Gold Ninja Video: Blood From a Stone: Skip Tracer (1977) - Reviewed

Are you running late on your bills? Took out a loan that you can't pay back? Better be on the lookout for a "skip tracer" an individual who's sole paid purpose in life is to track you down and harass you until you cough up the funds. Zale R. Dalen's underrated indie film Skip Tracer (1977) follows Canadian debt collector John Collins (David Petersen) as he goes about the gritty business of finding people who are behind on their payments and scaring them into paying. 

John is so good at his job, in fact, that for the past four years he has won Man of the Year. He doesn't fuck around--he will show up at your house first thing in the morning and put up a "For Sale" sign, he will show up at your job and demand post-dated checks, or he will repossess a television while a child is still watching it. Without doing anything illegal, he will do everything in his power to make people who owe money miserable. The scary thing is that John enjoys his work.

Early on in the film, John takes Brent Solverman (John Lazarus), a new hire, under his wings, but Brent doesn't seem to possess the sociopathic ability to turn off his emotions like John does and balks at some of his methods. This juxtaposition between John and Brent's ideologies makes up a large bulk of the film and John begins to have a different perspective on his career as a result. John gets accosted on a repo job and put into the hospital, which begins his path to a redemption arc of sorts. Canada was plagued by stagflation in the '70s and people did what they had to do to survive, even if that meant taking on loans they knew they couldn't repay. John has a black-and-white attitude towards these people, but he starts to see that there is more nuance and real lives at stake.

Skip Tracer starts out pretty grounded but in the third act it starts getting off kilter as John starts getting a conscious and second thoughts. This is manifested by him having bizarre auditory hallucinations that consume him while he is trying to do his work. The sound design during these sequences is inspired and will have the audience wincing along with John. Eventually, he is faced with the morbid consequences of his constant badgering and it is here that the narrative takes a dark turn.

It is apparent that the film was made with very little money, and this occasionally peeks through with moments of muffled dialogue, iffy acting, and lackluster set-pieces (or maybe Vancouver just looks like that). David Petersen carries the entire film with his ice-cold performance and proves his range by becoming vulnerable towards the end of the film. Skip Tracer is a tale of achieving class consciousness and embracing empathy for the common man, and the destruction that capitalism can wreak on people who are just trying to eke out an existence.


*Commentary by Writer/Director Zale Dalen and The Important Cinema Club's Justin Decloux

*No Derivative Crap: An Career-Retrospective Interview with Zale Dalen 

*What The Hell is Canadian Cinema?: A Video Primer 

*DEADLY BUSINESS: The complete VHS Version of SKIP TRACER, which is presented in Open Matte. 

*BONUS FEATURE FILM: Zale Dalen's unreleased PASSION.

*Liner Notes by Justin Decloux 

--Michelle Kisner