Jan 3, 2008

Lions for Breakfast (1975)



There is a scene early on where this scruffy trio of travelers is looking at a road map. "Right now, we're here." "And where's the property?" The map is unfolded a few more sections and the man points... "here". With the realization that they still have a long way to go on their journey, I then wished that this journey would just go on forever. It's that kind of a movie.

Lions for Breakfast was shown constantly on CBC in the early 1980's, as part of its patriotic duty to program a lot of "CanCon" in its airtime, and I saw it several times then when I was a little gaffer. (In fact, during the times in which it played so often, co-star Jim Henshaw was then on Global's variety show "Pizzazz".) Having seen it again today for the first time since last millenium (my tape is from a City TV broadcast in 1987), I still love this charming fable that, while made for kids, can be equally (or perhaps more) enjoyed by adults. It is a road movie with a lot of heart and (perhaps naive) innocence, but still encapsulates that mid-1970's feeling of restlessness and searching for something... uncertain as to what it is, but whatever it is, they don't have it now.

Foster brothers Zanny (Danny Forbes) and Trick (Jim Henshaw) hook up with with an eccentric old gambler named Count Yvon Stroganoff (Jan Rubes), who drives around in a converted school bus. Yvon won a deed to some land in a poker game, which is perhaps "the blue", a promised land that they (and especially the restless Trick) can call home. This film chronicles the misadventures along the way as this ragamuffin trio finds itself.

The title refers to one amusing sequence where they somehow drive overnight into African Lion Safari, and it's perhaps a more fitting one to draw the younger viewers. It's got an eccentric old timer, a smart German Shepherd... how could it not draw the kiddies? But even so, this gentle film is saccarhin-free so that everyone can enjoy it. For me it perfectly captured the romantic feeling of life on the road, with all of its vignettes in southern Ontario small towns and its love of people. This is as refreshing as an autumn drive in the country looking for flea markets, and similarly all the fun is in the journey not the destination. Lions for Breakfast is also noteworthy for an appearance by the pretty, angel-eyed Susan Petrie as Trick's love interest (and not to worry mom and dad, all they do is go for walks and smooch a little). Perhaps she is best remembered for a supporting role in Shivers, but this and Don Shebib's Rip-Off (reviewed here) show that she had a promising career ahead of her. Where is she now? And Goin' Down the Road co-star Paul Bradley has a small role as a bumbling mechanic. This is money well spent in the Canadian Tax Shelter sweepstakes.

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