Sunday, December 13, 2020

Movie Ad of the Week: SKIP TRACER (1977-1979)

If you listened to my interview on the podcast Supporting Characters last week, you heard me speaking fondly of Manhattan stores like Record Explosion and Entertainment Outlet, which had bins of cheap used VHS tapes purchased from mom & pop video shops that had gone out of business. One tape you could always find in these places (or in the 60/40's, which were porn shops that had to devote at least 60% of their floorspace to non-porn merchandise or get shut down) was the Academy Home Entertainment release DEADLY BUSINESS, which everyone avoided because of the cheesy cover photo...
...until word got out that it was actually a really good, moody, '70s character piece called SKIP TRACER, and had been the first Canadian film to play the New York Film Festival. The world premiere was at the Varsity Theater in Vancouver on July 22, 1977 during their Festival of International Films.
The film returned to the Varsity for another "world premiere" on March 28, 1978...
...before playing the New York Film Festival and landing a deal for distribution in the States.
Of all the low-budget indie distributors of the '70s, it was N.W. Russo -- whose G.G. Communications was mostly known for stateside releases of European exploitation (ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER, A HATCHET FOR A HONEYMOON, FIND A PLACE TO DIE) and kid pics (PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, DUNDERKLUMPEN, ONCE UPON A TIME) -- who saw this downbeat, moody character piece and thought it would be a good tax shelter his golden ticket into the arthouse scene. Apart from its month-long U.S. premiere run at the Orson Welles Cinema in Boston in January-Feburary '79, SKIP TRACER doesn't seem to have gotten much of a release through Russo. The next stop was Cinemax in 1980, followed by Academy Home Entertainment's video release in 1986 (under the title DEADLY BUSINESS) and showings on the USA Network in '87 and '88. Sightings outside of Canada since the early '90s, such as a festival of Canadian tax shelter films at the Anthology Film Archives in 2015, have been few and far between -- except for Youtube.

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