31 Dec 2018

No pinballspotting in Montreal

Pinballspotting in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada during the 60s and 70s was impossible.

In his effort to clean up the city, mayor Jean Drapeau managed to implement a bylaw in 1955 or so that banned pinball machines (arguing that they were gambling machines and corrupted youth). It remained on the books until Bill C-71 was amended at the federal level in 1977, and even then, pinball was restricted to amusement arcades. One could not operate more than two pinball machines in a place that served alcohol. In 2016 the North Star machine à piastres bar opened with 10 pinball machines, and in 2017 the law was officially off the books, making the way for barcades in the city.

So here are some movies showing what Montreal arcades looked like in the days without pinball. Most of these were found on Saint Lawrence boulevard A.K.A. The Main, a bit South of Saint Catherine Street where the Montreal Pool Room, Playland restaurant, Frites Dorées (Silver Amusements), Midway Tavern, Crystal Palace Theatre, the adult Eve Theatre, and a few billiard halls were found. Formerly this area was part of the Red-light district, home to cabarets, gambling, illicit taverns and prostitution, but that was all cleaned up by the early 60s.

Ladies And Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen (Canada, 1965)

It was directed by Donald Brittain & Don Owen, and can be watched for free on the NFB website.

There's a brief snippet around 39 minutes in of Leonard Cohen in an arcade. One can see the address in the window, which is 1204 Saint Lawrence boulevard. It was listed in Lovell's 1964 Annual as the Playland Restaurant, formerly Main Gameland Amusements which opened about 1957, and then the place was vacant by '65-66.

Most of the games are too hard to make out given what we can see of the row of machines, but from left to right : Champion Baseball (Genco, 1955) bat game, unknown, Deluxe Shooting Gallery (Midway, 1961), and a few more unknowns...


There's a quick sequence wherein Cohen's playing a rifle game called Bonus Gun (United, 1955), and to the left of him is a Vanguard (Williams 1959), a gun game "that pops rubber balls into the air completing bingo style patterns"...


La semaine dernière pas loin du pont (Canada, 1966)

("Last week not far from the bridge") A short film directed by Guy Bergeron. It can be watched on the imdb website. It's in French, but there's actually very little dialog.

Some of the action takes place in a snack bar at the address 1951 de Montigny East (later known as de Maisonneuve East), corner Dorion, very close to the titular bridge, i.e. the Jacques-Cartier, which crosses the Saint Lawrence river and joins the island of Montreal to the South Shore.

Here we can spot a United Avalon shuffle alley bowler (United Amusement Co., 1962), a 1962 World Series (Williams, 1962) baseball / bat game, and a Circus Rifle Gallery (Genco, 1957)...



There's also an AMI JCI–100 (AMI, 1958) jukebox which we see when a fight breaks out, as well as the front end of the shuffle alley...



Montreal Main (Canada, 1974)

Director: Frank Vitale, starring: Frank Vitale, Allan Moyle, Stephen Lack, Peter Brawley...

Allan "Bozo" Moyle would go on to direct The Rubber Gun (1977) featuring several of the same people, and later wrote and directed Pump Up The Volume (1990).

There are a couple of scenes shot in the Frites dorées / Silver Amusements arcade/restaurant at 1212 Saint Lawrence blvd., probably in 1973. Steamed hot dogs, fries and amusement machines like baseball / bat games, hockey, rifle / gun games, driving games, fortune/horoscope, crane, photomat, etc.

Frites Dorées / Silver Amusements existed from about 1951 to the mid-80s when the place became New Frites Dorées (and I guess got rid of the arcade machines). Then about 2008, that whole section on the West side with the exception of strip/dance club Café Cléopâtre got knocked down to make way for the Carré Saint-Laurent development project, although the Montreal Pool Room moved across the street.

The gang enters the place. There's the Frites dorées sign on top, Silver Amusements painted on the windows, and FRITES DOREES inlaid on the sidewalk...


As they enter, we can spot a Vitalizer "Foot Ease" Electricity Circulation Stimulator Floor Machine (Exhibit Supply Co., c. 1941), a couple of gumball machines no doubt made in Canada by Beaver Machine Corp., and a Solar Horoscope and Forecast (Peerless Vending, 1950s?) "grandma" type fortune teller machine...


The scene is shot hand-held and moves around a lot. Moyle plays a Drag Races (Allied Leisure, 1971) driving game and barely visible to the left of him is a Drive-Mobile (International Mutoscope, 1941) and two more movie viewers [not seen in this particular screen capture] which can be better seen in the next movie, Vie d'ange, detailed later in this post...


The film's writer/director and main character, Frank Vitale in front of the Solar Horoscope (Peerless Vending, 1950s?)...


Bozo with a general view with a row of rifle games etc...


Here we can see a bit of a RoadRunner (Bally, 1971) electro-mechanical driving / racing game and a
Texas Ranger Gatling Gun (Chicago Coin, 1963) while Brawley plays a S.A.M.I. (Midway, 1970)...



Here we see Brawley playing a Twin Rifle (Chicago Coin, 1971) and to the left is a Desert Fox (Milwaukee Coin Industries, 1976) shooter videogame...


