January 26th, 2008

SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (1976) ***

Alberto De Martino has directed his share of turds in his long and varied career such as the Black Sunday rip-off The Blancheville Monster, the James Bond rip-off Operation Double 007, the Exorcist rip-off The Anti-Christ, and the Greatest American Hero rip-off The Puma Man.  Surprisingly, De Martino manages to deliver a GOOD movie this time.  Unsurprisingly, it’s another rip-off.  This flick borrows a lot from the Dirty Harry movies, except instead of Clint Eastwood, it’s Stuart (Ruby) Whitman running around Canada blowing away the scum of the Earth with a 44 Magnum. 

 

Whitman plays Tony Saitta, a Canadian cop who’s out to avenge the death of his sister.  He runs around the Great White North shaking down a bunch of Canucks and when they say things like “Your sister was a whore!” he roughs them up a bit.  He gets a line that the murderer might be a doctor (Martin Landau) who was having an affair with her and he takes along his grizzled superior (John Saxon) to hassle him.

 

Meanwhile the REAL killer is out on the town cracking transvestite’s skulls open with a lead pipe before tossing them into a junkyard car crushing machine so they come out looking like Chef Boyardee. 

 

So Tony goes to investigate the tranny’s death and runs afoul of three temperamental transvestites that don’t like to be bossed around by cops.  AND THEY KNOW KARATE!  They pull a switchblade on him, toss him through a plate glass window and damn near throw Tony off a building.  Luckily, Tony isn’t above beating the snot out of a bunch of Ed Wood wannabes and even goes as far as SHOVING A RED HOT CURLING IRON UP ONE OF THE HE-SHE’S ASSES, just to make sure they get the message. 

 

Remember that scene in Diamonds Are Forever where James Bond knocks the crap out of Bambi and Thumper?  Well imagine if it was with Stuart Whitman and the women were three fugly trannies and you’ll get the idea. 

 

It’s not a pretty picture. 

 

Tony goes crazy and beats up even MORE people before deciding he should just follow police procedure and goes to question his sister’s roommate (Tisa Farrow from Zombie).  Then he starts shaking down the midget crime boss and roughing up Gallagher look-alikes before participating in a stellar 8 minute car chase in which Tony shows TOTAL DISREGARD FOR CIVILIAN SAFETY.  Jaywalkers, motorcyclists and other cars become fodder as Tony goes up and down hills, plays REVERSE CHICKEN and jumps over a moving train before crashing and sliding several hundred feet. 

 

Tony gets out of the car without a scratch, but is STILL no closer to finding his sister’s killer.  Finally the murderer goes after Tisa a la Wait Until Dark and manages to murder her best friend (who is NOT a transvestite by the way).   

 

We learn that the killer is none other than *SPOILER WARNING* Martin Landau’s son, and the reason why he killed all those women is because *EVEN BIGGER SPOILER WARNING* he likes to have kinky threesome sex that ends in head bludgeoning and occasionally dabbles in stolen necklaces. 

 

Or something like that.  It’s pretty much one big HUH to me. 

 

Anyway, Marty Jr. goes to the hospital, threatens to kill Tisa, takes a nurse hostage, HOLDS A KNIFE TO THE THROAT OF A NEWBORN BABY in the maternity ward and escapes to the roof where he tries to make an escape in a helicopter.  Tony shows up and shoots the shit out of the copter with his .44 Magnum until we see stock footage of an unrelated copter crash signifying the death of the villain. 

 

The End. 

 

People often talk about The French Connection or Bullitt when talking car chases, and while the car chase in Shadows in an Empty Room isn’t quite in that category, it’s impressive for a low budget Canadian/Italian Dirty Harry rip-off.  I’ll admit when I saw De Martino’s name in the credits, my heart immediately sank (I mean have you SEEN Puma Man?), but this was an immensely entertaining B Movie.  De Martino actually had STYLE in this flick (more than likely thanks to his mostly Canadian crew) and there were no shortage of jaw dropping moments. 

 

What I loved about this movie is that NEVER ONCE does John Saxon chew Stuart Whitman out for his increasingly reckless behavior.  Being stripped of this cliché really frees up Stuart to be as crazy as he wants and allows the movie to be a no holds barred free for all. 

 

Even though it takes it’s sweet old time getting going, Shadows in an Empty Room is some fun.  The killer’s identity is plainly obvious from the outset, but who really cares when you get so much for your entertainment dollar?  I mean where else are you going to see Stuart Whitman shove a red hot curling iron up a transvestite’s rectum? 

 

Whitman gets some pretty classic lines in this one.  I especially enjoyed the scene where he barges in on two people playing hide the salami and says, “I don’t mean to interrupt your penetrating experience!”

 

AKA:  .44 Special.  AKA:  Blazing Magnum.  AKA:  A Special Magnum for Tony Saitta.  AKA:  Strange Shadows in an Empty Room.  AKA:  The .44 Specialist.  AKA:  Tough Tony Saitta.

THREE MEN TO KILL (1980) ½ *

 

Alain Delon stars in this pathetic Euro-crime thriller as a cool as ice poker player who helps an accident victim.  Little does Delon know that the man was marked for death, and since Delon interfered, he’s the assassins’ next target. 

