Skip Tracer

Presented by the Lost Dominion Screening Collective.

Skip Tracer is a free-wheeling private detective story set on the mean streets of Vancouver in the late 1970s, with the twist that the detective is a loan agency’s debt collector hunting down ‘skips’ who have stopped repaying their loans.

David Petersen in Skip TracerThe film stars David Petersen (The Grey Fox) as John Collins, a collector trying to regain his status as his agency’s ‘Man of the Year’ while reluctantly mentoring a young protegé in the business. Propelled by Petersen’s wry performance, the film plays like a post-hippie critique of capitalism and ‘The Man’, mixing together elements of social satire and film noir. The lighter comic touches help to highlight the harsh realities of people living beyond their means in a ruthlessly monetized society, where the bonds of debt tie together debtor and creditor in a precarious dance of ambition, greed and (largely masculine) pride and shame. 

Skip Tracer was the feature film debut of director Zale Dalen, who went on to a long career in Canadian television. The film played at the Toronto International Film Festival and in major cities around the world, but since then it has suffered from haphazard distribution and has mainly been kept alive as a cult favourite on VHS (often under the alternate title Deadly Business), at 16mm screenings, and with rare tv appearances.  Better known in England and Germany than in Canada, it has recently been rediscovered by Canadian audiences. 

In cooperation with Zale Dalen and Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa’s Lost Dominion Screening Collective has procured a brand new 4K digital transfer from the 35mm preservation master print held in LAC’s film collection. This will be the best print of the film screened since its 1977 debut, and the audience at the ByTowne Cinema will get to see it first. It will be a great chance to see an under-appreciated West Coast cinematic gem.

– Lost Dominion Screening Collective

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