Today's skyline is a bit different from 1984.
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.
If you’re asking yourself how it’s possible that we’ve never profiled Police Academy before let us reassure you, it’s actually the first movie we ever profiled in this column. But if you read that column you’ll notice a few important things.
The first is that we regard Steve Guttenberg as the prime motivator in everything we do. His presence can be felt between the pixels of every Reel Toronto column you read. That’s the metaphysical dimension. The other thing you’ll notice is that the column was written in a more innocent time when screencaps were hard to come by and Google Streetview was still basically science fiction.
But re-watching Police Academy, as one does with a classic comedy of its era, we realized that a decade ago we failed to cover an awful lot of locations we can now recognize and/or track down; and also that the movie walks a fine line between “politically incorrect 1980s sex comedy” and “dated, offensive artifact.” We’ll opt for the former if only because it was a more innocent (or less aware) time and, hey, it’s an important piece of our cinematic history.
As we get it into this far-more-detailed-than-before column it behooves us to mention this blog we came across, in which a very big fan of the series goes into obsessive detail about the locations, should you want to know even more.
It’s worth noting the filmmakers never actually say what city we’re in, though the implication is certainly that it’s American. That said, we open with this shot of our 1980s skyline, complete with First Canadian Place’s original logo–back when KFC was Kentucky Fried Chicken and BMO was the Bank of Montreal. (We had a lot more time to say full names, back then.)
So, easy peasy is the eponymous Police Academy. It’s all shot on what is today the Humber College Lakeshore Campus. Back then it was merely the shuttered Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. The main building, seen above, is Building G, which is being turned into the Centre for Entrepreneurship. The ongoing renovation even has a webcam!
Here we’re walking past Building F…
…and the barracks are Building J.
You can even see Lake Ontario…
…a few times.
As the movie begins we meet all our would-be heroes; our cast of disparate misfits. King of them all is the lovable Cary Mahoney, played by Steve Guttenberg.
He works in this parking lot which is awesome because: a) he works for Canpark b) downtown parking is so hilariously cheap. It’s also worth noting is that his antagonist is Don Lake, a very funny veteran of Second City who’s been in a kajillion things, including several of Christopher Guest’s movies.
More germane for our purposes, the lot is obviously adjacent to Roy Thomson Hall. In our original column we made the mistake of saying this lot is now Metro Hall, but a closer look at the angle puts us south of Roy Thomson, where the RBC Centre now stands. (You can still see the Metro Hall lot in Short Circuit 2, however. Don Lake’s in that movie too!)
When Mahoney parks the car you can see the Royal York…
…and the Old Ed’s Warehouse, which is about to get Gehry-cized.
And, wow, look at the landscape to the west where you can see the John Street transformer station and the total lack of the CBC Building or anything else.
Another future cop is the nerdy, accident prone Fackler.
His house is out in Etobicoke, on Elsfield Road and it looks about exactly the same.
His wife also chases him as he drives away…
…on nearby Grenview Boulevard.
Every 80s comedy needs a hapless, fat guy and here it’s Leslie Barbara, who works in a Fotomat. (Google it, millennials!)
This plaza–which had a vintage Food City and a Towers–is still standing…
…between Carlaw and Pape, north of Gerrard.
He’s assaulted by a bunch of ruffians, who take his booth to the (unmanned!) Cherry Street bridge…
…and toss him into the turning channel.
It’s not your imagination: that is a young Kim Catrall. She’s driving on the QEW’s South Service Road, near Dixie Road.
Of course the most famous scene in the movie is when two of the bad guys are tricked into going to the Blue Oyster Bar, a gay leather bar.
The exterior and interior are both the Silver Dollar Room. As we all know, the Silver Dollar has been in a billion things and, in this same era, was also the Chicago blues bar in Adventures in Babysitting. #NeverForget
We get out and about around the town a bit when Mahoney gives his pal Hightower a driving lesson.
The stores have changed over the years…
…but we can still see they’re on…
…Lakeshore Boulevard, going past landmarks like TNT Surplus.
The real gold mine is the film’s finale, however, a riot that takes place all across the city.
It starts here…
… on Dundas Street West.
The dive bar into which this guy is thrown is a now a Domino’s.
Then this pinball machine rolls across the street–actually Dupont, a few blocks away–and crashes into these stores…
…triggering mass looting, at the corner of Edwin Avenue.
Then the not-so-competent Commandant Lessard deploys his recruits in the wrong part of town.
They’re nearby, in the Junction, at Hook and Watkinson Avenues.
The bulk of the action is in Kensington Market which, despite obvious superficial differences, hasn’t changed very much.
Global Cheese is still there.
Sadly, you can no longer grab vintage threads at Casa Model Clothing as it’s been replaced by Longboard Living.
Sadly, European Quality Meats pulled up stakes a few years ago but this view down Kensington Avenue looks much the same nonetheless.
This view is also Baldwin Street, but looking back towards Augusta.
Similarly, new stores haven’t changed the appearance…
…of this corner either.
The we have our final standoff in this industrial area.
It’s actually Liberty Village…
…and this places us rather obviously…
Here’s Kim Catrall crouched down, taking fire from the bad guy above.
He’s up on the roof of the Toy Factory Lofts.
Director Hugh Wilson was no doubt paying homage to the opening moments of Vertigo with these roof shots…
…but we just love to see how much of our current skyline just ain’t there.
Sure, Police Academy‘s gender and racial politics are, you know, a bit rough. But it’s still a great way to see what our city used to look like! And it was successful. Wildly successful! Indeed, they made seven Police Academy movies before the series finally sputtered out and, if the Internets are to be believed, a reboot is in the works. In addition to the first flick, the third and fourth were also shot here. Are we looking at those forthwith? You bet your Guttenberg we are.
We have updated the site of the plaza, which is between Pape and Carlaw and north of Gerrard.