Here's another angle of the Twin Rifle, with Bozo playing, and an unknown fortune teller / horoscope machine in the corner to the right...


Brawley is playing a hockey game with the boy and we can spot a couple of baseball bat games, specifically Hit and Run Base-Ball (Williams, 1970) and Fast Ball (Williams, 1969), plus a couple of other arcade games, including a Target UFO on the extreme right (which we will see better later on)...


Here's a look at the hockey game I could not identify. One can piece together "Stadium" printed on it, and it has solid 3D, not thin metal 2D players...


Behind Moyle we can spot more baseballs (from left to right)... Action Baseball (Williams, 1971), Short-Stop or Deluxe Short-Stop (Williams, 1958) and a Bulls Eye Baseball (Chicago Coin, 1967)...


In another scene shot in the same place, the boy Johnny and his friend are accosted by an unsavory character, and we can spot, from left to right : something unknown, a Sea Devil (Midway, 1970) submarine game, an Unscramble (Allied Leisure, 1969) which is "an early Trivia style game using 8mm film on an endless loop", and some other unknown game...


In another scene, the boy is playing a Dog Fight (Midway, 1968) rifle game. To the left is a Target UFO (Made in England by Alca Electronics Ltd., 1969, early 70s?), the Twin Rifle in the back seen earlier, and others...


There's another scene shot in a dépanneur (small corner store, like a non-chain 7-11) with Bozo and Stephen Lack where we can spot a bat game Deluxe Pinch-Hitter (Williams, 1959) on the right with the coin door painted red, and a portable TV set sitting on it...



Vie d'ange (Canada, 1979)

Director: Pierre Harel, starring: Paule Baillargeon, Pierre Harel, Jean-Guy Moreau...

Shot in 1974, but only released 5 years later. Probably one of the craziest / outrageous Canadian films ever made. Harel joined the Quebecois blues-rock group Offenbach early in their career, convincing them to sing in Quebecois French, writing one of their biggest tunes, "Câline de blues", and later founded the Quebec rock group Corbeau in 1977.

There's a scene shot at Frites dorées / Silver Amusements, about a year after Montreal Main, and a few of the same machines are still there!

From left to right, this bunch of machines were also spotted in Montreal Main, like the unknown fortune teller, a 3D Movies (Capitol Projector Corp, 1950s), two Pin-Up Movies mutoscopes (Capitol Projector Corp., 1947) or the reissued Midget Movie Theater (Exhibit Supply, 1962) , and a Drive-Mobile (International Mutoscope, 1941)...

Paule Baillargeon as "Star Morgan", still dressed in her stage performance costume, plays the Drive-Mobile (International Mutoscope, 1941), with Harel as "Elvus" looking on...

Different angle... one can see a Circus Rifle Gallery (Genco, 1957) rifle game and others to the right...


On the left, a Drive Master (Chicago Coin, 1969), then there's the row of machines described above, and on the right, a woman leads "Wonder" to a rifle game...

Which is the Circus Rifle Gallery (Genco, 1957) seen partially before...


The couple running out of Silver Amusements onto The Main to catch a cab...


Ti-Mine, Bernie pis la gang (Canada, 1976)

Director: Marcel Carrière, starring Marcel Sabourin, Jean Lapointe, Rita Lafontaine, Guy L'Ecuyer...

The movie can be watched on the NFB's website, or youtube, although it is in French, with no subtitles.

There's a scene in a snack bar with a few pool tables in the back. We can spot a Base Hit (Williams, 1967) baseball game. This was at 4250 St-Denis, listed in Lovell's 1973-74 annual as City Billiard Hall.






End of an era.

13 May 2018

Runaway Nightmare (USA, 1982)

Runaway Nightmare (USA, 1982)
Director: Mike Cartel (as Michael Cartel), starring: Mike Cartel, Al Valletta, Seeska Vandenberg...

An action comedy horror movie written, directed & starring Mike Cartel. Low-budget, bad acting, weak plot, and never really delivers on the promise of this description I found on imdb: "Two dorky Nevada worm wranglers are kidnapped by a gang of beautiful women as part of a plot to steal plutonium from the Mafia."

There is a bar scene with pinball machines, a jukebox, a mirror ball, and the two main characters get into a fight amongst them.

Oblivious to the fighting, there's a girl playing Suspense (Williams, 1969) the whole time...



Just before this mean-looking guy punches out the main character, we can see the reflection of two machines in the mirror behind the bar, and these may be the Night Rider and Power Play seen a bit later...

The punch throws him into a 1976 Seeburg Sunstar jukebox, which starts playing (slightly earlier, we see a girl drop a coin and make a selection, but it fails to turn on)...

Another punch is thrown in front of a Night Rider (Bally, 1976) EM version, and a Power Play (Bally, 1978)... these are quite possibly the machines seen reflected in the behind-the-bar mirror in the still above...

The other main character is seen near a Drop-A-Card (Gottlieb, 1971)...

The scene ends with TILT flashing on a Roller Coaster (Gottlieb, 1971)...

4 May 2018

Lobby Card Lies!

