Martin’s Day begins in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, although the story doesn’t stay there long. The first scene takes place from inside a jail: Steckert (Richard Harris) is being interviewed by the state psychiatrist, Dr. Mennen (Lindsay Wagner). The movie then transitions to him returning to his cell and angrily punching the wall because he was denied parole. He says goodbye to his cellmate, Brewer (John Ireland), who was granted release. Steckert offers to let Brewer use his “house at the lake” and the two plan to meet there, one day. Steck stares out of the jail window to watch Brewer board a streetcar below. The next scene, that night, involves Steckert lighting himself on fire inside his cell, in order to be taken to the hospital – the beginnings of his escape plan.
Let’s go to Canada!
That old, beautiful jail would be the easiest location from the movie to hunt down, for obvious reasons. It was a giant, historic, and very special building in Toronto that many would recognize easily – a far cry from the back roads, residential homes and tiny, nondescript shacks and buildings that appear later on in the movie that I’d have a tough time even beginning to search for. This one was a softball.
I am such a fan of Martin’s Day, I actually took a physical trip to Ontario in July 2005. It was my very trip to Canada, with the sole purpose of visiting some of the Martin’s Day filming locations. I arrived into Toronto not even knowing the name and location of the building…I simply stopped a cop on the street and showed him a clip of the jail, playing the scene on my portable DVD player. He recognized it immediately and gave me directions. I was just a few blocks away!
When I arrived I was left breathless…that was it: the jail from Martin’s Day! It looked exactly like big stone building in the movie I had seen a hundred times! I must have spent a half hour just taking pictures. It was so neat! The proper name of the facility is Don Jail and it had actually been closed since 1977. There was a new facility (wing) right next door.
I approached some officers and tried bribing my way into the old building, begging one of the guards to let me take a look inside, but it was a no go. Oh well, at least I’d found it!
Check out my photos of Don Jail in the slideshow below:
Attention to Detail
I was also extremely interested in what had changed (physically) over the years, and what has stayed the same…specifically, what had stood the test of time at these filming locations? For example, the scene at the jail where Steckert peers out the window to see Brewer boarding the street car: What exactly on this street had remained the same…and what had changed? Would the burger joint still be there? I admit, this is all super nerdy and over-the-borderline obsessive. But it’s also fun. So I took a walk down to the exact location where Brewer boarded the streetcar, to compare Gerrard Street East 1984 to 2005. A lot sure had changed, to the point it was almost unrecognizable. Check out the photo gallery here:
As you can see from the photo album above, the neighborhood looked completely different in 2005. What was a hamburger diner during the movie filming in 1984, was a coffee shop during my visit in 2005, and today, a Tim Horton’s. I wonder how many different restaurants and shops have lived on this lot since Martin’s Day. And why am I so obsessed with all of this?!
Don Jail Today
While doing my research for this new Martin’s Day website, I was elated to discover that they now offer self-guided tours of the old jail. So cool! Looks like a trip back to Toronto is in order soon! Here’s a very interesting video detailing the history of Don Jail:
Another fun fact about the jail where Martin Steckert was held: It was the same jail used for this famous scene in the 1988 blockbuster Cocktail with Tom Cruise!
We also were able to locate another downtown scene from the movie that day–not as cool as the jail, but a smaller scene–a plaza Dr. Mennen passes while in a street car. Not a huge deal, but still a part of the movie that was neat to see in person.
Finally, here are the scenes from Martin Day’s at Don Jail:
See more about Don Jail here: