Monday, October 21, 2013
DRYING UP THE STREETS
Drying Up The Streets is a super-obscure, grim as shit Canadian TV movie from 1978. I'd never heard of this until recently, but when I read the single review on its IMDB page I knew I'd have to get ON it. Thematically, it covers similar ground to 1979's HARDCORE (one of my favourite films of all time), but differs in one main facet - rather than focusing on an upper-class, whitebread puritan who is forced to immerse himself in the underground sex industry to find his missing daughter, its lead character is a former junkie who is trying his damnedest to leave that world behind, only to be pushed back into it when he receives the news that his daughter is also hooked on junk and possibly working as a prostitute to fund her habit.
The films opening scene pretty much lets you know exactly what you're in for right off the bat. Peter Brennan (Don Francks), close to death in a psych ward after overdosing in a cafe bathroom, is visited by a cop (Len Cariou) who forces Brennan to view a slideshow depicting the death scenes of various junkies (not really sure how often cops tend to set up a proper screen and slideviewer in a psych ward room to make a point, but hey). He also tells Brennan that his estranged daughter has gone missing, is hooked on the bad shit and involved with some seriously bad dudes. If Brennan gets clean and goes undercover in order to bust a drug ring, then he'll help him find his daughter. Brennan agrees, and along the way meets Anne (the insanely beautiful Sarah Torgov of Meatballs), whom he begins to care for obsessively and tries to save from the shitty scene she's in. So in summary....... YES.
So here's the deal. I love, LOVE this fucking movie. Obviously there are huge similarities to Paul Schrader's work here, which in my book is pretty much the Best Thing. Though it surprisingly predates Hardcore by a year, there are obvious nods towards Taxi Driver, particularly the relationship between Brennan and Anne - though I guess the "older man obsessively trying to save a young prostitute" arc isn't really super-unique. This movie is just so fuckin' grim though - everything is grimey, dark and hopeless. One scene where Anne is drugged and taken into a back room to be raped for the amusement of a room full of KIDS who have seemingly paid to the see the "show" is just beyond awful - naturally, this being a 1978 TV movie, this shit is implied rather than graphically depicted but still... Fuck, man. Similarly, the endless parade of fetish clubs, dark streets and dingey apartments that comprise the films setting make for a super-dark watch... It honestly blows my mind that this was a TV movie made for network broadcast. The scenes of Frank walking the streets alone, seaching for his daughter serve as breathers from the bleakness, as well as lending the film that extra touch of realism.
In spite of the insanely depressing content, this movie just has so much going for it. The relationship between Anne and Brennan is actually pretty convincing, and is probably the one thing that brings heart to a film with such dark subject matter - there's a tenderness there that never feels like it's crossing into overly-mawkish territory, no doubt partly due to the fact that both Francks and Torgov deliver awesome performances. This tenderness also prevents the film from become an utterly nihilistic horror-show, which is important when dealing with such sensative material. Also, it was awesome to see a familiar face in Rabid's Frank Moore, who, while not being the greatest actor in the world, has a pretty cool and unique presence that I always dug in Cronenberg's film.
There are problems of course - the film is too dark at points, and some of the scenes are comprised of dull, static shots, with dialogue that is sometimes difficult to make out, but hey, these things come with the territory. If you can track this movie down, and have the stomach for it, then I highly recommend a watch... Just don't put it on a party or anything. What are you, a sadist?
Posted by Z at 3:09 PM