On a couple of occasions, I've stumbled upon a "lobby card" photo showing a pinball machine. These were photos taken during a movie's production that would be displayed in the lobby or window of a movie theatre, or used as promotional material for the movie.
These were not simply frames from the movie and duplicated, but rather photos taken by an on-set photographer A.K.A. unit still photographer. Their photos were used for promotion of the movie as well as for continuity in wardrobe, set and background appearance. Thus what you see in those photos is not what you might get in the movie...

Ich - Ein Groupie A.K.A. Higher and Higher (Switzerland/Germany, 1970)
Directors: Erwin C. Dietrich (as Fred Williams), Peter Baumgartner (uncredited). Starring: Ingrid Steeger, Rolf Eden, Vivian Weiss...

I stumbled upon this lobby card photo of a guy playing a Shangri-La  (Williams, 1967)...

But the scene in the movie is this...

Just before this shot, there is a one of the ball rolling on the playfield, but super out of focus. Of course, with the sounds, one can deduce that it's a pinball machine, but otherwise it's pretty abstract...

Later in the film, Ingrid and a suitor are in a jazz club and as they walk out, we can spot a machine in the corner on the left... a Discotek (Bally, 1965)...



Air Raid Wardens (USA, 1943)
Director: Edward Sedgwick. Starring: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Edgar Kennedy...

I stumbled upon this photo of Laurel & Hardy next to this Follies of 1940 (Genco, 1939) machine...

However, in that scene in the movie, the shot is much tighter, and one barely sees the machine, and in fact, probably would not have even guessed that there was one there, had one not been looking for it and armed with the above lobby card photo...

(Thanks to the Laurel and Hardy Central for helping identify the movie the lobby card photo was from!)

BTW, Laurel and Hardy appear in the artwork of two pinball machines...
Flicker (Bally, 1975)...

...and Prospector (Sonic, 1977) which I guess is a reference to their 1937 movie "Way Out West"...

Bonus:
Fast Company (USA, 1953)
Director: John Sturges. Starring: Howard Keel, Polly Bergen, Marjorie Main...

I couldn't get a hold of this movie, but I wonder if it would be another case of "lobby card lies". I think the machine is a Merry Widow (Genco, 1948)... it has flippers but in the non-modern arrangement, so that would place it somewhen between late 1947 and 1950, inclusively)...

If I manage to catch it sometime, I'll be sure to update this post.

13 Mar 2018

Dogfight (USA, 1991)

Dogfight (USA, 1991).  Director: Nancy Savoca, starring River Phoenix, Lili Taylor, Richard Panebianco, Brendan Fraser...

The movie set in 1963, the day before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. River plays a soldier about to be shipped out...

He and his buddies have some fun an arcade... River's playing a Gigi (Gottlieb, 1963), which is a slight anachronism, since it came out in December...


Behind him, there is a row of mutoscopes ("movie" viewers, but using a lot of stills, like a large flip-it book) e.g. the black one on the left is a Mutoscope "clam shell" model D, made between late 1890s to about 1909. His buddy is by a Cockeyed Circus (Exhibit Supply Company, 1941), and to the right is a baseball / bat game 10th Inning (Williams, 1964), another anachronism...

Elsewhere in the arcade is a Super Circus Rifle Gallery (Chicago Coin, 1969) yet another anachronism, and a Carnival Gun (United, 1954), and a Mr. Top Gun (Taylor, 1960-1975) shootout game with life-size cowboy (different models of cowboy existed)...

Words are exchanged between the army guys and the navy guys. In Brendan Fraser's film debut, as he walks over to engage, we can spot a Hollywood (Williams, 1961) and an Egg Head (Gottlieb, 1961)...


When the fight breaks out, we can see a row of machines, some of which I could not identify... (from left to right)...
1. ?, 2. ?, 3. ?, 4. Gigi (Gottlieb, 1963), 5. a wall game?, 6. Fast Ball (Williams, 1969) anachronism, 7. Swing-Along (Gottlieb, 1963), 8. an old woodrail, maybe even flipperless, and 9.  Hollywood (Williams, 1961), where we can now see a bit of the "Styling of the 60's" cabinet (anodized aluminum trim and tapered tubular chromium steel legs)...

Oh yeah, on the left is an Uncle Sam strength-tester (possibly made by Caille Brothers, circa 1908, or maybe a reproduction).

In a later scene, River revisits the arcade with Lili and they play Whac-A-Mole (Creative Engineering, Inc., 1976). This is another anachronism. Mysteriously, I could not find any photos of the game that match this backglass and score reel type...


Towards the end of the movie, River is back from his tour of duty, it's 1966, and he walks into a themed bar called Circus, which has a Circus (Bally, 1973) , yet another pinball anachronism...


Also of note in this movie, there is a scene with a room full of antique coin-operated music machines from the late 19th century to the 1920s or 30s. There are mechanically-animated animal orchestras, a Regina Hexaphone, J.P. Seeburg Electric player piano, etc. Since the film was set and partly shot in San Francisco, perhaps these were from the Musee Mechanique?

Thanks to Ruby for spotting this one. I had seen this movie long before my pinball obsession and did not remember the arcade scenes.