Thursday, September 17, 2020

Cool Ass Cinema Book Reviews: Cannon's Catalog Volume 1



THE CANNON FILM GUIDE VOLUME 1: 1980--1984

By Austin Trunick

530 pages; softcover; B/W photos; 1st edition 2020

Written in a very relaxed style, it's the Cannon story (when Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus took over the company from Dennis Friedland and Christopher C. Dewey in 1979) told from a fan's perspective spanning three volumes. Over three dozen titles in Cannon's catalog are covered in volume one: from their humble beginnings producing comedies and horror films; and on into their flashier period producing some of the decades best action pictures starring Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris and Sho Kosugi; to their critically lambasted bombs; and even some acclaimed pictures sprinkled into the mix. It's an ambitious undertaking that is sure to be a hit with Cannon-ites and disciples of 80s cinema.

The 1980s was a great time to be alive. It was a ten year explosion of themes and ideas that produced innumerable pop culture icons that, for better or worse, are still remembered today. From the clothes, to the big hair, to the toys, to the music and movies, everything was big in the 1980s. As for the movies, action and horror were big business throughout the decade. Filmmakers had the opportunities and freedom to make the films they wanted. One film studio in particular wasn't shy about taking chances on commodities... proven or otherwise.

The Cannon Group was an idea factory run by two risk-takers, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Regardless of the quality (or lack thereof) of the standard Cannon picture, or what Hollywood thought of them, Golan-Globus were like an unruly rock band doing what they wanted outside the system. They had a brief, if remarkably ambitious run in the 1980s before running out of money in the early 90s. Their story is being told over the span of three hefty volumes written by Austin Trunick.

In their heyday, The Cannon Group produced some of the flashiest independent motion pictures on the planet. Major studios and critics held disdain for the company's output and the two men that made them, the dynamic duo of Golan and Globus. The negative stigma attributed to the movies they produced extends to this day; although both their fan-base and an appreciation for a number of their productions has grown in the ensuing years. However, they did make (and distribute) a lot of genuinely bad movies and overextended themselves to the point they could no longer sustain their filmmaking empire.

Within The Cannon Film Guide's plentiful pages (more than 500 in this first volume) you'll find 16 interviews with Cannon alumni; among them Catherine Mary Stewart, Diane Franklin, Andrew Stevens, Luigi Cozzi, Kane Kosugi, and Sam Firstenberg. Sam is especially important as he is arguably the most identifiable director with the Cannon style. He was with them from virtually the beginning to the end. The interview with screenwriter James Bruner (MISSING IN ACTION; INVASION USA; THE DELTA FORCE) discussing his time working with Chuck Norris that closes the volume is worth the price alone.

The meat and potatoes are the stories about the making of the movies; some are more extensive than others, and some have never been widely covered before. You'll learn how HERCULES 2 (1984) went from reshoots for Bruno Mattei's THE SEVEN MAGNIFICENT GLADIATORS (1983) to a full-length feature; and the crazy, questionable goings-on to bring the epic Brooke Shields disaster SAHARA (1983) to the screen.

Additionally, the author admits this isn't a complete Cannon history as films they only distributed are not accounted for; although at least one Cannon production, the OMEN-style horror film THE GODSEND (1980), is not included. To my knowledge, it's the only Cannon feature to be co-produced with one of the former company owners. Moreover, the years prior to G&G purchasing the company from Dennis Friedland and Christopher C. Dewey (who produced John G. Avildsen's 1970 dramatic thriller JOE; and distributed great Drive-in fare like FISTS OF THE DOUBLE K and THE NO MERCY MAN) are briefly explored in the Introduction. 
 
For as massive an undertaking as this endeavor is, mistakes are bound to find their way in. Other than the omission of THE GODSEND, another oversight is in the DEATH WISH 2 (1981) section where Bronson is referred to as the villain in Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968). Bronson did play the villain in GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTIAN from the same year, so that could be where the mix-up derived from. 

The years covered in volume one run between 1980 and 1984. Where films with sequels that fall outside this bracket, Trunick includes them all together. For example, the MISSING IN ACTION trilogy spans 1984-1988 but all three are covered together in the same chapter. Initially this felt kind of awkward, but seemed practical considering it will likely balance out over the course of three volumes with so many films to cover. 

