CanCon 101: The Disappearance of The Disappearance (1977) + Robert Altman’s Quintet (1979)

September 10, 2014 | By

“A passion for violence” did NOT rip them apart. Try unexplained absences, poor communication, distrust, too many secrets, and an overwhelming state of ennui. THAT is what ‘ripped’ them apart.

Twilight Time’s release of Stuart Cooper’s The Disappearance (1977) marks another rare appearance of a CanCon film – a film short in Canada with a largely Canadian cast & crew to exploit the native talent pool and enjoy tax breaks – on Blu-ray.

Cooper delivered his cut to U.S. distributor World Northal, and was later shown a version hacked down from 101 mins. to 81 mins., with Robert Farnon’s score junked in favour of a banal synth score.

Justifiably appalled, the film nevertheless premiered, then reportedly disappeared a day after negative reviews were published, and if the following release chronology is accurate, the movie went into general release in North American in 1981; only Spain and Britain saw the film 4 years earlier.

Then a 101 minute Director’s Cut was found, albeit on an aging full-frame video transfer, and then came a pristine 91 minute edit (the main showcase of this Blu-ray), which is a kind of compromised version.

That’s quite a crazy chronology, but Cooper’s lucky his film still exists in some form that can enable a gorgeous HD transfer for a home video release; that’s not often the case for CanCon films.

Certainly in the case of Curtains (1983) and Prom Night (1980), these two iconic Canadian slashers (of which reviews will appear soon) benefitted from Synapse Films’ determination to see through their own 2K rstorations, and I hope – really hope – these releases will demonstrate the viability of a back catalogue contining CanCon films.

Efforts to lunch Starlight – an  all-Canadian specialty film channel – are pretty much dead, so a plausible alternative is for labels like EOne is to follow studios Fox, Paramount, and Sony and licence their transfers, or allow indie labels to negotiate access to the best surviving elements and create a HD master for Blu-ray release and future HD broadcast (cable, streaming, whatever).

That seems to have worked for Scorpion Releasing’s definitive transfer of Death Ship (1980) and Impulse Pictures’ Sexcula (1974), so perhaps the climate is right to further mine vaults, national archives, and producer garages for some of the class, cult, the meh, and the fromage we made 20-40 years ago.

Other alternative: just as Film Score Monthly was able to negotiate lower re-use fees with the musicians’ union to release otherwise costly golden and silver age orchestral scores on CD in limited quantities, perhaps EOne, which owns most of everything produced in Canada through its acquired labels, can allow for limited video releases of films that are otherwise just sitting there.

The Disappearance was partially filmed in and around the surviving structures from Montreal’s Expo 67, although the dilapidated buildings – ruins, really – were best captured and integrated in Robert Altman’s deeply flawed dystopian thriller Quintet (1979), starring Paul Newman, Bibi Andersson, Vittoria Gassman, and Fernando Rey.


Kind of resembles the poster iconography of Logan’s Run (1976), doesn’t it?

Quintet isn’t fully CanCon – you could quite successfully argue it’s an American production shot on location in Montreal – but there are some local actors and production personnel involved which makes it at least hover around the 50-50 mark. Besides, the movie was perpetually shown on TV up here, so it counts in my book.

Great that Fox put out a DVD edition back in 2006, but not great is Tom Pierson’s score never appeared anywhere. With Twilight Time releasing Fox titles, perhaps this oddity is in their sights for a Blu-ray edition with an isolated score track.

And while they’re at it, perhaps tackle Altman’s satire HealtH (1980), which is available nowhere.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor







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