Drive-In Friday: Phil Savath Night

From Terminal City Ricochet with Jello Biafra to Beverly Hills, 90210 with Luke Perry? From the science fiction/horror musical Big Meat Eater featuring the soft-shoe of “Baghdad Boogie” to the historical drama Samuel Lount? Drag racing through the eyes of David Cronenberg? Children’s programming?

Welcome to the eclectic career of Phil Savath.

Phil Savath, born December 28, 1946, was an American-born Canadian film and television writer and producer. He was most noted as a two-time Genie Award nominee for Best Screenplay, with nominations for Original Screenplay at the 4th Genie Awards in 1983 for Big Meat Eater and Adapted Screenplay at the 10th Genie Awards in 1989 for The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick. (The Genies are the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s equivalent of the Oscars.)

Savath started his career in television in the late ‘70s as the co-creator and star of the CBC Television children’s comedy series Homemade TV and Range Ryder and the Calgary Kid, and then made his theatrical debut with David Cronenberg’s Fast Company.

Fans of FOX-TV’s Beverly Hills, 90210 know him for the dozen episodes he wrote for that post-Brat Back series, as well as the oft-aired HBO favorite, The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick, which was turned into a short-lived TV series, Max Glick. He also wrote the Canadian hockey drama Net Worth (1995) and developed the Canadian TV series African Skies (1992) about a bi-racial teen friendship in post-Apartheid South Africa. As a producer, before his death in 2004, he produced the late ‘90s series These Arms of Mine, along with the TV Movies White Lies, Little Criminals, and Liar, Liar: Between Father and Daughter.

Movie 1: Fast Company (1979)

The influence of this Phil Savath-penned script on the career of David Cronenberg can’t be denied.

The first of Cronenberg’s feature films for which Cronenberg did not originate the screenplay, he was hired by the producers to direct. It was on Fast Company that Cronenberg developed long-time working relationships with cinematographer Mark Irwin, art director Carol Spier, sound editor Bryan Day, and film editor Ronald Sanders — each worked on Cronenberg’s later films. Actor Nicholas Campbell, who plays William Smith’s young protégé, also went on to appear in Cronenberg’s The Brood, The Dead Zone, and Naked Lunch. Sadly, Fast Company also serves as final release for Claudia Jennings (‘Gator Bait), who died in a car wreck several months after this drag racing drama’s release.

Movie 2: Big Meat Eater (1982)

Take one part Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space, one part Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, and one part Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show and vigorously shake in your “intentionally bad cult films” tumbler, and serve: We’ve got a mad butcher, a murdered mayor, and aliens who reanimate the mayor to assist in the harvesting of a rare, radioactive fuel deposit beneath the butcher shop. Oh, and there’s song and dance numbers (which you can enjoy during our intermission).

And those Great White Northeners “got it,” since Phil Savath and his co-writers Laurence Keane and Chris Windsor received Canada’s Oscar equivalent — a Genie Awards’ nod — for Best Original Screenplay in 1983. While Windsor never made another film, Keane and Savath continued onward and upward . . . and what could Phil possibly write as a follow-up feature? It’s not what you’d think.

Intermission! Courtesy of the Phil Savath-penned “Baghdad Boogie.”

Back to the show!

Movie 3: Samuel Lount (1985)

The man who gave us Big Meat Eater . . . wrote this? He did.

A historical drama set during the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, the film stars very familiar Canadian TV and film character actor R. H. Thomson (I remember him from the cable-played Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper and The Terry Fox Story, as well as lots of American TV series) as Samuel Lount, an organizer of the rebellion who was ultimately convicted of treason and executed in 1838.

Receiving a limited theatrical run before debuting on Canadian television, it made its U.S debut on HBO and Showtime. While not winning any awards, it received five 7th Genie Awards’ nods for Best Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Costuming, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing.

Yes, this powerful, fact-based drama is — in fact — from the pen of the man who gave us a film backed by a soundtrack performed by Alternative Tentancles bands. Yes, that’s right. Phil Savath worked with Jello Biafra. But Phil wrote “Baghdad Boogie” and incorporated “Heat Seeking Missile,” a song that would give Spinal Tap pause, into a movie — so what’s really shocking you at this point?

Movie 4: Terminal City Ricochet (1990)

So, Phil did a pretty good job with the sci-fi horror parody Big Meat Eater, so he took a crack at parodying the post-apoc sci-fi craze of the ’80s with this dystopian-political intrique romp. It’s the story of a media entrepreneur who weasels his way into the mayorship of Terminal City and manipulates the populace through television, with their ensuing addictions to consumerism lining his pockets.

Oh, and the good mayor’s Chief Social Peace Enforcement Officer? Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.

Yeah, it’s a must watch.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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