It is the Second World War years, and in this small Canadian town the Army provides the population with most of the work, as there is a prisoner of war camp there which sees men like Jim Dougall (Donald Pleasence) overseeing a few thousand inmates with barely disguised contempt. Jim has a home life, of course, as he stays with his wife Mary (Doris Petrie) and teenage daughter Jeannie, a proudly Scottish bunch of ex-patriates who like to go out drinking of an evening, maybe get into a fight or two. Well, Jeannie doesn't, she’s a timid mouse of a girl, but her brother Jimmie (Paul Bradley) does, back from the war with a gift of a brooch for her and his army buddy Billy (Doug McGrath) in tow...
Director William Fruet already had form in Canadian cinema, for the film he had scripted before this was Goin' Down the Road, possibly the most Canadian movie ever made and one naturally sent up on SCTV at some point. They would not have sent up Wedding in White, however, as it was one of the bleakest little dramas imaginable, full of people damaging one another in ways they barely understood since they were not able to grasp the extent of the emotional and psychological harm they were inflicting on those around them. Chief victim in this, for she is marked out early as one of life's eternal victims, was Jeannie, whose limited hope for happiness was thwarted at every turn.
Fruet obviously knew what he was conveying here in all its vivid milieu, as he sought to take down the patriarchal nature of Canadian society, and by extension all societies across the globe, as the force for women's rights became a movement of growing importance. Jeannie is barely a woman anyway, she is more like a little girl and easily led by her supposed betters who have no real idea of how to deal with their own feelings, never mind hers, so when Billy, who has been given a place to stay temporarily by Jim, creeps into her room one night and rapes her, seemingly because he's too stupid to think of any alternative or any kind of common decency, the act has terrible consequences.
There was an overall crushing sense of the characters hamstrung by this sort of idiocy, they're not even particularly evil, simply too dense to realise that a little kindness every day will make life far easier than taking out their frustrations on one another with what frequently are the least appropriate methods possible. Billy doesn't hang around - we never hear of him receiving any comeuppance - but the aftereffects of his actions certainly do as Jeannie is now pregnant, which according to her family is nobody's fault but her own. That's right, they blame the girl for being woken up in the middle of the night with Billy grunting on top of her and not being strong enough to throw him off: the nasty, brutish nature of how this is filmed leaves us in no doubt there's nothing the terrified girl could have done.
The reactions are similarly awful: trying to reach out to her vain, airhead best friend (Bonnie Carol Chase) gets the response of anger that Jeannie had some bastardisation of a sexual relationship before she did. Her father is far worse, threatening to banish Jeannie and never thinking of punishing Billy, and her mother is all that stands in the way of that, though she similarly detests her daughter for compromising their position in the community. The solution they conjure up was one of the most suffocating developments in nineteen-seventies drama, and with Kane at her most vulnerable, which was saying something when she was not performing in comedy, the final sequences were horribly haunting (was it appropriate that Fruet had so many horrors in his future in movies and television?), with a punchline that was among the most disturbing in its implications of any era. Some find humour in these idiots' lives, but mostly they were so corrosive in their misguided ideas of how to behave you would be thankful the world has moved on, not everywhere, but in plenty of places that now know better. Music by Milan Kymlicka.
Canadian director of low-budget horror and thrillers. Best known for the 1976 revenge shocker Death Weekend, Search and Destroy, Spasms with Oliver Reed and the voyeuristic thriller Bedroom Eyes. Has mostly worked in TV since the mid-80s, on shows like Friday the 13th and Poltergeist: The Legacy.