19 November 2012

The Kidnapping of the President Comes to Canada

Charles Templeton's The Kidnapping of the President was enjoying its sixth month on bestseller lists when the screen rights were sold. This was in April 1975, when $3-million, the announced budget, very nearly counted for something on the big screen. True, 'twas on the low end, but newspapers held the figure high in claiming that this would be the most expensive Canadian film ever made.

Shooting didn't begin until the autumn of 1979, by which time the budget had risen by fifty percent. But even $4.5 million didn't buy much. The film features no rally in New York's Herald Square, there are no shots of a Brink's trunk racing up Broadway, nor is there a stand-off witnessed by tens of thousands in Times Square. Instead the kidnapping takes place in Toronto, with a "Bank's" truck moving at a jogger's pace from one end of Nathan Phillips Square to the other.

You can see all forty-seconds of the chase in this YouTube snippet:


I fall in line with most critics in finding Miguel Fernandes' performance strong and Hal Holbrook's steady. Canadian science fiction novelist William Shatner, fresh off the set of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, seems unusually restrained. Van Johnson and poor Ava Gardner contribute kitch as the Vice-President and his wife, but what really attracted my attention was Aubert Pallascio as "the Prime Minister"...

... a character clearly modelled on this man:

The fun continues with unknown Virginia Podesser as "the Prime Minister's wife". An old Canadian Press story reports on her trials:
Strangers in the street demand her autograph. Photographers hound her in clubs and restaurants. Stewardesses stare at her on flights.
     And occasionally, some particularly aggressive fan refuses to believe her assertion that she is not Margaret Trudeau.
     She's not.
     Virginia Podessar [sic], a Toronto model, just looks remarkably like her.
And she did. The accompanying photograph – which captures the uncanny resemblance – comes complete with a Ripley's Believe It or Not-style caption:

The Regina Leader-Post, 15 September 1979
The Kidnapping of the President turned out to be Ms Podesser's only film.

Director George Mendeluk's next two movies were Doin' Time and Meatballs III.

Related post:


  1. You keep this up and you're going to make me watch a movie I have no interest in watching!

    Knuckles G.

    1. You mean I haven't already?

      Okay, how about this: Nash the Slash contributed to the soundtrack.