With multiple books or documentaries on Cannon and those who worked for them out or in the works, as well as interviews elsewhere (see our two part Sam Firstenberg interview HERE and HERE), the company is receiving a newfound reappraisal. There's lots to like here in what amounts to a sprawling edition devoted to a dearly beloved, as well as much-maligned, movie studio. The Cannon Film Guide Volume 1 begins a three-part, nostalgic celebration for their fans--looking back to a time when action heroes were as rampant as the crazy ideas Golan and Globus put them in.

You can order the book from the publisher HERE, or from amazon HERE
 
Austin Trunick also has his own film and music review website that you can read HERE.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Xenon & Zed: An Interview With Comedian, Actor, and Voice Actor, David Traylor



Like so many who have worked in the genres of SciFi, Fantasy, or Horror in some capacity, David Traylor grew up a Monster Kid watching classic monster movies and reading Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. A fan of all things Science Fiction (and especially Ray Harryhausen), David incorporated his love for Fantasy into his comedy act that, virtually by accident, eventually led to global success as the robotic comic, Zed. The multi-talented Traylor has also been a voice actor for cartoons, video games, and a dubber in Italian movies. For cult film fans, he is fondly remembered as Xenon, the catch-phrase spouting alien being in Avi Nesher's version of SHE (1983); a nearly indescribable SciFi-Fantasy adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's famous novel. In this interview (a companion piece to our recent review of SHE that also contains an interview with Gregory Snegoff linked at bottom) David discusses his fascinating career that includes how he ended up creating a character that made him famous around the world; his experience working on an 80s cult film; and other places his talents have taken him.

Venoms5: What started your interest in wanting to be a comedian?

David Traylor: I had an idea at an early age how I wanted my life to go. I went to university for radio, television and film. There's an old proverb 'when men make plans God laughs'; so I thought I needed to know how to act, sing and dance to some degree; and mime too, but that was me being rebellious at that time because all they taught you as far as theatrical stuff was that you need to project and you need to be flexible, graceful... that sort of thing. Zed, who is an android, does the exact opposite; so what entertained me personally was going the other way from everybody else. I've done a lot of television, but not as much in America. I did a program for NBC last summer in prime time. I was surprised how few people seemed to be watching, quite frankly. Back in my day there were only the three networks and if your prime time program was horrible people still watched it because there wasn't much to choose from. When I was a kid I loved it; when I was a college student I studied it; but I knew already showbiz was where I wanted to be. Now I've done nine TV series in three languages on four continents. We did 360 programs, and live; not like Saturday Night Live with a nine second delay. It's different when there's no going back (laughs). Watch what you say and if something goes wrong don't repeat it (laughs).

I did a week on a kids program called ROMPER ROOM. It was done locally. I was born in Indianapolis; this was a locally produced kids show and every week they'd change out the kids. Your mom could write in for you and get you on the show. We used to have the Three Stooges there like that; but that doesn't exist in American TV anymore, I don't think.

V5: Who were your comedy influences?

DT: Well, there was Jerry Lewis... then in my adolescence it was the Marx Brothers, who I still love to this day. In my teen years George Carlin was big, Robert Kline... then there's the Firesign Theater. They were like the American Monty Python; but they were more controversial and more surrealistic. In America, TV would not have them, but records would. They sold a lot of pop songs and did movies, just brilliant stuff, and brilliant use of audio alone. And that fascinated me. At that time there was no such thing as video that everyone has access to now. Radio was far more common than it is today. I started out in radio in Philadelphia years later, inspired in part by The Firesign Theater. Now, one of the four guys from the group (see insert) is a personal friend of mine, which to me is like, WOW, you know? I wish I could have made friends with Groucho Marx as well; but unfortunately, I was a little out of sync in my timing there. He was gone before I got out to LA; one of the greatest comedians that ever lived.

V5: How did you end up in Italy?

DT: I got a scholarship from Temple University to go abroad for a semester. I thought it was going to be a little vacation from show business. I was doing a little radio program and some live gigs as a stand-up in Philadelphia and around the area, wherever I could find a place to play. I was just over 19 so I was playing in places I wasn't old enough to be in. It was an entirely different world then.

