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Scarecrow on Seattle: TOAST WITH THE GODS

In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with the Seattle Office of Film + Music to bring you reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest with an emphasis on how these films showcase the region's many filmable locations.

Toast with the Gods (1995)

I have a theory about the inspiration for this bizarre stoner comedy and here it is: the film's screenwriter, Eric Magun, was overindulging himself at the 1994 Hempfest and had to take a nap on Gas Works Park's grassy knoll. He shielded himself from the sun by placing a copy of Homer's The Odyssey on his face, then fell into a marijuana-induced slumber with dreams accompanied by some of the bands, most notably 7 Year Bitch and El Steiner, that performed that year. After his siesta, Magun awoke with a revelation-an update of the Greek epic poem with a mid-nineties, peak-grunge Seattle bent that incorporates drugs, rock and roll, modern primitives, fetish wear, strip clubs, gangsters, and lots of local color. The plot of The Odyssey is used as a rough framework with some significant changes. The story's protagonist, Odysseus, is no longer a weary soldier making his journey home. Now he is a groovy pot dealer named Toast who, nevertheless, still encounters beings like The Sirens and a Cyclops, but they are all given a funky modern twist. For example, the Cyclops is now a disco-loving weirdie with an eye-patch. Homer purists will be upset, and everyone may be tested by the film's more tedious moments. But Toast also offers a vivid snapshot of the twilight of "weird" Seattle as it balanced precariously on the dotcom bubble.

Whether or not you care for the movie's structure, acting, or directing, there is no denying the plethora of Seattle delights. The film begins with a neon font that offers viewers a "Welcome to The Emerald City" and the story quickly unfolds as a hazy travelogue of the era. Along his journey, our hero Toast rides the monorail, is chased all over town by a bunch of vintage VW Beetles (during this pursuit one can spot the late great Jell-O Mold Building), and is almost captured near the Fremont Troll. A group of zombies devour Taco Del Mar burritos in the back of the old Crocodile Cafe, and several events take place in The East Lake Cafe and the now defunct music club The Weathered Wall. Artis the Spoonman pulls espresso shots at the Cafe D'art and, just like at the '94 Hempfest, 7 Year Bitch and Larry Steiner (the lead singer for El Steiner) play supporting roles. Believe it or not, that's just a small sampling of the sights, sounds and smells on display. The film provided enough local charm and welcomed sights that I was able to overlook the picture's more inept qualities, and the filmmakers thank Scarecrow Video in the end credits so these dudes must be all right. In many ways, Toast With The Gods serves as a companion piece to another forgotten local product called  Shredder Orpheus that also combined classic mythology with a unique Seattle performance art vibe. Do I smell a double feature in the air?

-Spenser Hoyt

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