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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.

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