When my brother and I were kids, there was nothing we liked more than following professional wrestling. In the 1970s this was big time, with regular galas at the Montreal Forum and the local CFCF studios for which they called Grand Prix Wrestling.
I still remember all the names: The Giant Jean Ferré, Edouard Carpentier, the Green Hornets, Dino Bravo, Gino Brito, Killer Kowalski, the Rougeau family, the Destroyer and many more. Of course, there was the famous Vachon family: Maurice “Mad Dog,” Paul “The Butcher,” Vivian and Luna.
I just finished watching The Last Villains, Mad Dog & The Butcher, which is screening April 10 at the Canadian Film Fest. It was most interesting speaking to director Thomas Rinfret about the larger-than-life story of the legendary Vachon family of pro wrestlers, as recounted by its only surviving member, Paul "The Butcher" Vachon.
Rinfret said that the film on the Vachons was shot over a four year period. Paul and his wife Dee live like gypsies in a trailer (moving to a seniors home near Sutton by the end of the documentary).
Mad Dog Vachon was known for his raspy voice. Vivian, their sister, was a graceful lady in the ring. She died in a car accident. Luna, Paul’s daughter, died of suspected heart attack at a young age. She too was a larger than life personality.
Paul uses a walker now. His voice is very similar to Mad Dog’s.
The format for the documentary is quite good. Rinfret created a sort of book and each chapter is introduced by an actor playing the role of Paul. There is also some terrific archival footage,
Rinfret was thrilled to be part of a such a project. He travelled across the country and to a wrestling convention in Las Vegas with Vachon. There is the scene where he sees his nephew, Vivian’s son, for the first time in 23 years and travels to Alberta to meet his son for the very first time.
What did Paul Vachon think of the film? “He really loves the movie,” Rinfret says. “When we showed it to him the first time after it ended, he looked at me and he had tears in his eyes. He said ‘Well, now I can die.’ “
In watching this film it made me wonder why the local wrestling game has vanished here over the last few decades. Jacques Rougeau has made efforts to stage galas, but nobody else has stepped up.
The Canadian Film Fest, presented by Super Channel, immerses viewers in a virtual festival experience complete with pre-recorded and live Q&As with filmmakers, access to industry programs online (panel discussions, masterclass) and a virtual awards presentation. Further details to be announced.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with the team at CFF once again to bring another selection of exceptional Canadian films to our viewers through a virtual film festival experience”, said Don McDonald, President and CEO, Super Channel. “We couldn’t have been happier with our collaboration the first time around, and we are sure film fans are going to be excited to see what the 2021 edition has in store for them.”
Here are some other films to look forward to:
Thursday, April 15: The Corruption of Divine Providence (Drama) – Toronto premiere
Director: Jeremy Torrie
Cast: Ali Skovbye, Elyse Levesque, David La Haye, Corey Sevier, Tantoo Cardinal
This is the story of a sixteen-year-old Métis girl Jeanne. She resides in a small northern town, and one day she mysteriously disappears. When she is found, she is near death and has developed what appears to be stigmata, the wounds that echo those carried by Jesus Christ in his dying moments.
Friday, April 16: Events Transpiring Before, During and After a Highschool Basketball Game (Comedy) – Toronto premiere
Director: Ted Stenson
Cast: Andrew Phung, Benjamin Arthurs, Paul Cowling, Isra Abdelrahim
It’s 1999 and the Middleview Ducks boys’ basketball team are about to play the most low-stakes game of their lives. As the team prepares for another certain loss, the dramas around the game become more of a focus than the score. Locker room conversations about existentialism, an assistant coach’s obsession with an NBA offence technique, organizing a radical theatre protest, and frantically searching for an osteoporosis- stricken canine are just some of the events that take place before, during, and after the high school basketball game.
Saturday, April 17: Range Roads (Drama) – Canadian Premiere
Director: Kyle Thomas
Cast: Alana Hawley Purvis, Joe Perry, Chad Brownlee, Nicole de Boer
When her parents are killed in a sudden car accident, television actor Frankie King returns to her hometown in rural Alberta to face this tragedy after being estranged from her family for 20 years. As she struggles to reconnect with her truculent brother Grayson, old wounds are reopened, and family secrets uncovered.