’s review in the Star stated “Cannibal Girls show movies at near worst.” The veteran reviewer felt that the movie could make Canadian filmmakers proud in one respect: “Despite the fact that the Americans outnumber us ten to one, Canadians needn’t take a back seat to our southern neighbours in the manufacturing of lousy movies.” Gilmour found that director Reitman and writer Robert Sandler produced a flick that was “bumbling, tasteless and relentlessly sophomoric. The acting is terrible; the editing, chaotic; the direction so lacklustre that it doesn’t even give us a close-up of the evil parson when he makes what is clearly meant to be an electrifying entry into the story.”
As for the film’s gimmick, a chime to warn delicate audience members of gore to come, Gilmour felt “a bell at the beginning of the whole movie and a chime at the finish would have been a more sensible procedure.”
Besides brief glimpses of the future SCTV stars, watch for an appearance in the trailer by Fishka Rais (Igor from The Hilarious House of Frightenstein) as a friendly neighbourhood butcher.
Additional material from the June 11, 1973 and November 8, 1973 editions of the Toronto Star.