V5: How did you get the role of Xenon on SHE (1983)?

DT: I auditioned for it. I was already here; and prior to that film I did a TV show called TILT! (1979) which had been a major hit for the Italians and it represented them at TV festivals around the world. I think it won some awards although they didn't share it with me. It was my first break and gave me a big break in show business here right away. I came here with two hundred dollars in travelers checks and that was it. For a semester that's not much. At first I played the streets as a mime doing robotics and whatnot to make money. At night I did a radio program called Radio Daily American, which was the English language newspaper here in Rome and they had their own radio station. It didn't pay much but it paid enough to get me to stay an extra couple of weeks after the semester was over. 

I got discovered busking and was invited to perform at a discotheque. The discotheque hired me immediately and sent me out to do a tour promoting disco records. This was in 1979. Disco was still a big deal here. The whole reason for coming to Italy was I figured I wouldn't get the chance to come to Europe again later in life. I did the show, I was an MC and people really loved what I did so the record company signed me up for a record deal. They also wanted me on TV. I thought it would be something to add to my resume. So they put me on TV and the program became a major hit in Italy. I had a top 40 hit and enough gigs to last me another two years. I had one more record to do and the record company eventually lost faith in me so I did a TV show, a live program where I improvised, and got a job doing comedy and it became a mega-hit with 20 million viewers a day. There's 60 million viewers in Italy at this time. This was when TV was just regular networks and prime time. There wasn't a lot of channels. So I was back on the train again. This ran from '83 to '85. I got a gig writing for an Italian puppet political satire TV show. I also did theatrical work and eventually it got to the point where I'd gotten as far as they were gonna let me so I returned to the United States and Los Angeles. 

In the early 1990s I ended up working with Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and others at The Comedy Store doing my Zed routine. I even opened for Richard Pryor. Dick Clark Productions wanted to pick up my Zed program. Then the earthquake hits in 1994, and NBC decided against using my show. The excuse I got was the executive didn't like fantastic characters, thought it was old hat akin to MORK AND MINDY. I had gigs set up in Vegas, things eventually dried up, and my wife was pregnant with my daughter. Then I got an offer in Italy to do a program there. So I got my own weekly kids show. I was also writing for adults on these programs; gags that would appeal to children but also were broad enough that adults could appreciate it too. It was put on late night and it was a big hit in 35 countries. I did shows as Zed in Japan like ZAKUBARAN! (1994) and Great Britain. My career was going very well; so what was the point in moving back to LA?

V5: Gregory Snegoff said you ad-libbed your Xenon character. What was the character like before you refined it?

DT: It was a dry script. The character that splits like that was from an old religious text; a Gilgamesh; long before Christianity and the Hebrews. He gets chopped and regenerates. The Gilgamesh is just a monster. I improvised for Avi and he liked what I did. He asked me to come back and perform the character again the next day and I got the gig.

V5: Did the picture influence your career in any way?

DT: Not really. We got paid and it went away like most 'B' movies did at that time. It was a fun experience and that was it. At times, interacting with the crew was funnier than what went on in front of the camera. I couldn't see well while wearing that eye patch so I was bumping into things a lot. I didn't see it again till years later. I enjoyed it to be that free working with a film director so I am grateful to Avi for the opportunity. I wish it had led to bigger things. It's not like anything out there then or now. Hollywood today is an idea-free zone. In business I'm still well known; my name is still there at The Comedy Store (see insert) and I still get called back to do a show.

V5: Where did you shoot your portion of the movie?

DT: We shot on an Italian military base on the outskirts of Rome called the Cecchignola.

V5: What can you tell about your experiences with the other cast members? Sandahl Bergman, David Goss, Harrison Muller, and Gordon Mitchell?


DT: Sandahl as you know had done ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) and had just come off CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982). She was very professional and had a good sense of humor. She was very down to Earth and easy to work with. One time, though, I'm ad-libbing things and Sandahl looked at me like I'd said something really vulgar and I felt like I may have stepped over the line. Then I realized she's just playing her part as this serious warrior Queen--as serious as you could be in this movie. There was also something that kind of freaked me out during the bridge sequence. I'd calmed down and was returning to normal person mode and I look over and see Sandahl and Harrison tossing me over the side to the ground where the landmines are. The Xenon dummies have my face on them and it hits me that I've just been blown up (laughs).


