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Drying Up The Streets (1978)

by on 2014/07/18


“Ain’t nothing shaking but the leaves on the trees.”

* * * *

My posts on this blog lately have been, to put it charitably, rather sporadic. I would like to be able to share a really cool excuse for my months’ long hiatus.

Like… maybe I was doing deep undercover to break up an international drug ring.

No, that’s a lie.

The truth is duller. Full of suburban, white-collar, first-world agonies.

I was moving cities. The process was almost as spiritually smashing as a deep undercover assignment into the depths of a human cesspool of evil. Like a good undercover agent I emerged wiser, more worldly, and a little righteous …as only someone who survived something harrowing can be.

Losing your job is hard. Moving cities is hard. Starting over in the town you left almost 14 years ago, while coping with all of the aforesaid factors, is painfully hard.

Fortunately, Toronto has brought with it many, many compensations. I still feel this enormous sense of having returned home after a long, frosty exile. Seeing the CN Tower on the horizon, wandering Kensington Market, even mundane trips to the grocery store makes me feel giddy with intermittent joy. To all the Torontonians I have been randomly beaming at… I assure you, I am absolutely no threat to you.

But it wasn’t until the Toronto International Film Festival Canadian Open Vault (June 22-July 27) screening of Drying Up the Streets that I really knew things are very, very cool indeed in Toronto.

This free event literally opened the dusty vaults for Canadian rarities … in this case, a made-for-TV film about the sordid world of strip clubs, prostitution and the drug trade on Toronto’s Yonge Street in the late 70s. Someone from the CBC had to walk the tape over. And this could happen, because, you know, we are in Toronto.

Don Francks plays a junkie genius cook. Think Walter White on smack …sporting a Grateful Dead roadie’s hair. Francks’ raw intensity can barely be contained by the confines of this broadcast-only, ripped-from-the-headlines indictment of the sleazy downtown core of late 1970s Toronto. Nudity. Child porn. Drug use. Overdoses. Violence.

August Schellenberg does a turn as a vile underworld enforcer. The performance of Sarah Torgov as fragile runaway turned junkie-stripper was astounding. Directed by Robin Spry, this movie grabbed me, stuck a makeshift prison shiv to my neck, and held me breathless for all of its gritty 90 minutes.

Mostly… this was a TV MOVIE?


What did I do after the movie? I emptied the contents of my wallet to get a membership to TIFF, of course. (Disclaimer: The prison shiv thing was only a metaphor). The TIFF host Steve Gravestock was completely charming.

Billy Bishop plays on July 27 and The Last Pogo Jumps Again plays at an as yet unspecified time. Or did we miss it?

Tell us when! We need it! We need it, man. We are hurting bad.

We just like Toronto International Film Festival Canadian Open Vault is all.

* * * *

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