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Roadkill (Canadian International Pictures) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Roadkill (Canadian International Pictures) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Canadian International Pictures
    Released on: July 30th, 2024.
    Director: Bruce McDonald
    Cast: Don McKeller, Valeria Buhagiar, Gerry Quigley, Larry Hudson
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    Roadkill – Movie Review:

    Bruce McDonald is probably best known to American and international audiences as the man behind the minor rock and roll movie masterpiece that is Hard Core Logo, starring Hugh Dillon of the Headstones. Canadian cult movie buffs who paid attention, though, should remember Roadkill as the film that brought he and writer/actor Don McKellar (of Exotica and eXistenz) some well deserved attention.

    Shot over a week or two in Sudbury, Ontario for just shy of $250,000 (Canadian dollars), this low budget road movie follows a lovely young lady named Ramona (the unconventionally beautiful Valeria Buhagiar of Highway 61) on her quest to find a band called The Children Of Paradise that she's been sent after by sleaze-ball promoter Roy Seth (Gerry Quigley). It seems the band is going to miss the big last show of their tour and no one knows where they went. So, being unable to drive, Ramona hires a cab to drive her across the province until she can track'em down and reel'em in. Her cab driver is named Buddy (Larry Hudson), and he seems to be full of rock and roll stories. He is more than happy to help her out as long as he can keep the meter running.

    Along the way she meets up with a wannabe serial killer named Russell (McKellar), who hasn't actually killed anyone yet and delivers the most poignant line in the film, "In Canada there are really only two jobs to choose from – hockey player or serial killer. I've got weak ankles." Russell's career is kind of at a standstill of sorts, but he's a good natured loon who helps her out as best he can in his own special way. Along the way she meets a few other oddball characters, including a man who doesn't speak anymore because he has nothing left to say, gets to see Nash The Slash play live, and sees late lamented punk rock founding father Joey Ramone at a gas station.

    Some of the camera work is a bit rough and the film has a very gritty look and feel to it but all of that works in its favor, and it's the characters that are important here, not so much the technique. Romona's trip becomes a voyage of self discovery, as she learns about herself through her encounters with the weirdos in the greater Sudbury area, and while sometimes the story shows a few holes, overall it brings things together nicely in the end. The humor works well, the characters are interesting, and the film exudes cool in an obviously and unapologetically Canadian style.

    When director Bruce McDonald won a $25,000 prize for the film at the 1999 Toronto International Film Festival, he proudly exclaimed that he was going to use it to buy a “really, really big chunk of hash.” McDonald teamed up with McKellar and Buhagiar again a couple of years later for an unofficial sequel, Highway 61, which was a slightly more polished and professional film that lacked some of the independent charisma that Roadkill had in spades.

    Roadkill – UHD/Blu-ray Review:

    Canadian International Pictures brings Roadkill to Blu-ray framed at 1.37.1 in an AVC encoded 1080p transfer on a Region A locked 50GB this. Scanned and restored in 4K from the 35mm fine-grain master positive by Films We Like, the picture quality here is a really nice improvement over the older DVD edition that came out in 2004. There’s loads of really nice, grainy texture to the black and white image that is complimented by proper contrast and strong black levels. There’s very little here in the way of print damage to note, just some white specks now and then, and the image is free of any obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or noise reduction, retaining a proper, filmic feel throughout. Detail is generally quite strong and overall, the image looks really good.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. The range is a bit limited by the source material but the track is clean, clear and properly balanced. A few lines of dialogue sound a little soft or muffled but for the most part, everything comes through with decent clarity.

    A new audio commentary featuring Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com and film historian Jason Pichonsky starts off the extra features. Lots of info here about McDonald's career and how he came to make this debut feature, where the film incorporates elements of satire based on older CBC features, some of the locations that are featured in the movie, details on shooting specific scenes including the opening parade in Toronto, details on the cast and crew and thoughts on their performances, the film's youthful energy, the importance of the use of music in the film, the movie's release history and the awards that it won, the state of filmmaking in Canada at the time the movie was made, McDonald's tendency to work with some of the same people throughout his career, the live performances featured in the movie, the "run and gun" nature of the lighting and cinematography, the movie's soundtrack release, how Joey Ramone wound up in the movie, how elements of The Wizard Of Oz are worked into the film's final reel, thoughts on the ending and how to interpret it, if there are feminist angles in the movie and lots more.