Gordon Mitchell was huge here in Italy. I used to eat at this little diner type restaurant and he was the biggest celebrity that had eaten there. He'd given a dedication to the place. He was so well loved here.

I didn't get to know David Goss too well; although we had a long conversation in the car ride to the set. He had done club gigs as a singer with his wife. They'd play these small clubs out in the boonies in these places where the market wasn't taken over by the big names, and he and his wife made a pretty good living at it. I told him good for you, man; you're creating something new and doing your own thing. That's all I really remember about him. A really nice guy who had ambitions.

I remember Quin Kessler off-camera pretending to be like Marilyn Monroe, acting like a sexy type character. I remember commenting to someone that she was going somewhere. The way she was acting towards people around her with a fake, sexy identity it seemed like it could play very well somewhere else. Then that 'Jane' movie she was to star in never materialized. You just never know, especially with 'B' movies. I've done a few 'B' movies, but none as memorable as SHE (1983) was. I never saw these people again. You just wish them well and hope they make it.

I ran into Harrison Muller (see insert with Quin Kessler) several other times in movies and maybe even a dubbing session. His sister was big here as a sex symbol. His career took off and he did a bunch of these movies because of SHE (1983). I remember he'd done a 'B' movie with Richard Roundtree (MIAMI COPS [1989] directed by Alfonso Brescia) and there was a stunt where they're either thrown from, or they jump off, a speed boat. On a lot of these things you do the stunt yourself. Well, the crew all went after Roundtree first and Muller afterward. He's out there in the ocean and almost drowned. I remember some of the crew were very concerned about that scene. There were no safety precautions on these movies.

V5: Like Gregory Snegoff you dubbed these films as well.

DT: I did the dubbing on many of these Italian 'B' movies, usually as the bad guy. There were some BILLY JACK type rip-offs I dubbed, and some adventure stuff. I dubbed minor characters on Luigi Cozzi's HERCULES (1983). He was filming that while I was filming SHE (1983). We were at the studio in Rome and I stopped by to see if he could use me in the film and we didn't hit it off at first but became very good friends later. It was one of those occasions where an actor comes in with the wrong vibe and we just didn't get on at all. But now, when I'm in the neighborhood I stop by Profondo Rosso and we talk about movies we both have a big passion for. He also likes horror and I don't. I see enough horror in the newspapers; I want a sense of wonder. Films like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) and the Ray Harryhausen movies are examples. 

 
I did a movie for Luigi where I played George Melies
(see above and insert) called BLOOD ON MELIES MOON (2016). George Melies was really the founder of SciFi movies, during the Silent Era. This guy was crazy and he was working in special effects and he had a great sense of humor; and that's the way I played him. Luigi loved it. I don't know if it ever came out in English, but it played the festivals. Filming it was a bit weird as I delivered my lines in Italian but with a French accent. Making the movie was a lot of fun and Luigi is a very fun guy to work with. I love that kind of cinema, 50s SciFi, that sort of thing. He and I both shared a love for 50s and 60s SciFi. The 'B' movies I dubbed didn't always play in Italy, so I never saw them. In '89 or '90 I was working on this kids cartoon called DYNAMO DUCK. One time after work we went to this video store and I was shocked--there was a whole wall with movies I had dubbed; the MAD MAX clones and other things.

V5: What would be a highlight of your career and why?

DT: Appearing on THE TONIGHT SHOW was one, certainly. Once when Jay Leno was on in 1992 and again last year. Another would be this program I did in 1992 as my Zed character at the Ford Theater where Lincoln was shot with a bunch of big names called the ALL STAR FIESTA AT FORD'S. Rita Moreno, David Copperfield, Barry Manilow and others were there. It was a ton of fun. It was really amazing to be a part of that. The president was in attendance. We had a cocktail party before the show and we met Colin Powell and his wife. I couldn't believe it. I'd only known him from the newspapers. We were guests at the White House, as well. By the time I'd finished I had the audience in stitches so it seemed it all went very well. Ricardo Montalban introduced Zed on that show. I was blown away. I was like, WOW, I'm being recognized, I'm really up there.



