Junesploitation 2022: The Surrogate (1984)

June 7: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is Shannon Tweed! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Canada, thank you.

Beyond movies like Prom NightTerror Train, Black ChristmasDeadlineCurtainsThe GateFuneral HomeMy Bloody ValentineMeatballs IIIThe Pyx, Pin, the early films of Cronenberg, Prom Night 2 and yes, even Things and Wicked World, not to mention SCTV, we have so much to thank you for.

We should also bless March 10, 1957 because on that day, in Whitbourne, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, the Great White North gave birth to Shannon Tweed and any man past puberty from 1981 was better for it. Raised on a mink ranch, third-runner up for Miss Ottawa (I mean, who else was there in Ottawa?) and winner of the singing part of the Miss Canada competition in 1978, Shannon even owned her own metal bar until her modeling career took off. She was the Playboy Playmate of the Month for November 1981 and Playmate of the Year for 1982, as well as appearing in a pictorial with her sister Tracy (who was in Night RhythmsNight Eyes 3 and Johnny Mnemonic).

While starting small with a body double role in Curtains, as well as roles in movies like George P. Cosmatos (the father of Mandy director Panos) film Of Unknown Origin, Hot Dog…The Movie, Meatballs III (she’s the Love Goddess), Steele Justice and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death and TV’s Falcon Crest, Tweed really became famous for a career as “one of home video’s most rented erotic thriller goddesses” in the words of Variety. The movie that changed the roles that she’d appear in was Night Eyes 2, the second Andrew Stevens movie that saw her step into a role similar to the one that Tanya Roberts played in the original.

Night Eyes 3Possessed by the NightIllicit DreamsVictim of DesireBody Chemistry 4: Full ExposureForbidden Sins — if it sounded dirty and had a piece of tape with marker on it that said “Must be 18 to Rent” at your mom and pop video store, it had Shannon Tweed in it.

Tweed went from living in the Playboy Mansion to dating Gene Simmons for decades to even taking him off the market. She even has a street named after her in the Rosewood neighborhood of Saskatoon where I can only imagine saxophones blast all the time and there’s non-stop sexy fog.

Back when Shannon was just starting her domination of that special section of the video store you don’t need to walk through a special door — or saloon double doors — to see (or anything on Cinemax after 11 p.m. on a Friday), she appeared in the 1984 Canadian erotic film The Surrogate, which is directed by Don Carmody (born in Rhode Island, raised in Montreal and the producer of several of those aforementioned Cronenberg movies). This movie is so Canadian that Art Hindle (born in Nova Scotia), Carole Lauris (born in Quebec) and Jackie Burroughs (born in the UK but moved to Canada when she was nine) as the leads; then doubles down by lensing in Quebec; piling on more Canadian actors in Marilyn Lightstone (the voice of the Answer Box in Abraxas!), Jonathan Welsh (from Canadian disaster movie City On Fire), Vlasta Vrána from Shivers and uber-Canadian Michael Ironside; and even Canuck Daniel Lanois does the soundtrack.

Frank and Lee Waite (Hindle and Tweed) have perhaps the worst marriage in the history of film. He has a high stress job selling Porsches, she doesn’t work because she has a trust fund she never lets him forget about and they can’t get it together in the bedroom because she’s not all that into lovemaking and he’s a pervert.

Get a divorce, guys.

He’s so backed up that he flies into rage-filled episodes that cause him to black out. Instead of, again, instructing them to just get divorced, their marriage counselor suggests they see sexual surrogate Anouk (Laure) who knows how to get couples to fulfill their fantasies while sharing their bed. This sounds like a job invented to get to be on HBOs Real Sex and I have no idea how you would file to get your insurance to pay for this. Maybe in Canada, their public health insurance really does cover everything.

Lee gets really into their first session and it seems like Anouk has some kind of mental powers, but guilt gets the better of Mrs. Waite and the couple dismisses the surrogate — who had to come from The Black Room or be a distant relative of Bridget and Jason — who keeps coming back and making them perform increasingly more violent scenes with her. At the same time, people are getting murdered all over their neighborhood — is this a giallo, eh? — and police officer George Kyber (Ironside) is obsessed with finding out who is causing all this madness. And yes, you guessed it, the murders perfectly line up with every time Frank blacks up.

Meanwhile, Anouk keeps breaking into their home, tying up Lee and making Frank rough her up. I have no idea how her therapy works or why it’s successful, but I do remember that Laure is also in the absolutely berserk Sweet Movie and the definitely a giallo in Canada Strange Shadows in an Empty Room and wonder who her agent was. Anouk somehow has other single patients like Jackie Burrough’s character gets spanked with a giant lolipop while eating candy dressed as a little girl.

Lee’s best friend is Jim Bailey, who was a female impersonator and is the most out person ever to set foot in a Canadian erotic thriller, a point that the film pounds into your brain by having Frank unleash very non-PC four decades-old slurs his way every chance he gets. And then we get to see Bailey do Bette Davis. This has nothing to do with the movie.

In fact, the murder and mattress dancing never really come together, nor does the goofy too cute ending. But there’s a great idea in here about a fantasy surrogate who unlocks the rage-filled fantasies of a couple too repressed to access them. This movie could use its own surrogate to push it into the kind of shadow world of dark erotic thrills that it promises.

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