Blu-ray Review: The Rainbow Boys [Canadian International Pictures] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 17th, 2024  

The Rainbow Boys

Studio: Canadian International Pictures

Jan 04, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Ralph (Donald Pleasence) is a wily old kook living on the fringes of an expansive Canadian wilderness. The promise of gold brought him to North America all the way from England: specifically, a small mine deep in the mountains, inherited from his errant father and supposedly the hiding place of more than three hundred pounds of raw gold. Alas, the journey out there is a treacherous one, and ol’ Ralph seems content to live on his father’s story alone—perhaps fearing a little bit, deep down, that he might get all the way out there and discover it had been a tall tale all along. So rather than taking his shot at living like a king, Ralph sleeps in a leaky shack where magazine pages cover holes in the walls, and pans for gold dust that he’ll trade for literal cans of beans at a local gas station. . .

This meager-yet-satisfying status quo is shaken up by the sudden arrival of Mazella (Don Calfa), a fortune-seeking New Yorker and a vagrant in his own right. Upon learning Ralph’s story, the nomad hippie proposes that they search together for the mine on his rickety, three-wheeled scooter. Recruiting the gruff, irritable Gladys (Kate Reid) for company more than anything else—she’s the only person who seems to pay Ralph any mind—they agree to split the treasure three ways, and set off into the treacherous wilds.

The lone live-action feature by Gerald Potterton (director of Heavy Metal and an animator on Yellow Submarine), The Rainbow Boys (1973) tosses its trio of oddballs—frighteningly ill-equipped—into the forest and allows the comedy to unfold. When your cast is this strong, it makes it hard to fail. Pleasence’s Ralph does most of the talking—he’s almost always talking—and he’s a wonderful character with a gentle fragility beneath all of his bluster. Kate Reid as Gladys gives the movie’s funniest performance, playing a wildly unpleasant person to be stuck in the woods with, yet with a resigned sadness buried beneath her tough hide. Don Calfa’s Mazella is particularly interesting, as well—despite his wide-eyed and earnest-sounding optimism, there’s always a simmering, dangerous feeling that he could turn on these northern yokels at any time. In all likelihood he’s harmless, but there’s always a tiny, lingering chance he could turn out to be the hitchhiker from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Watching these three bicker, reconcile, share stories, console, exasperate, and invigorate one another gives The Rainbow Boys so much of its charm. In most worlds, these three wouldn’t and shouldn’t be friends—but out here in the majestic middle of nowhere, they’re probably the only friends any of them have.

The Rainbow Boys is the latest little lost treasure unearthed north of the border by Canadian International Pictures. Available only on VHS up to this point, the movie’s been thoroughly restored—a bonus featurette compares before-and-after shots—and the HD presentation does a lot of justice to the movie’s natural landscapes. The rolling mountains and canyons of British Columbia were incredibly well-suited to Panavision.

Other bonus materials include a quartet of animated shorts collected under the title Pinter People, written by the British playwright and directed by Potterton. There is also nearly an hour-long, life-spanning interview with Potterton, who talks about everything from his childhood in Britain during wartime, through his associations with Pinter and Buster Keaton, and the current state of animation. Filmmaker Gary Smart talks about the career of his late friend, Don Calfa, for roughly half an hour, while Potterton provides a feature-length commentary alongside the film’s composer and one of its producers. Finally, there’s a hefty little booklet with new essays by the movie’s editor and from Pleasence’s biographer. It’s a very nice package for a movie that many—ourselves included—had never heard of and, like CIP’s delightful The Kid Brother last year, earns a high recommendation from us.



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