An enormous thanks to David Traylor for taking the time to answer questions about his career. We wish him continued success in all his future endeavors.

If you'd like to learn more about David Traylor you will find even more information about his career, his famous Zed character, videos of his act, and if you'd like to book him for a show HERE.

You can view David's YouTube channel with his Mr. Zed videos HERE.

To read our extensive review of SHE (1983), that also includes an interview with Gregory Snegoff (Godan in the film), click HERE

*Images 6,7,8,15,16 and two images in main photo courtesy of David Traylor*


Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Amazing Mr. No Legs (1975) review

 
MR. NO LEGS 1975 aka KILLERS DIE HARD aka THE AMAZING MR. NO LEGS aka GUNFIGHTER aka L'INFERNALE POURSUITE (THE INFERNAL PURSUIT) aka DESTRUCTOR

Ron Slinker (Andy), Richard Jaeckel (Chuck), Lloyd Bochner (D'Angelo), Ted Vollrath (No Legs), Rance Howard (Lou), Luke Halpin (Ken Wilson), John Agar (Captain Hathaway), Suhaila (Gwyn), Joan Murphy (Tina), Beverly Shade (Bessie), Helen Edwards (Serena), Joie Chitwood (Mower)

Directed by Ricou Browning

The Short Version: Florida has long held a reputation for craziness and this obscure, must-see cult item filmed there is indicative of that uniquely carnivalesque, Floridian local flavor. There's great potential here for MR. NO LEGS (a nearly lost exploitation treasure) to be the greatest movie of its kind ever made, but it comes up a little short. There's still abundant Drive-in nirvana with poorly choreographed Karate fights; barroom brawls; a co-main villain with no legs cruising around in a wheelchair hiding double-barrel shotguns in the armrests; midgets; transvestites; pimps; bad acting; Richard Jaeckel looking confused; and a near 20 minute car chase finale. Unfortunately, the stuff in between drags the pacing; keeping MR. NO LEGS from being totally AMAZING.


A young lady is accidentally killed by her drug-pusher boyfriend who works for D'Angelo, a local mobster selling drugs hidden inside of cigars. Her brother Andy, a cop, takes the job of finding those responsible for her death. Chuck, an older officer, is assigned to partner with Andy on the case. Both men discover D'Angelo's operations extend to their own department. Meanwhile, the mafioso's legless enforcer intends to take over his organization.

One of the things that makes low budget exploitation movies special are the outrageous plots used to lure an audience from the more standard, big-ticket Hollywood fare. Another is the talent involved in making them; whether a future superstar just starting out, or old hands in front or behind the camera appearing in something not typically associated with them.


You wouldn't necessarily attribute a movie about a Florida cop trying to solve his sister's death tied to a legless mobster in a heavily-armed wheelchair to the co-creator of FLIPPER and the Gill Man suit actor from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954). Underwater expert and stuntman Ricou Browning didn't direct many motion pictures, but this is easily one of the wildest ever conceived. If only it had been paced better we'd have a contender for the greatest exploitation movie of all time. Nonetheless, there's a little something to both astonish and offend everyone in MR. NO LEGS.


The late Jack Cowden, co-creator and writer of FLIPPER with his brother-in-law, director Browning, wrote the script for MR. NO LEGS. It's not a particularly good script, outrageous though it is. There are a few funny lines (like Jaeckel, after being assaulted in a morgue says, "This is the liveliest morgue I've ever been in!") and a lot of potential in its many wacky elements that go untapped to a degree. For example, the picture could've used more than one Karate fight with its star attraction. It would've also done wonders for the film's exploitation value for No Legs to have an apparatus that allowed him to participate in the lengthy car chase at the end. That is if the production could've afforded it--considering people in front of and behind the camera either never got paid, or were late in payment. Such is the nature of low budget cinema.