 

While swimming at the beach, two hitmen try to drown Delon and NOT ONCE does the lifeguard blow the whistle on them for roughhousing in the surf.  Not logical.  Half star deduction for that. 

 

Delon survives that bout of insufferable horseplay and gets a policeman to protect him, but the hitmen shoot the cop promptly in the head.  This leads to a car chase that culminates in Delon driving through a gas station.  The hitmen try a few more times to kill Delon and keep failing miserably.  Finally the elderly crime boss sits Delon down face to face to kill him personally, but the old codger has a HEART ATTACK before he can snuff him.  The End. 

 

What?  HUH?  Talk about anticlimactic.  This has got to be the DUMBEST ending in the history of cinema.  Delon narrowly avoids being killed multiple times just to have the old fart croak on him.  ARGH! 

 

Not only does the ending completely suck, but so does the beginning and the middle for that matter.  The blood in this one looks roughly like Heinz 57 and I’m not saying that just because it contains as much blood as you would find in a ketchup package.  The tepid action scenes aren’t worth writing home about.  In fact, they’re not worth writing ANYBODY about, so forget I mentioned it. 

 

Delon makes for a pretty wimpy hero as the toughest line of dialogue he gets is “There’s no bugs in my john and no cyanide in my scotch!”  Fortunately, Dalil (Creepers) Di Lazzaro co-stars as Delon’s arm candy and gets to say some truly great stuff.  When she wakes up naked she says “My breasts are smaller in the morning!  I’m a demon for sleep!”  There’s also an annoyed doctor who gets to show off his bedside manner by saying “Great, he croaked!”  But it’s the elderly crime boss who gets the movie’s best line:  “In my next life I’d like to come back as a cat.  Even neutered, I’d have more autonomy than I do now.  You follow me?” 

 

An elderly gangster that gets reincarnated as a neutered cat.  THAT should have been the movie.  It has vastly more entertaining possibilities than this heap of dung. 

 

AKA:  Three Men to Destroy.

DOCTOR GORE (1973) **

Herschell Gordon Lewis introduces (and unofficially produced) this maddeningly uneven gore flick.  Lewis warns us upfront that we probably won’t like it, but if you’re an indiscriminate gore fan, you’ll probably want to check it out.  It’s no Frankenhooker, but it’ll do I guess. 

 

Writer/director/producer/make-up effects man Pat Patterson (billed as “America’s No. 1 magician”) stars as a chain smoking doctor who is grieving over the loss of his beloved wife.  He deals with his grief the only way he knows how:  by hypnotizing a bunch of women, cutting off their choice parts, and sewing them all together to make his “perfect mate”.  He gets the torso from a beach bunny, the hands from a girl in a nightclub, and the eyes and arms from a secretary.  (Where he gets the legs and feet from is a mystery.)  Assisting him is his red-headed mute hunchback named Greg who he bribes by promising to fix his unsightly hump.  Greg mostly is there to throw the spare body parts in the convenient acid bath and when the doctor’s new “bride” gets the hots for the deformed dumb ass, guess where old Greg ends up?  In the end, Mrs. Gore runs away to have sex with truckers while the good doctor gets thrown in jail. 

 

In his introduction, Lewis informs us that literally Patterson was a one man crew, and boy does it show.  The production values are positively awful and the “high tech” lab equipment includes aluminum foil and duct tape.  (I’m not kidding.) 

 

Things are even more erratic behind the camera.  The editing is atrocious.  Seriously, there is a scene in this movie when the doctor opens the door to a sheriff who was clearly in another state (or more likely in another movie) and Patterson actually tries to pass it off as a “scene”.  There are also whole sections of the film that were recorded silent and features Patterson doing narration of what the characters would’ve been talking about over the footage.  But the worst mistake happens near the end of the film in a jail cell where the film slate is clearly in the frame for a good five seconds before the scene even starts! 

 

Incredible. 

 

And don’t even get me started on the annoying non-stop country music. 

 

With all the incompetence, you’d think Doctor Gore would be a complete waste of time, but it certainly has it’s moments.

 

Patterson is pretty bad in the lead role, but gives the character enough odd quirks (like picking his fingernails with a scalpel) to make it worthwhile.  The gore is top notch and there’s plenty of it to go around.  Limbs get hacked off, eyeballs get plucked out and the hydrochloric acid flies fast and free.  For all of his clumsiness behind the camera, Patterson manages to pull off at least one incredible shot when we see the point of view of an organ as Patterson slowly slices through the flesh.  Had Patterson put as much panache into making the rest of the movie, there’s no telling how great Doctor Gore could’ve been.  

 

I also liked how Patterson resisted giving the hunchback a stereotypical hunchback name like Igor or something equally derogative, and chose to simply name him “Greg”.  It’s little moments of dignity like that that separates Doctor Gore from the rest of the pack. 

 

Lewis says that Patterson died shortly after making the movie (he only directed one other movie, the abysmal The Electric Chair) which isn’t surprising given the fact that he’s constantly lighting up a cigarette in nearly every scene. 

 

Future director William (The Manitou) Girdler was part of the sound crew and was responsible for the idiotic music. 

 

AKA:  The Body Shop.  AKA:  Shrieks in the Night.