Death Goes North

There’s nothing like the thrill of watching a movie made in your own backyard, especially if the cameras happened to be rolling there 75 years ago.

We’ll get the chance to do that under the stars on Saturday night at Broadmead Village Shopping Centre, not far from where a Hollywood feature starring Rin Tin Tin, Jr., was filmed in the late 1930s.

The final film in this year’s Free-B Film Festival is Death Goes North, a murder-mystery released in 1939 and filmed in locations that included Rithet Estate Forest, which would become Broadmead.

“It’s about how that piece of land became Broadmead and was meant to be a community,” said Broadmead Village spokeswoman Heather Leary, recalling The Broadmead Story, the Broadmead Area Residents Association booklet that sparked film production memories. “We thought it’d be fun to bring that piece of movie history back to Broadmead to share with the community.”

The idea took shape after local researchers assembled information last year for a commemorative plaque.

The 55-minute film presented by Broadmead Village and Victoria Film Festival was one of 14 low-budget “quota quickies” made here for Columbia Pictures by English-born promoter Kenneth Bishop. He made 12, including Death Goes North, under his Central Films banner, and two through Commonwealth Productions, which he formed in 1932 to take advantage of Britain’s Cinematographic Films Act.

Bishop’s other features shot here included The Crimson Paradise, which made its world première as the first all-talkie film shot in Canada at the Capitol on Dec. 14, 1933, What Price Vengeance (1936), Secrets of Chinatown (1934) and Manhattan Shakedown (1938).

Addressing concerns about American dominance of the film industry, the British government introduced a quota system in 1927 that eventually stipulated that one out of every five films shown in Britain would have to be made in the British Empire. The law was rewritten 11 years later and effectively excluded Canadian films.

Released in 1939, Death Goes North starred Edgar Edwards and Michael Heppell as two Mounties called in to investigate the murder of a timber baron. They get help from his niece, Elsie Barlow (Sheila Bromley), and her dog, King (Rin Tin Tin Jr.).

“It’s a B movie in the classic sense,” said programmer Donovan Aikman.

“It was meant to be the second part of a double-bill — short, quick and fun, and the Mounties get their man.”

Aikman said showing the film at Broadmead’s outdoor shopping centre rather than the Cameron Bandshell, where the Mel Brooks sci-spoof Spaceballs will play Friday at 9 p.m., was a no-brainer.

“We’re pretty much showing it in the area where much of it was filmed, near Rithet’s Bog,” he said. “They were just beginning to clear it. It’s a good little land-grabbing story.”

Although Aikman isn’t holding his breath, he said there was “an off-chance” someone associated with the production might still be around and show up.

A woman who appeared in Convicted, the 1938 film noir filmed here and starring 19-year-old newcomer Rita Hayworth as a nightclub singer, showed up when he screened it in 2006.

Background performers who appeared in Harry In Your Pocket also attended when the festival featured the James Coburn pickpocket thriller that was filmed here 42 years ago.

“I think it’s more likely to be relatives at this point,” said Aikman, who will precede Death Goes North with a classic Max Fleischer Superman cartoon and Canadian Mounties vs. Atomic Invaders, a Republic movie serial in which Canadian mounted police attempt to stop a foreign power from establishing secret missile bases in Canada.

Filmgoers are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets. Snacks and beverages will be available from Broadmead Village merchants.
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