Filmed in the summer of 1975 as KILLERS DIE HARD, the picture arguably has the most release dates attributed to it of any film in existence (with various sources listing it anywhere between 1977-1981). It's widely known as MR. NO LEGS; or, THE AMAZING MR. NO LEGS to put Ted Vollrath at the forefront--while the promotional materials insinuate he's the hero of the picture. He being the major selling point, it was common practice back then for distributors to deceive audiences with promises the pictures couldn't wholly deliver on. Nowadays, studios deceive their audiences with trailers that are oftentimes three minutes worth of broken promises. Under the NO LEGS title, it's understandable why most reviews note that the antagonistic amputee isn't the focus of the film. The KILLERS promotion doesn't even mention him at all; which is likely why it was modified to feature the NO LEGS title to make it more attractive for potential theater patrons looking for something out of the ordinary.


That many of the cast members look like they'd been picked off the street and immediately put in front of a camera only adds to the sideshow ambiance the movie gracefully wallows in. Some of the unusual cast had remarkably colorful lives that were as wild, if not more so, than this particular movie they appeared in; and, in some ways, found themselves involved--whether willingly or unwittingly--in deceptive, and even criminal practices.


Browning packs his picture full of friends and FLIPPER alums, local celebrities and a thick atmosphere of 1970s Florida flavor. Everything from local diners and bars; to bell-bottoms and curiously surreal in-home decor. Speaking of set decoration, Gwyn, the girlfriend to our man Andy, has a home that looks like a modern day seraglio with its walls of curtains, a giant mirror, and floors covered in thick, fur blankets. Browning even makes screen-time for an on-stage performance by a former chart-topping local band called Mercy.


Mercy had a #2 hit spanning two of Billboards Top 100 charts back in 1969 with the undeniably infectious, soothing sound of 'Love (Can Make You Happy)'. They can be seen singing the song in a movie few ever saw, 1969s FIREBALL JUNGLE. That same year the song quickly sold a million copies while the band's singer Jack Sigler, Jr was in the navy and the other members had broken up. Gil Cabot of Sundi Records owned the song and wanted an album; so he decided to form a bootleg band and call them The Mercy. Brazenly enough, this LP contained Mercy's hit song and covers by this mystery group. When Sigler returned from service that same year he naturally filed a lawsuit and got the band back together. Signing with Warner Brothers Records, Sigler re-recorded the song for an album. Both the Sundi and WB LPs were released and buyers knew the real deal when they heard it. The fake Sundi album was ultimately pulled from the market. You can read more about it HERE.

For MR. NO LEGS, Mercy sang the theme song, 'Killers Die Hard'; and are seen on-stage performing a song called 'I Still Remember Love', a song with a similar melody to their hit tune from '69.


Watching double-amputee Ted Vollrath--in his only feature film role--stump kick a man to death and Karate chop a bunch of out of shape thugs is hilarious; it's not something you see everyday. However, Vollrath was a real-life bad ass, and a fascinating man who had mastered the phrase 'Strength Through Adversity'.

In the early 1970s, he was referred to in magazines as "The Amazing Mr. Vollrath"; and "the world's most unusual Karateka". Born in 1936, Vollrath enlisted in the marines after graduating high school and fought in the Korean War (1950-1953). Tragedy struck when a mortar shell went off near him resulting in his losing both legs and a lung after a reported 83 operations failed to literally keep him together. Artificial limbs were deemed an impossibility. Vollrath refused to let this setback ruin his life.

He found new confidence in working with kids as a Cub Scout leader and baseball coach. Vollrath's determination grew when he decided to tackle the obstacles in becoming a martial artist. In the beginning, he encountered instructors that had no interest in putting in the work to train him to overcome his disability. Nearly giving up, Vollrath found two MA teachers who took him on as a student. After five years of arduous training, Vollrath attained 2nd Degree Black Belts in Isshin-Ryu and Shorinji-Ryu; as well as training in Kung Fu.


Vollrath had big plans to travel the country to assist others with similar handicaps and interests in the martial arts. He'd also intended to shoot a movie with Glenn R. Premru (a once well known Karateka and Forms champion in the 1960s to the early 1970s) titled 'Mahjong Conspiracy'. That motion picture never materialized but he did star in a Florida-shot short film titled LET ME LIVE IN YOUR WORLD (1975) for the short-lived Premru Productions. The 22 minute short subject was Ted demonstrating how he defeated his handicap to become a Karate master.


