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Highway 61

Year: 1991
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 110 min
Director: Bruce McDonald
Producer: Colin Brunton, Bruce McDonald
Writer: Don McKellar
Cinematographer: Miroslaw Baszak
Editor: Michael Pacek
Sound: Michael Werth
Cast: Larry Hudson, Steve Fall, Namir Khan, Johnny Askwith, Tracy Wright, Tav Falco, Hadley Obodiac, Jello Biafra, Art Bergmann, Peter Breck, Earl Pastko, Valerie Buhagiar, Don McKellar
Production Company: Shadow Shows

In 1989, Bruce McDonald’s Roadkill took Canada by storm. Its tagline was “Move or Die,” its soundtrack, in-your-face rock 'n' roll, and its style and attitude, hip and nasty. It picked up the Festival of Festival’s Toronto-City Award for excellence in Canadian feature production and served as an introduction to Highway 61.

Set along the legendary road that leads from Thunder Bay in northern Ontario to New Orleans (passing through St. Louis, Memphis and many points in between), Highway 61 is a finely tuned, high-octane road movie. Don McKellar, the aspiring serial killer from Roadkill, stars as a barber and frustrated trumpet player who has been planning to flee his small town for years and journey to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. When a kid happens to die in his backyard, he gets mixed up with a hard-ass roadie (Buhagiar), and before he knows it, he’s speeding down the blacktop with a pine coffin strapped to the roof of his Galaxie 500. To make matters more interesting, they meet somebody named Mr. Skin, an ominous and unnaturally pale figure with a thing for fresh souls.

Working, once again, with both a hilarious script and subtle performance by Don McKellar, McDonald gives Highway 61 the same exuberant energy of Roadkill, but shapes it into a slicker, totally entertaining movie. The soundtrack features the Ramones, but also Tom Jones and The Archies. There’s a cameo by hardcore rocker Jello Biafra and an outrageous sex-and-bingo scene in the Deep South that's hard to forget.

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