Not Your Normal Trip
Canada was only my sixth country–a long, long time ago, and over a decade before I started keeping this online journal of my travels…nonetheless, an absolutely epic trip; a trip with a purpose. As crazy as this sounds, I traveled all the way to Canada with the sole purpose of visiting the filming locations from my favorite movie of all time. If there was ever any question, I guess it’s now official…I am indeed a huge nerd.
The movie is called Martin’s Day, and yes, I am aware that you’ve never heard of it. No one has. Despite its cast of very notable actors (Richard Harris, Lindsay Wagner, James Coburn, etc.), this movie barely saw the light of day. In fact, I’m not sure it even made it to the big screen at all; all my research tells me that Martin’s Day went straight to video. The point is, I’m obsessed with ultra-rare, 1980s film that no one else has seen, much less even heard of. And what’s even more disturbing, is that I adore this movie so much, I decided to take a trip to Canada to visit the very spots that the movie was filmed.
Did I mention that I own the unofficial “tribute” website for the movie? Yup. www.martinsday.com. You can visit the website if you want to know more about the film. I’ll spare you the details here, except for maybe just the movie’s plot line:
In this most imaginative and unpredictable adventure, Richard Harris and Justin Henry develop a friendship under the most unusual circumstances. Martin’s Day, cleverly directed and highly entertaining, is full of delightful surprises. After he feels he is unjustly rejected for parole, inmate Martin Steckert (Harris) sets himself on fire and masterminds his escape from prison. After he has successfully escaped, he kidnaps a young boy (Henry) and returns to the lakeside hideaway of his own childhood. There he reveals himself to be a rather imaginative and impulsive fellow, singing and dancing one moment, smashing through a house in a police car the next. Lindsay Wagner plays a psychiatrist who explains some of the unique qualities Martin possesses, and James Coburn is the police lieutenant who makes it a personal quest to get Martin back to jail. This nutty, off beat adventure was filmed in the beautiful locale of Ontario, Canada. It’s a fast-paced trip through the imagination with two totally different characters who ultimately find that they may have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of the world.
So yeah, it’s safe to say that I hold an unhealthy obsession with this film. I’ve watched it over a hundred times, and what’s even more concerning, is that I will pause the movie in order to study every single frame, in the hopes of finding clues to exactly where each scene was filmed. I reached out to the people in the movie’s credits, as well as the Ontario Film Commission, to find out exactly where Martin’s Day was filmed. Through some very tedious detective work, I was even able to track down the film’s producer and talk to him on the phone; you would have thought I met Elvis. I’m sure he thought I was a weirdo. I’ll save the rest of these nerdy movie details for the Martin’s Day website. For now, on with the trip!
As I mentioned, some of the details from this 2005 trip are blurry. This was long before I started travel-writing; before I’d even found my love of travel. Luckily, I did snap a few photos.
The journey would begin in Buffalo, New York. How could I resist those famous Buffalo Wings! I couldn’t, so it was over to Anchor Bar to get some! Next, it was over the border to make a visit to Niagara Falls. These were both fun stops, but my heart was racing to get to Martin’s Day territory.
The most recognizable location in the entire film was the jail that Martin Steckert (played by Richard Harris) was housed in. Though the location wasn’t mentioned in the credits, all I had to do was show a police officer on the street a still from the movie, and he directed me right to it: Don Jail. It was such a big and beautiful old monstrosity. I approached the doors and asked to come in, but was turned away. Built in 1864, the property reopened in 2013 to serve as the administrative wing of a rehabilitation hospital located next door. Today, part of the jail is preserved by the Ontario Heritage Trust and even open for visitors to take self-guided tours…I have to come back for this!!!
Nerd-O-Meter: Level 10!
You may wonder why there is a picture of me standing next to a light post, or getting onto a streetcar. As geeky as this sounds, I was posing with “things” that appeared in Martin’s Day. For example, when Richard Harris watched his cell-mate, Brewer, leave the jail after being granted parole, John Ireland (Brewer) passes this very concrete post to step aboard a red-street car. Sooooooooo…I did too. I told you I was obsessed.
North on 400
We had a nice drive, North, towards Lake Joseph. I rolled through the tiny town of Orrville–a name mentioned in the movie–but I didn’t recognize anything from the film. By some miracle, my girlfriend did spot Hekkla Road, which was the only street sign visible in the film. She screamed as we passed it, “Hekklaaaaaaa!!!” I totally would have missed it if I was on my own. Again, Nerd-Patrol here; we stopped and I marveled at the sign like weirdos (well really, I was the only one that was “marveling!”) When we finally arrived into The Muskoka Lakes area, where the lake was located, we stopped at Clevelands House. The lodge didn’t appear in Martin’s Day, however it was the property used to lodge the cast and crew; so just knowing that Richard Harris and Justin Henry had been there was cool enough for me make a stop.
It Was Just Me…and The Loons
I remember having rainy weather the first couple of days at Lake Joseph, thwarting any chances to get out on the lake. Luckily on the last day, it was sunshine, sweet sunshine; as we rushed to the docks to rent our boat and get out on the water. We spent the whole day cruising around Lake Joe, enjoying the water and the woods, and looking for the spot where the lake scenes were filmed.
That’s All Folks
Yeah, that’s it. I know, weird trip, right? I warned you. Now that I’ve picked up this new found love of traveling, I will definitely be back to Canada…number one, because it’s so close. And number two, to see more stuff from Martin’s Day. I’ve been able to track down a ton more stuff from the movie over the past ten years, thanks to Facebook.