Crazily enough, and worthy of the wackiness of MR. NO LEGS, Premru turned out to be a criminal and conman. In 1975, he allegedly ripped off funds from the Okinawan Karate Federation; was later involved in other crimes including embezzlement and impersonating an investigator. Premru tried mounting another film production company in 1984, but this fell through. In 2002, he was arrested on charges of mail fraud for selling hundreds of worthless certificates to students purporting them to be far more advanced in MA than they actually were. He was on the run as of 2013 but reportedly has been recaptured.

 
Despite his handicap, Ted Vollrath literally did everything; he hunted, fished, ran three martial arts dojos in PA, and was a husband and father of four. He was also the first man to receive a Black Belt while confined to a wheelchair. He was not one of the three founding members of the MAHF (Martial Arts Handicapped Federation), but took over founder Preston Carter's executive position when he could no longer continue in his duties. At the time, Carter (also in a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury in 1971 after reportedly being shot by two men he threw out of a bar) was the first black man to acquire a 10th Dan in Karate. Prior to adding acting to his list of accomplishments, Ted said in a 1974 interview, "I don't want sympathy. I make my own way; I just want to be accepted for what I am right now, and for what I can do right now."

Vollrath's sole acting role is surprisingly good in delivery. He has the right amount of intensity and, while he isn't the real main villain, you wish he had been. That there's a movie with a double-amputee bad guy in a weapons-laden wheelchair is jaw-dropping all by itself. He promoted the movie at various speaking events after filming wrapped, utilizing his weaponized wheelchair seen in the film. Ted certainly gave everything in everything he did. He died in November of 2001.



The tall and stout Ron Slinker is the lead protagonist in his one and only starring role. He doesn't leave much of an impression as an actor but, fascinatingly enough, his off-screen life was far more interesting from multiple angles. One is in how this movie reflected aspects of his life before and after starring in it. He plays a Karate-fighting cop that, in real life, had been a Tampa police officer for ten years and received Black Belts in Judo and Yoshukai Karate. He reportedly competed in 29 full-contact Karate tournaments, winning all but two of them and was an instructor and owned a few MA schools.

Unfortunately, he had problems like anyone else; suffering from an alcohol addiction that led to arrests for theft and battery. In 1982 he would be arrested for conspiracy to transport drugs. In MR. NO LEGS, Slinker's character is trying to find his sister's killer, the victim of mobsters transporting drugs hidden inside of cigars.


On-screen, Slinker didn't look like a martial artist at all. But then, the real fighters sometimes looked clumsy instead of imposing on film. No fight coordinator is credited, but most likely he choreographed the action; it is fun to watch in an unconvincing, DOLEMITE (1975) sort of way. There's at least an attempt to keep them lively such as guys being thrown through doors and windows; and, at one point, a thug attacks Slinker in his corvette with an Arthurian style sword!


Slinker would incorporate his MA skills into a near 15 year professional wrestling career between the years of 1977 to 1991. He did some co-main events, but was mostly an undercard wrestler. At one point he was a masked wrestler named Mr. Orient. Wrestling throughout the Southern United States territories, he was especially active in the CWF (Championship Wrestling from Florida; Florida Championship Wrestling), he worked with many of the major players like Wahoo McDaniel, Blackjack Mulligan, Dusty Rhodes, and the Brisco Brothers. He also played a role in helping Rob Van Dam and The Rock early in their careers by giving the former his ring name and being a trainer to the latter. Ron Slinker would pass away in March of 2008 from liver failure.


As for the rest of the cast, Richard Jaeckel was a famous character actor who appeared in dozens of movies--particularly John Wayne westerns, action and horror pictures. He was a fantastic actor who often brought a lot of energy to lazy productions; but in Browning's movie, he's a little less lively than usual. Jaeckel plays Slinker's partner and seems indifferent to the material; as if he found it difficult to ascertain whether it should be taken seriously or not. Even so, the picture is more entertaining by his participation. Some of his other genre works include PART 2: WALKING TALL (1975), GRIZZLY (1976), and THE DARK (1979).

