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February 28th, 2017

MR. NO LEGS (1979) ** ½

D’Angelo (Lloyd Bochner) is a ruthless kingpin that rules the drug trade in Florida with an iron fist. He uses Lou (Ted Vollrath), a tough, wheelchair-bound enforcer for muscle. Lou doesn’t have legs, but he does have a gadget-filled wheelchair that would make 007 envious. Ken (Luke Halpin from Shock Waves) is one of his underlings. When his girlfriend finds out he’s been dealing, he kills her. Lou makes it look like a drug overdose by giving her corpse an injection before killing Ken. Two cops (Richard Jaeckel and Ron Slinker) investigate her murder and decide to bring down D’Angelo’s organization once and for all.

Not only does Mr. No Legs have the allure of seeing the world’s first double-amputee black belt, Ted Vollrath, it’s also worth checking out just because it was directed by Ricou Browning. That’s right, The Creature from the Black Lagoon stayed on dry land just long enough to make himself a low budget action movie. Something tells me he would’ve done better staying underwater. (He also directed episodes of Flipper, which also starred Halpin.)

Mr. No Legs feels cheap in just about every way. Even with big name stars like Richard Jaeckel, John Agar (also in Return of the Creature), and Rance Howard, it still feels like a homegrown low budget action movie. Imagine if William Grefe directed a warped episode of Dragnet and that might give you an idea of what to expect.

The character of Lou is pretty cool. His wheelchair has shotguns hidden in its armrests and compartments that store Ninja stars. The problem is he's not in it nearly enough. It’s mostly about Jaeckel’s investigation, and has less to do with Mr. No Legs running rampant (sorry, bad choice of words). Jaeckel is quite good, but even he can’t carry the entire film.

Despite an erratic pace and being burdened with some unnecessary subplots, Mr. No Legs does occasionally spark to life. There’s a great barroom brawl scene that includes transvestites, cat fights, midgets, and Kung Fu. I also dug the scene in which Slinker goes toe to toe with a sword-slinging henchman.

The movie really belongs to Vollrath who proves he can be just as deadly out of his wheelchair. The scene in which he fights someone and hits them in the face with his... uh... nether regions is a sight to behold. Whenever Vollrath's front and center, the flick is enjoyable in a Crippled Masters meets Miami Connection kind of way. It’s just a shame that the scenes without him are nowhere near as entertaining.

Browning’s staging is just on this side of competent. If he was any worse, Mr. No Legs might have skated by on pure camp alone. As it is, there are a few So-Bad-It’s-Good moments, yet there aren’t enough of them to make it a Grade Z classic. Old pros like Jaeckel and Agar lend the film a touch of class, but the non-professionals in the cast are often good for a laugh. (I admit I cracked up when Slinker’s foreign girlfriend said, “No mo' clock an' daggah stuff!")

Browning does do a good job during the final car chase sequence. Sure, it runs on a bit too long and could’ve benefitted from tighter editing. Still, it features cars jumping bridges, and going through trailers, cardboard boxes, and giant blocks of ice (a cinema first, I believe). So it's got that going for it, I guess.

AKA: Destructor. AKA: The Amazing Mr. No Legs. AKA: Gun Fighter.

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RETRIBUTION (1987) *

Dennis Lipscomb stars as a meek artist who tries to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of his apartment building. The paramedics are able to bring him back to life and he awakens possessed by the soul of a killer. He also discovers he has odd psychic powers as he makes people's nose bleed, causes coffee cups to spill, and instigates a bus crash. When Lipscomb is asleep, the killer takes over his body and sends him out to get revenge on the people who killed him.

In one scene, he causes a woman to cut her guts out. In another, he telepathically puts a guy in side of beef and sends through a meat slicer. Finally, he forces a mechanic to blowtorch his own hand off before squishing his face with a cherry picker.

There’s an OK idea for a movie in there. Somewhere. Maybe. The big thing is the running time. It’s 107 minutes long. Cut about a half hour of fat away from the picture and you might have something. (The meeting with the Rastafarian voodoo priest could’ve been chucked and no one would’ve noticed.) Then again, you’d still be stuck with Lipscomb’s terrible performance, so probably not. At least it might’ve helped with the leaden pacing.

Director Guy (The Stepfather 3) Magar does offer up a solid opening scene as people in Halloween masks stand around gawking while Lipscomb jumps off the roof. There is almost no dialogue during this sequence, and on its own, might’ve made for an interesting short film. However, the rest of the film is clunky, cheesy, and dull.

Lipscomb is a total wienie in this movie. When he’s not an annoying nerd, he tries to act scary while possessed. All he really does though is grin maniacally and open his green glowing eyes real wide. He’s pretty stupid looking. It’s kinda funny seeing Hoyt Axton as a cop, although he wasn’t in it nearly enough for my liking. The best performance came from Suzanne (Return of the Living Dead 2) Snyder as Lipscomb’s hooker girlfriend. She’s the only bright spot in this otherwise boring, long-winded and forgettable mess.

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