Strange Brew

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Strange Brew
Strange Brew (theatrical poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Solie
Directed byRick Moranis
Dave Thomas
Produced byLouis M. Silverstein
Written byRick Moranis
Dave Thomas
Steve De Jarnatt
Music byCharles Fox
CinematographySteven Poster
Edited byPatrick McMahon
Graham "The Tank" Williams
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Release date
  • August 26, 1983 (1983-08-26)
Running time
90 minutes
Budget$4 million
Box office$8.5 million

Strange Brew (also known as The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew) is a 1983 Canadian comedy film starring the popular SCTV characters Bob and Doug McKenzie, portrayed by Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis, who also served as co-directors. Co-stars include Max von Sydow, Paul Dooley, Lynne Griffin and Angus MacInnes.

Loosely based on elements of Shakespeare's Hamlet, most of the film was shot in Toronto, Scarborough, Kitchener, and Hamilton, Ontario. Parts were also filmed in Prince George, British Columbia.


Two unemployed brothers, Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), place a live mouse in a beer bottle in an attempt to blackmail the local beer store into giving them free Elsinore beer, but are told to take up the matter with management at the Elsinore brewery. The brothers are given jobs on the bottling line inspecting for mice in the bottles.

Meanwhile, the evil Brewmeister Smith (Max von Sydow) is perfecting a secret plan to take over the world by placing a mind-control drug in Elsinore beer which, while rendering the consumer docile, also makes him or her attack others when certain musical tones are played. Smith tests this adulterated beer on patients of the neighbouring Royal Canadian Institute for the Mentally Insane, which is connected to the brewery by underground tunnels.

Bob and Doug learn that the brewery's former owner, John Elsinore, has recently died under mysterious circumstances and his daughter Pam (Lynne Griffin) has been given full control of the Elsinore brewery. While exploring the massive brewery, they find a shuttered cafeteria containing an old Galactic Border Patrol video game which supernaturally reveals that Brewmeister Smith murdered John Elsinore and that Pam's bumbling Uncle Claude (Paul Dooley) was deeply involved. Also, Bob recognizes a brewery employee as one-time hockey great Jean "Rosie" LeRose (Angus MacInnes), who suffered a career-ending nervous breakdown and has fallen under Smith's control.

Eventually, Bob and Doug wander into the Brewmeister's operations room while he is away and Doug takes a floppy disk containing a video of John Elsinore's murder (thinking it is a "new wave EP" and not realizing the importance of its contents). Smith and Claude tranquilize the brothers and arrange to frame them for murder, concealing Pam and her father's friend, Henry Green, in beer kegs in the back of their sabotaged van, and instruct the brothers to deliver the kegs to a party. Unable to stop, the brothers crash the van into Lake Ontario. All survive (Pam with apparent memory loss), and the brothers are arrested.

The brothers' antics at their trial cause the judge to declare them insane and put them under Brewmeister Smith's care at the asylum. Rosie soon finds them and helps them escape, and they find and rescue Pam. Having figured out Brewmeister's plan, Rosie foments an uprising among the brainwashed mental-patient test subjects. The brothers separate for the first time in their lives; Doug helps Rosie overpower Brewmeister Smith and the spirit of John Elsinore, possessing the brewery's electrical system, fatally strikes him with lightning. Meanwhile, Smith has locked Pam and Bob in a brewery tank and is filling it with beer; they escape this possible death when Bob consumes all the beer, expanding to a cartoonish size.

John Elsinore's ghost warns them that Smith has already shipped tainted beer to Oktoberfest and urges them to stop them. The police accompany the brothers back to their house to retrieve their dog, Hosehead, to invade the party. Enticed by promises of free beer and sausages, Hosehead leaps into the air and flies over the city like Superman. He crashes into the tent at the celebration and, mistaken for a skunk, frightens people away from the tainted beer. In the end, the McKenzie Brothers save the day and Pam and Rosie find in each other true love. As for the contaminated beer, Bob and Doug are allowed to haul away the lot, apparently to try to drink it all.



In 1981, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas recorded a Bob and Doug McKenzie comedy album, The Great White North, which sold a million copies.[1] Based on this success, they thought about parlaying that into a feature film.[2] After fellow SCTV cast member John Candy got an offer from Universal Pictures to do a film called Going Berserk, Moranis and Thomas started talking about writing a screenplay for a Bob and Doug film. Andrew Alexander, executive producer for SCTV, reminded them that he had exclusive contracts with the two men and if they wrote a script he would sue them.[2] Moranis and Thomas soon found themselves faced with the challenge of expanding their improvisations on SCTV from "two guys talking about how hard it was to get parking spaces in donut shops to a full-length story", Thomas said in an interview.[1]

They hired Steve De Jarnatt to write the first draft.[2] Initially, Thomas told De Jarnatt that he wanted to base the film's story on Hamlet but he ended up being too faithful to the play and was told be more creative with the parallels to it. Moranis and Thomas' agents sent the script to various Hollywood studios and a few days later they had a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based not on the script but on record sales, "the breakout potential, and the fact that it was being advertised on a television show", Thomas remembers.[2] They were unhappy with the script because Bob and Doug were improvised characters done in their "comic voices" and they felt that nobody but themselves could write for these characters.[2] Thomas began rewriting the script without Moranis who was now uncertain about doing the film. After working on the first 50 pages, Moranis took a look at what Thomas had done and they worked together rewriting it. However, they were not sure just how much they could legally change and did most of the changes in the first third of the script, including the addition of Bob and Doug's science fiction film, Mutants of 2051 A.D., Bob and Doug watching it in a movie theater, and causing a riot. Thomas remembers that the script was "far more bizarre and conceptual in the beginning ... if we had been able to rewrite the whole thing, we would have made the whole thing like that".[2]

