Movie Night in Canada: DOXA's Dorothy Woodend on Dennis Hopper's Out of the Blue

    1 of 5 2 of 5

      After a bit of a break, we're back with another edition of Movie Night in Canada, our exploration of recommendations for obscure, overlooked, or unusual Canadian cinematic gems from film industry folk.

      We received a knockout recommendation from DOXA Documentary Film Festival's director of programming Dorothy Woodend.

      DOXA's director of programming Dorothy Woodend—in more peaceful times.

      Although she focuses on documentary films for her work, she also reviews all manner of films for The Tyee.

      (She also has a peculiar penchant for cinematic violence for some inexplicable reason.)

      Woodend picked the Vancouver-shot 1980 powderkeg of a feature Out of the Blue, directed by and starring none other than Hollywood's Dennis Hopper of Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now fame.

      Also known as No Looking Back, the film follows a rebellious girl (Linda Manz), and her relationships with her ex-convict father (Dennis Hopper) and her promiscuous, junkie mother (Sharon Farrell).

      Woodend had quite a bit to share about the film. Here's what she had to say:

      Even before it was widely released, Out of the Blue was infamous for being the film that almost killed Dennis Hopper. At a recent screening in Austin, director Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Dazed and Confused) recounted his first experience of seeing the film at Houston University in 1983. The evening started with a torturous Q&A and ended in a fiery explosion, in which Mr. Hopper almost succeeded in self-immolating at a racetrack in North Houston, while Wim Wenders snapped photos. A gloriously combustible hot mess that threatens to implode at any moment, Out of the Blue is a film that must be seen to be believed. Much like Hopper’s “Russian Dynamite Death Chair Act”.

      A classic of Canadian tax shelter films, the directorial reins were handed over to then-star Hopper, after the production foundered. Hopper took what was supposed to be a TV movie of the week, starring Raymond Burr and refashioned it into a scarlet howl of '70s madness, full of sex, drugs, incest, and sudden violent death. When Hopper’s character Don Barnes, plows through a school bus of tiny children wearing Halloween costumes, and is sent off to prison for his trouble, his daughter Cebe grows up without benefit of paternal care. This might be for the best, as all holy hell breaks loose when Daddy dearest returns.

      Soon enough, mom is shooting horse, dad is sniffing panties, and little Cebe is wandering Vancouver’s mean streets looking for trouble. Along with Hopper, and an extremely confused Burr, Out of the Blue featured the terrifying Linda Manz as Cebe, the toughest teen temptress to ever don a leather jacket and grease her hair back.

      See this film for Manz chanting with bilious hatred into a CB radio “Kill All Hippies…” At the heart of the movie is the rotten Vancouver of old. If you don’t remember this vintage of the city, find a copy of Guy’s Guide to the Flipside, a book that captures all the squalid spots of yore, and get reacquainted. This was the place that gave rise to Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman, and a particular species of punk music that could stave in your ribcage. Everyone was bored, poor, and looking for a fight. I miss it. 

      When Out of the Blue competed at the Cannes Film Festival, instead of blowing delicate raspberries, the French critics declared Linda Manz a contender for Best Actress. In its home country, however, the film struggled to get any attention. But as Neil Young sings, "It's better to burn out, than fade away." Which is maybe what Hopper was thinking when he sat down in a circle of dynamite and lit the fuse.

      If you want to check out Hopper's “Russian Dynamite Death Chair Act”, watch this video:

      And here's the movie's trailer to give you a peek at what the film is like:

      And so there you have it, folks. I think Woodend pretty much said it all.

      If you survived this edition of Movie Night in Canada, then stay tuned for more in store.



      A. MacInnis

      Jul 20, 2015 at 10:04pm

      I rather love this film - it holds up way better than I ever would have imagined, from the days when I had it on VHS... but I had a curious disappointment with it the other day. I have it on a twofer public domain DVD with a movie called The Swap, featuring Robert de Niro. I wanted to play my girl the Pointed Sticks scene in the film, after Khats fest, and popped it in my DVD player, where I had previously watched it. Most curiously, the DVD appeared to have gone blank! It worked neither in that machine, where I had previously viewed it, nor in my computer. So apparently public domain cheapie DVDs can somehow erase themselves over time...? It's too bad, because it's actually a pretty decent presentation of the film, in widescreen, which is unusual for public domain videos. I wonder if it's out there on Blu?