In addition to maple syrup and softwood lumber, one of Canada’s greatest exports is whimsical short films and documentaries by the National Film Board (NFB). Now that these are easily viewed on the internet I’ve revisited some of my favourites.
The late great film director Bill Mason is best known for his nature documentaries and canoe instructionals, but in 1968 he shot a 20 minute short about one of his friends, Blake James which includes a number of CC worthy vehicles.
First off is Blake’s terrible VW. The low mounted front turn signals and oval rear window indentify it as a 1954-1957 model.
I get a kick out of this scene at 1:30 where he gets in, on my VW the vent wing lock is busted just like that, and I had to push the window trim up until I put a blob of silicone sealant on it. Batwing steering wheel and bright trim around the window exteriors tell me this is the deluxe export model. Maybe some VW experts can nail the year of this car down from the dash details?
I’m not sure if the red sheet metal patches are for dramatic effect or to cover up some hideous rust or collision damage. Looks like this VW was hit in the back, which may have ripped the bumper brackets through the fenders.
In this parking lot scene we see several mid 60’s VWs, an Austin 1100, a 1968 Mustang and a 1966 Valiant. Is that a Simca 1000 up there to the left and a 1966 Pontiac on the far right? Note also the 1968 Quebec plate, they had year specific license plates up to 1978.
Next there’s a Montreal traffic scene. In the film they talk about “jammed cities and jammed roads“, but take a look and you will see the cars actually moving. Montreal traffic has only gotten exponentially worse in the last 50 years, today’s commuters would likely find 1969 traffic quaint.
If you look close you can see the Expo 67 licence plate on the front of the VW, that was a very big deal in Canada the year I was born. I see a 1966 Newport back there, and a 1964 Mercury with breezeway window goes by later on. Who can identify the bus?
During Blake’s ill-advised trip to the Montreal airport we see some interesting Air Canada flying stock, starting with a shot of this DC-8 landing at 8:48. AC used the DC-8 for a long time, retiring their last from freight service in 1994. I like their 1960’s livery, the flat black nose looks very business-like.
During his departure Blake taxiis out behind a four engined turboprop I didn’t recognize.
It’s a Vickers Vanguard, I’d thought it was a Viscount until Daniel M corrected me below. That’s a rare bird, only 44 were built and 23 of them went to Air Canada and it’s predecessor Trans Canada Airlines. No wonder I don’t remember these, AC retired them all by 1972 and I didn’t make my first trip to a major airport until 1977 when our family flew to the Netherlands on a CP 747.
Finally there is Blake’s biplane, which is a home-built MacGregor MG65 . This particular aircraft disappeared for many years but was found in the US on Ebay, and restored at the Canadian Bush Plane Musuem in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.
Blake was reunited with his old mount in 2016, he is retired but had a full career in animation and film production. Bill Mason died of cancer in 1988, another of my heroes I never got to meet. Who knows what happened to the blue VW, I’ll bet it was gone before the film was even released. Too bad, it would have been a desireable classic now.
The NFB still exists, unlike so much of today’s ratings and profit driven media it offers a window into a simpler time, when a goverment agency helped film makers develop their craft and tell our nation’s stories.