CRIME WAVE (1985) – The Dungeon Review!

I am beginning to feel embarrassed about the countless times I have mentioned I am going to cover more Canadian Cinema. The last Canadian film I reviewed was Guy Maddin’s Brand Upon the Brain at the end of March! After watching John Paizs’ 1985 film Crime Wave I find myself once again abundantly enthusiastic about Canadian films. I am tired of making the promise to cover more Canadian films so beginning today I am going to review nothing but Canadian Films until the end of September. My goal is to get at least eight films reviewed but I am not promising that. I could not have found a better film to have started this little Canadian trek upon than Crime Wave. Thanks to David Arrate at My Kind of Story for turning me on to this treasure. Crime Wave is clever, funny and completely original.

Kim is a pre-teen girl who tells us the story of Color Crime filmmaker Steven Penny. Steven Penny has rented the room above her family’s garage. Kim observes Steven to be a quiet man who stays up typing by street lamp. Steven Penny is working on a screenplay for his film Crime Wave. Kim picks through the garbage in the morning to find Steven’s abandoned stories on crumpled up pieces of paper. Elvis impersonator Ronny Boyles is the subject of Steven Penny’s first version of Crime Wave. Ronny is the focus of a quartet of tribute kings. The story begins with an argument between Ronny and a bar manager and ends with Ronny Boyles demise. The pole where Ronny’s life ended has since become a shrine. Steven wrote the script on the back of his tenants agreement. Steven and Kim become best friends. Steven tells Kim everything he knows about film making. He shows her his Bolex camera and his Kodak 7291 film. He explains to her persistence of vision; how the eye can see an image a few seconds after it is removed. Steven confides to Kim beginnings and endings are his speciality but he has trouble with the middles. We get to enjoy several of Steven Penny’s abandoned versions of Crime Wave until he decides to go into early retirement. At least that is until Kim picks up a copy of one of Steven Penny’s Color Crime Quarterly magazines and reads the following ad:

“Two Heads are Better Than One
Experienced script writer looking to collaborate with fresh talent.
Dr. Jolly”

Kim writes to Dr. Jolly who agrees to help Steven with his writing. It seems to Dr. Jolly that Steven’s stories just need twists. He even sends Steven some money and a bus ticket. Kim sends Steven off in a cab to start his journey. What they don’t know is that Dr. Jolly has snapped and killed a bunch of people.

“It started with a dream.” Every one of Steven Penny’s versions of Crime Wave feature collections of folks with a dream. Whether it is to be a tribute king, a self-help guru or an award-winning sales team. All these sections are superbly creative, colorful and hilarious! There is an infomercial type announcer who narrates each one. It goes something like this…

“The top few guys made it! On the east coast there was Eddie Carlton’s tribute to Buddy. Each sold out performance began with a declaration of musical debt to the real Buddy in Heaven. But scores of female fans too young to remember declared that Eddie was the one and only.”

These segments are brilliantly narrated by Douglas Syms. When we are not watching Steven Penny’s abandoned masterpieces we hangout with Kim and Steven and learn all sorts of neat things about making films! We even get to experience persistence of vision first hand! There are numerous references to the film’s Canadian origins. Steven talks about a camera he borrowed from the National Film Board of Canada. The camera was lost due to a speeding car losing control (Steven watches the footage over and over again when he is depressed). Steven is harassed by guys in half ton trucks in downtown Winnipeg. They meet a man named Lyle who works for the City of Winnipeg as a car counter (his favourite things were dinosaurs and pirates). Lyle, Steven and Kim go to Mac’s to pick up mix for a party and Steven goes to a costume party dressed like Nelson Mingus who tried to rob the West Dale Royal Bank. Canada is all over the place in Crime Wave!

Director John Paizs also wrote and produced Crime Wave and stars as Steven Penny. Steven Penny is a very endearing character despite not speaking a word. Eva Kovac is sweet and likable as Kim. Kim and Steven have wonderful chemistry. Despite their age difference their friendship is charming. Neil Lawrie plays Dr. Jolly and hot damn is he insane! His changes in mood from calm to erratic are awful fun. I got a real kick out of his nonchalant comment about a victim he has hog-tied on a bed “Oh yeah, I can see where the extension cord has been biting into your ankles.” He later rides the victim while singing Back in the Saddle Again. Crime Wave is the only film listed for some of the cast members and other cast only have another credit or two. This is clearly a group of amateur performers but everyone pulls off their roles magnificently. I throw the term “one of a kind” around a lot, but sometimes it just fits. You will never see anything quite like Crime Wave. This hilarious, massively creative dark comedy shines light a big brimming bowl of Canadian sunshine. I really can not recommend this film more highly! I think you will agree you need to see Crime Wave after checking out the delectable images I included. If you get your hands on a copy be sure to listen carefully to the lyrics of the Crime Wave song in the credits!

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Eva Kovac plays Kim.

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One of many beginnings to Steven Penny’s Crime Wave. This beginning featured Tribute Legends.

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The beginning of this version of Crime Wave features successful Allways distributors and focuses on Skip and Dawn Holliday.

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The Hollidays are dead!

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Steven Penny has a moment of self-doubt.

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The beginning of this version of Crime Wave features self-help gurus and focuses on Stanley Falco.

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Kim daydreams during school that she has brought Steven Penny for show and tell.

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What Steven’s stories needed were TWISTS.

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Steven’s bus is stopped on his way to meet Dr. Jolly. Secret stuff fell all over Sales from a close by secret place and the town has been quarantined.

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Neil Lawrie as Dr. Jolly. “Steven, I want you to know something. I want you to know that I’ve never wanted anything so badly as to show you what I mean by twists.”

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Kim awakes from a nightmare about Steven.

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A twist of fate saves Steven Penny and enlightens him.

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Steven Penny is the final subject of Crime Wave. “His early life.”

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Two of Steven Penny’s blockbuster’s Special Agent and Just Like Us.

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A gore scene from one of Penny’s films.

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Merchandising for Steven Penny’s films.

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Steven Penny’s own amusement park! Steven Penny World!

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Steven Penny has a come to Jesus moment.

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Kim concludes her story.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: John Paizs

Starring: Eva Kovacs, John Paizs, Darrell Baran, Jeffrey Owen Madden, Tea Andrea Tanner, Mark Yuill, Neil Lawrie, Bob Cloutier, Donna Fullingham

3 Responses to “CRIME WAVE (1985) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. conradw58 Says:

    Excellent review of a very fun movie. I love all the movie posters on view,especially the one for Teen-age Crime Wave. Canada has given us some classic movies as well as a supremely talented,intelligent,funny,lovely, gift by the name of Goregirl! 🙂 Very much looking forward to your review of Deranged!

    • Conrad! You are too much! You’ve seen CRIME WAVE?! I can’t believe I never even heard of the film until recently! They might take away my Canadian citizenship for this 😉

      • conradw58 Says:

        hahahahaha….Awwww. 🙂 I found Crime Wave on VHS back in the 1980’s. Took a chance and loved it! I wish I would have kept that tape!

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