Originally, Moranis and Thomas were not going to direct or write the film but ended up doing both with the guidance of executive producer Jack Grossberg, who had produced films by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. They were subsequently given a budget of $5 million.[1] Before filming, all of the major breweries wanted the McKenzie brothers to appear in beer advertisements. The filmmakers had the promise of Molson's Brewery, but once the brewery found out that there was a joke in the film about putting a mouse in a beer bottle so that a complaint can be made in order to get free beer, they distanced themselves from the film. The filmmakers were also banned from filming in a Brewers Retail store, and from using the name "Brewers Retail". The exterior shots of the store (now a Tim Hortons/Pizza Pizza) were shot in Scarborough, Ontario, at the corner of Eglinton and Midland Avenues. The KFC and Petro-Canada gas station seen in the background still exist. They ended up building a replica of the store at a cost of more than $45,000, and calling it "The Beer Store". Brewers Retail later changed the name of its stores to "The Beer Store", and they continue to operate under that name. Filming also took place at the Old Fort Brewing Co. in Prince George, British Columbia.[1] The emergency vehicles used during filming were all real Metropolitan Toronto Police squad cars. The Ambulances used briefly were on loan from Metropolitan Toronto Ambulance.


Strange Brew currently holds a 74% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Anyone who's partial to the McKenzies' humor doubtless has a fondness for beer. The price of a ticket could buy enough beer for an experience at least as memorable as this one".[4] Gary Arnold, in his review for The Washington Post, wrote, "Neither triumph nor fiasco, Strange Brew leaves plenty of room for improvement, but I hope Thomas and Moranis get the chance to demonstrate that they've learned a lot from the mixed assortment of nuttiness in their first movie comedy".[5] In his review for The Globe and Mail, Jay Scott wrote, "What's terrific about the McKenzie Brothers is their offhand depiction of two English-Canadian working-class dimwits ... and what's terrific about the movie is its equally offhand surrealism".[6]

Soundtrack album[edit]

The soundtrack album was released in August 1983 by PolyGram and Anthem Records of Canada (ANR 1-1042). (Full title: The Adventures of Bob and Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew - Excerpts from the Original Soundtrack). Unlike most soundtrack tie-ins, the album featured continuing comedy sketches by the duo. Most of the album was sketches and film dialogue, while the music sampling was usually accompanied by the characters' commentary. The main title theme was performed by Thomas' brother, Ian Thomas. The album was produced by Marc Giacomelli, Rick Shurman and Ian Thomas. The soundtrack won the Juno Award (Canadian-style Grammy) for Best Comedy Album in 1984. Bob and Doug accepted the award in person at the awards ceremony, held 5 December 1984, which also happened to be hosted by Joe Flaherty and SCTV alum Andrea Martin. The album was only available for a short amount of time and currently remains out of print. This was the last album released by the duo.[7][8][9]

Motion picture score[edit]

As with the soundtrack album, the motion picture score was released for a short amount of time and remains out of print. The album runs approximately 63 minutes in length and was composed and conducted by Charles Fox.[10]


To promote the film, a beer-shaped paperback book was released in 1983. Its full title read; The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie in Strange Brew: The Book About the Movie About the TV Show About the men! The book featured pictures of the characters, stills from Strange Brew, comics, puzzles, and much of the characters' humor throughout. The book also came with a built-in library card with numerous Canadian celebrities' names on it, having "checked it out". Being only available for a short time, the book is currently out of print.[11][12]


A sequel to the film, entitled Home Brew, was planned for production in 1999 when financing fell through at the last minute. Co-written by Dave Thomas and Paul Flaherty, Flaherty was also going to direct, and Dan Aykroyd was on board to play the part of friend Rick Ripple. Principal photography was to begin on July 19, 1999 in Toronto. At one point, Todd McFarlane was to step in as executive producer to revive financing for the film, but never followed through.[13]

The plot, according to a Maple Palm (Dave Thomas' production company) release, would feature Bob and Doug, now working as garbage men, being convinced by a fast talking insurance salesman (Aykroyd) to get into the microbrewing business.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Godfrey, Stephen (August 26, 1983). "Hoser Brothers Hope Beer Film will Take Off, Eh?". The Globe and Mail.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Plume, Kenneth (February 10, 2000). "Interview with Dave Thomas". IGN. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
  3. ^ "Strange Brew". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 26, 1983). "Men in Quest of Beer". The New York Times. p. 8.
  5. ^ Arnold, Gary (August 30, 1983). "Silly, Promising Brew From the Great White North". Washington Post. pp. B4.
  6. ^ Scott, Jay (August 27, 1983). "Hosers brew up a batch of real big-screen fun, eh". The Globe and Mail.
  7. ^ "Strange Brew: Music". 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  8. ^ "Albums". Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  9. ^ "Strange Brew Soundtrack and Movie Music - The 80s Movies Rewind". Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  10. ^ "Strange Brew: Complete Motion Picture Score: Music". Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  11. ^ "Adventures of Bob + Doug McKenzie in Strange Brew: The Book About the Movie About the TV Show About the men!: 9780458966202: Books". Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  12. ^ "Pop Rewind — Strange Brew Book". Archived from the original on 2013-02-02. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  13. ^ "BobNET: Dave Thomas Interview". 2000-05-17. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  14. ^ "SCTV Guide - After SCTV - Bob and Doug McKenzie". Retrieved 2013-10-05.

External links[edit]