Every Thursday night on MGM HD, celebrate the golden era of the video store with “VHS TV,” a weekly double-feature of movies pulled from the shelves of the MGM library. Anyone who ever prowled the aisles of a video store, during its heyday between 1977 – 2006, eventually had to confront a common problem: what to do when the movie you came to rent was already picked out by someone else. You made the trip all the way to the store. You still needed something to put in the VCR when you returned home. There was nothing to do but to slow march, up and down amongst the shelves, head tilted to one side, reading the spines for a title that might jump out. The adage “don’t judge a book by its cover,” went out the window because sometimes you had nothing else to go on but the key art on the box and the copy printed on the back.
But every once in a while, that search would yield a hidden gem like the independent Canadian film, “My American Cousin” (1985), featured this month on MGM HD. No stars, no actors you had heard of, just an enticing cover and an awards pedigree. The box art featured a James Dean-looking young man at the wheel of a bright red 1950’s era convertible. That driver was the titular American cousin, Butch Walker (John Wildman) who steers his Cadillac to rural British Columbia all the way up from California to disrupt the life of 12-year-old Sandy Wilcox (Margaret Langrick) during the summer of 1959. A coming-of-age story, based on the memories of writer-director Sandy Wilson, “My American Cousin” is a character study about a couple of dreamers in search of escape from the confines of their lives.
We meet Sandy, bristling under the rules of her provincial parents and scrawling the words “Nothing ever happens” in her diary. When Butch arrives unannounced in the dead of night, he brings the promise of excitement and teen rebellion. But, as the story develops, we learn that Butch has problems of his own and yearnings that aren’t that different from Sandy’s. “My American Cousin” is a sweet and meandering movie with scenes that unfold with the easy pace of a summer afternoon or a long-forgotten memory. Period detail is lovingly recreated without descending into kitsch. And, as the copy on the back of the box might have proclaimed, “My American Cousin” won six Genie Awards (the Canadian equivalent to the Academy Awards®) including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Film Editing.
So, no need for a trip to the video store, let us help you make your choice by suggesting “My American Cousin” on Thursday, May 27th for an unexpected detour to a more innocent time.
Check out “VHS TV” every Thursday night at Midnight Eastern, 9p Pacific – no rewinding necessary – only on MGM HD.