Lloyd Bochner is the real main villain, playing the mobster D'Angelo. No Legs is his enforcer. Bochner sees No Legs as problematic due to his old-school, violent ways and plans to get rid of him. No Legs on the other hand, plots to eliminate his employer. This is one of the areas the script doesn't allow to cook long enough, unfortunately. Bochner had a distinctive voice that's unmistakable. You may not recognize his face, but you'll know you've seen him somewhere before. And most likely, it was in the season two episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, 'To Serve Man', one of the most famous segments in television history.


John Agar has the important supporting role as Hathaway, a former race car driver turned police captain. Among 50s monster movie fans, Agar was as well known as this films director, Ricou Browning. Like some of the other cast members, Agar found fame alongside John Wayne in several movies before and after low budget SciFi flicks became his calling card. When you say the name John Agar most cult film fans immediately think of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955) and THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957); or others like TARANTULA (1955), THE MOLE PEOPLE (1956), DAUGHTER OF DR. JEKYLL (1957), or INVISIBLE INVADERS (1959).


Then there's Rance Howard, the father to Ron and Clint Howard (Opie Taylor and Leon on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW). The greasiest bad guy in the flick, he's the main subordinate to No Legs. It's one of, if not the biggest role of Howard's lengthy career; made up mostly of background characters an walk-on appearances.

Luke Halpin (above at left), child star in three seasons of FLIPPER (1964-1967) and lead actor in 1976s SHOCK WAVES (the best Nazi zombie movie ever made), has a minor role here as the ill-fated boyfriend to the equally unlucky Tina (played by Joan Murphy).


Heavily advertised as part of the show, Joie Chitwood (insert at left) and his Danger Angels assume the driver's seat during the finale; encompassing a near 20 minute car chase with crashes aplenty. The Chitwoods were famous stuntmen that performed traveling Thrill Shows as "Hell Drivers" executing various car stunts. Inspired by the first auto stunt driver Lucky Teter (whose luck ran out when he was killed in a 170 foot ramp to ramp jump in 1942), Joie Chitwood, Sr. (and later, his sons) went from racing cars in the 1930s to smashing into them, driving on two wheels, or other death-defying stunts like crashing and jumping through walls and hoops set on fire. Their country-wide car crash events caught the attention of Hollywood where they added a few dozen film and TV credits to their resume. The Chitwoods were affiliated with Chevrolet, which would explain why there are several Camaro's and Corvettes seen in the movie. Joie has a small part in the picture as Mower, the lumbering thug that, along with Lou (Rance Howard), tries and fails to steal a corpse from a morgue.

Massacre Video is one of a handful of niche video labels putting out obscure genre pictures and more recent curios. There's a disclaimer before the film explaining the problems encountered to give this rarity as close to a proper blu-ray release as was possible. The original 16mm film elements were reportedly destroyed; while numerous 35mm prints were too severely damaged from weather or poor storage to be used. A rare, cut, French 35mm print is the source of the blu-ray using inserts from an uncut video master that brings NO LEGS completely together for the first time. It's far from even a good looking print, but it's the best this film has ever looked; and likely ever will. The on-screen title is GUN FIGHTER. The screencap as MR. NO LEGS as seen at the top of the review is taken from the original trailer included on this blu-ray release.



Director Browning is well known for being a director of below the surface sequences, and has been immortalized as the man inside the Gill Man suit for the underwater shots in the 1950s trilogy. His brief sojourn into exploitation movie-making will never attain the same heights of respectability; although it being a highlight of lowbrow cinema is what makes it special. For a film that doesn't feature a carnival anywhere in sight, MR. NO LEGS looks like it belongs in one. It's a one-of-a-kind, extraordinary movie made during a time you simply can't replicate today; well, Florida is still as weird and bizarre as it ever was.

This review is representative of the Massacre Video blu-ray. Specs and Extras: Brand new 2K restoration using a rare 35mm print from France; Limited edition 500 units with KILLERS DIE HARD slipcover and standard edition without slipcover; reversible cover; US theatrical trailer as MR. NO LEGS; other trailers; Poster and stills gallery; Mr. No Legs music video; English, French, German audio options; English captions; Running time: uncut composite from 35mm print and uncut video master: 01:28:37; French-sourced 35mm print: 01:21:32.
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