CanCon101: Cathy’s Curse (1977)

April 28, 2017 | By

Sadly, the car on fire is not identical to the vehicle in which Cathy’s aunt and uncle were roasted in 1947.

Severin’s separate Blu-ray and DVD release of Eddy Matalon’s cult classic Cathy’s Curse (1977) allows CanCon and canuxploitation fans to strike another rare title off their Most Wanted list, with this odd, clunky riff on The Exorcist (1973) getting the deluxe treatment with Matalon’s original Director’s Cut, and the shorter U.S. edit which kind of improved the film’s structural and pacing issues.

Oh, Cathy. Why can’t you behave?

Whether Cathy’s Curse is a good film, let alone a guilty pleasure is purely in the eyes of the beholder, but Severin’s release is cause for celebration because it demonstrates what can be achieved when a label cares about Canadian movies which are completely ignored by our own and native brands.

This degree of domestic neglect isn’t exclusive to tax shelter quickies, but character pieces that reside in archives or were in fact restored and are trotted out for an ersatz anniversary or ‘open vault’ screening, after which they return to their respective caskets and are forgotten for another chunk of years, never to migrate to home video.

We made a lot of genre movies during the prime tax shelter years that ran from the seventies to the early eighties (something I’ve been periodically profiling in my CanCon 101 series), and their unavailability on disc – proper widescreen transfers at least – makes them ideal candidates for bootlegs, some of which have appeared via major online merchants, or on a more local level in key markets, often as DVD-Rs ripped from TV airings or prior tape releases (legit and bootleg).

The positive aspect of bootlegs can be seen in a weird case like that of Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) which never received a formal release, but a lone copy became the source of many tapes which transformed an unheard of, unsold, forgotten experiment in genre filmmaking by a one-time director into a cult movie, after which it finally emerged on DVD and later Blu via the legit Cult Films label.

George Barry’s film may well have been forgotten had it not been for enterprising fans / self-made distributors, but whether that exception can be applied today is something else, especially with canuxploitation films often available nowhere. Do those DVD-Rs made by Ted & Co. bring attention to forgotten or soon-to-be cult classics, or perform a disservice to legit labels going through the legal steps to gain access to the best elements, perform 2K scans, and assemble extras treasured by fans and wholly out of the reach of bootleggers?

Does the sale of bootlegs perform a legit service in keeping a neglected work of sublime fromage alive, or just line the pockets of backroom manufacturers?

It’s an arguably trickier situation for us, because Canadians are often forced to hope, wait, and see if and when an American label will discover a work and give it the Criterion treatment; this shouldn’t be the case whatsoever, but it’s the norm. Sometimes the only way actors can get copies of movies in which they appeared is to import from the States, because no one holds the rights up here, no one cares, or the cost to release even a digital version is too high (which I can’t help think is an easy cop-out.).

Do you, the fan, wait for Hell to freeze over, or buy a DVD-R ‘mastered’ from a long-dead home video format? As I stated in a recent blog on The Grey Fox (1983), there’s no way that movie’s coming out on Blu from a Canadian company. The apathy isn’t just revolting; it’s the norm that no doubt affects numerous films which even its co-owners want for their own archives.

A producer I encountered was on such a quest several years ago, and amazingly, at the time a good chunk of his movies were on DVD, but they were all imports. Playing Devil’s Advocate, the market here is simply too small for labels to gamble on what may not have as big a fan base as believed, but if no one takes a risk, we’ll surely be waiting for Hell to freeze over to see the classics referenced in books and film classes, but wholly unavailable even within an educational environment.

It’s as though a mordant film deity is telling us ‘Well, you lacked the spine to fend off American distributors in the 1920s and never regained the dominance of theatrical exhibition, settled for the NFB as the only viable film producer in the 1940s, and made more crap than quality to keep realtors, dentists, and other investors content to invest in movies without a care for quality to get a 100% tax writer-off in the 1970s. You wrought this sad state of affairs, so you deserve to scrounge around on Ebay and Amazon for old fullscreen videotape releases, or settle for DVD-Rs of your cinema history. Nice going.’

Canada will mark its 150th year on July 1st. We’re a nation of co-producers and cooperative ventures who find ways to work the system legally and make wonders, and those who manage to do so on their own in their respective provinces are just as innovative. At some point a less cynical generation of filmmakers will want to track back and discover their celluloid roots, and while some of what they may uncover might not be pretty – Circle of Two (1981) is not a sensitive character piece about an aging rebellious painter and his smitten young lover, and the Toronto-shot / Toronto set (!) The Kidnapping of the President (1980) isn’t a high-octane rollercoaster ride – but maybe through that discovery process they’ll find a way to preserve the country’s film history in a manner that also makes it legally, commercially accessible for all.

I’m sure Ted’s DVD-R of a canuxploitation classic ain’t all bad, especially with the scanned poster, fancy branding, and laserprinted art, but the money’s just for Ted and his new tool shed.

Coming shortly: Twilight Time’s luscious Blu-ray special edition of Peyton Place (1957).

 

 

Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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