Highway 61 Bruce McDonald

The second film in McDonald’s road trilogy, Highway 61, which was originally released in 1991, is more refined than Roadkill, produced two years prior, but doesn’t quite achieve the brilliance of 1994’s Hard Core Logo. Still, the film is a glorious road movie that wears its Canadian heritage proudly and without any hint of irony or kitsch currently associated with distinct markers of Canadiana. Set in a fictionalised town just outside Thunder Bay, ON, at the tip of Highway 61, the film follows Pokey Jones (Don McKeller) and Jackie Bangs (Valerie Buhagiar) as they travel down the famed highway towards New Orleans with a dead body strapped to the top of their car. The cinematography is astounding, capturing the southward journey with a romantic eye and stark clarity. Even with appearances by the likes of Jello Biafra and Art Bergmann, the real scene-stealer here is Earl Pastko’s Satan, played with such frightening glee that it almost calls into question Pastko’s sanity. Included on this DVD release are two short films by McDonald, one of which stars Moses Znaimer and makes absolutely no sense, and one of which consists mainly of camcorder footage of James Dean’s grave. The Forest Gnome, however, is brilliant, and the only non-McDonald short film included. A commentary by critic Geoff Pevere and writer/star McKeller reveals details of the film’s casting and locations, and makes for an interesting factual supplement to a visually intense film. (VSC)