“The media said there was nothing falling from the sky. But everyone knew there was.
“It was Boomtown, forty miles up and falling apart, piece by piece.”
Something strange happened back in the Canada of the 1980s.
I honestly don’t know what, but they produced a lot of very strange low budget films, most of which leave you wondering how they ever convinced someone to give them the money to make it.
Or, considering that most of them were made with grants from the Canadian government, maybe it isn’t that hard to understand.
And even if you were left with some doubt that Terminal City Ricochet was going to turn out to be weird, then you need only watch the first few seconds of the film when, to an eerie bass line and impassioned narration, refrigerators, cars, computers, appliances and cuts of meat fell from the sky in a very Fifties looking piece of cut out animation.
It also ranks as one of the most punk Science Fiction films ever made, right up there with Repo Man and Hardware. It’s not as good as either of those, but comes complete with an impressive punk rock soundtrack, a disaffected hero who doesn’t care about much of anything, parents who are completely out of touch with their children, corruption at almost every level of society, and a manic plot which drags our heroes through one absurd situation after another.
Terminal City is the World’s fourth best city to live in.
The problem is that there are only five cities left.
The land has been devastated by the debris falling from the spaceborne luxury platform, Boomtown, while most people survive thanks to an appliance that creates food out of their, ummm, “waste”. A secret program run by the city’s official mad scientist is working on mind control for the children,
And, as this is a Rock movie, you’ve probably guessed that they outlawed Rock Music.
The corrupt Mayor, Ross Glimore, is responsible for most of this: the media keeps the general population happy and compliant, while his brutal Biker Cops and Secret Police unit, SPEU (pronounced “spew”), keep any potential troublemakers in line with fear, intimidation and almost random violence.
And then disaffected paperboy, Alex Stevens, sees Mayor Glimore run over someone in his car.
Before you know it, he’s beaten up, tossed in jail, and on the run, along with a legendary Hockey player with a terrible case of (…oh, what’s that word…) amnesia, and a girl artist who’s been declared a dangerous radical.
There’s a strong resemblance between Alex Stevens and Otto in Repo Man: he’s unhappy but aimless, and has no greater aspirations than to cause as much havoc as he can get away with on his paper route.
Although Mark Bennett, who plays Alex, looks a bit old to be a disaffected teen.
But that happens a lot.
As I said, this is a very punk film, and not just because many of the actors were punk rockers and various Candian punk bands perform or appear on the soundtrack. It takes a very dark, cynical and disaffected view of the world, where everyone is corrupt — even your friends and family — and most people just go along, accepting what they’ve been spoon fed on the news. As much as it might seem at first glance a call to fight back, it has to give us a final, ironic twist that tells us it does no good to try to change things. I was a bit amused to note that Mayor Glimour’s most terrible secrets echo certain dark rumors we still have with us today, although the inclusion of “President Quayle” in the closing song is now almost comic (anyone else remember Dan Quayle? Anyone?). Mind you, it should have been obvious at the time that that George Bush deliberately picked the least connected and powerful person he could find who would keep the more conservative wing of the Party happy.
You’ve got to admit he did a good job of it.
Terminal City is a very densely imagined world, with a lot of quirky details. It looks like their set design consisted of dumping out the nearest garbage can and scattering its contents about. But it works on the whole, and turns its very ordinary settings into a collapsing future.
And the occasional rain of consumer goods falling from the sky is a beautiful touch.
Sharp eyed viewers might note that Phil Savath — who co-wrote Big Meat Eater — is one of the four credited writers. Mind you, there is absolutely no resemblance between the two films.
Other than that they are both eccentric, low budget Canadian Science Fiction films.
Terminal City Riccochet is black and cynical and very strange. It is also funny and full of pointed satire. It doesn’t always work (particularly the weird seriously strange animated short which gets used throughout the film), but then few weird films do. It certainly isn’t for every taste, and you might not feel the need to revisit it.
But it is worth a look if you’re into the strange and little known, the unusual and independent….
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