    Carried over from the DVD release is a commentary that gets writer/actor Don McKellar and producer Colin Brunton behind the microphone to amuse and inform us with a bunch of 'making of' stories and behind the scenes anecdotes. McKellar's work has always been interesting to me so I found this track to be pretty interesting and his comments on the romanticism of Sudbury will strike a humorous cord with anyone who has ever been there.

    Rebel Cinema is a new twenty-nine minute interview with Don McKellar where he talks about how he came to work with McDonald on the film and the director's desire to really do something with alternative cinema in Canada, what the film represents to him, his work in film as well as in television and live theater, following up Roadkill with Highway 61, working with Buhagiar, co-writing the film with McDonald in installments as the funding came in, how he feels about road movies and how he feels about the movie a few decades later.

    Valerie Buhagiar is interviewed for twenty-three minutes in Ready For The Ride where she talks about how she got into acting while expecting to get a job as a lifeguard, doing some work in China as a puppeteer, how she came to appear in Roadkill, her background and education, shooting the movie without a lot of experience, how she prepared for her role, how she and McKellar became very good friends, shooting her opening scene in her parents’ house with her parents in the movie, what McDonald was like to work with, what the Toronto arts scene was like in the late eighties, how she misses the spirit of making a movie like Roadkill and her own experiences directing.

    Rock n’ Road is a new twenty-eight minute interview with Producer Colin Brunton where he talks about the Canadian New Wave films that were coming out of Toronto around this time, connecting with Bruce McDonald and becoming friends as well as collaborators, how he got his start in the film business, his work with Nash The Slash, the influence of the New York City punk scene on his work, getting the financing for Roadkill, how the music scene connected with the film scene, why Roadkill was shot in black and white, shooting in Sudbury, memories from the shoot, getting Joey Ramone for the movie and his help getting The Ramones on the soundtrack, the importance of the soundtrack to promoting the movie, the film's domestic and international distribution and what he's done since Roadkill.

    In Lyrical Surrealism we get a new twenty-two minute interview with cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak. This interviews goes over how he got into working as a cinematographer, his background and training, how he wound up moving from Europe to work in Canada, connecting with Bruce McDonald and what he was like to work with, thoughts on shooting in black and white, memories of shooting specific scenes, what he wanted to do with the visuals and how the soundtrack inspired him, other projects that he's worked on with McDonald and other details surrounding his career and work with McDonald.

    There are some archival featurettes included here as well, starting with a thirty-seven minute interview with Bruce McDonald from 2018. In this piece, recorded in front of a live audience, McDonald goes over style, recollections of working on different projects, influences that worked their way into his career, his thoughts on the Toronto independent cinema scene, his tendency to work music into his movies with a lot of emphasis, his tendency to be a bit of a control freak, themes that recur in his filmography, dealing with producers and thoughts on his various collaborators.

    On Screen! Is a forty-eight minute documentary from 2006 that covers the making of Roadkill that is made up of interviews with various cast and crew members as well as with McDonald himself. It goes over some of the Sudbury locations featured in the movie, the film's soundtrack, the backgrounds of the different cast members, what went into writing the script, the film's independent nature, Joey Ramone's appearance in the film and more.

    A theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selections round out the extra features on the disc. The Blu-ray comes packaged with some reversible cover sleeve art as well as a full-color insert booklet featuring a new interview with former TIFF senior programmer Steve Gravestock on the film’s DIY ethos and scrappy, independent spirit as well as its legacy and significance in the annals of Canadian filmmaking history,.

    Roadkill - The Final Word:

    Roadkill is a legitimate cult classic of Canadian indie cinema, a quirky and compelling road movie populated with wonderfully bizarre characters brought to life by a talented cast and fantastic director. The long overdue Blu-ray release from Canadian International Pictures offers up the movie in an excellent presentation and on a disc stacked with extra features. Highly recommended!



    lick on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Roadkill Blu-ray screen caps!

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