Not to be confused with Renato Polselli’s 1972 giallo, this is an extremely bizarre genre hybrid which appears to have been stitched together from several different films. It’s part slasher film, part political conspiracy, part right-wing revenge film, part police procedural and part post-Vietnam film. It’s also all wrong – none of these elements being done with any level of competency.
“St. Louis, 1977”, a car drives to a bridge and two men dump a body over the edge. It’s night and you can barely see what’s going on. Following this non-sequitor, a woman retrurns to her apartment to find her room-mate stuck to a door with a six-foot spear. Some extremely unsympathetic policemen arrive, who proceed to grouse and joke in full earshot of the traumatised girl. It turns out that her room-mate went home with a guy who had earlier in the day been interviewed by her boss for a job. So begins a terrifyingly casual investigation which will scare viewers more than anything else in this film.
We’re then introduced to our killer – a guy named Charlie, who spends the next 30 minutes pointlessly running from no-one (the cops spend most of their time chatting to women or sitting around the office drinking coffee) and occasionally killing random women.
It’s at this point that the film’s schizophrenia becomes most apparent.
Plot 1 – in this film Charlie carries out a few murders until he’s surprised in a house by a returning husband and is shot by the wife. The British VHS I watched is very badly censored, with various stabbings, pitchforkings and shootings abruptly cut. In the full version – and stretched to feature length – this would be a grade Z slasher film, albeit an interesting early example.
Plot 2 – in this film the police lean on the girl’s employer, who obviously knows more than he’s letting on. It turns out that he’s a member of an underground right-wing group who employ old army guys as vigilantes. Led by a Rod Steiger type, these businessmen occasionally meet in an underlit cellar to pass judgement on various rapists and murderers who’ve escaped the clutches of the coffee-drinking, skirt-chasing lawmen. Stretched to full length this would be a grade Z vigilante movie.
Stitching together the two plots requires Charlie to run around experiencing massively cheap Vietnam flashbacks. Those who have seen the flashback scenes in Combat Shock will know what to expect. Despite some unconvincing gore, these look to have been shot in someone’s back garden on a spare Sunday afternoon, but at least feature the same actor.
It all culminates in a shootout at the vigilante group’s hideout, with Rod Steiger experiencing more Vietnam flashbacks as the police take him down in a hail of bullets. The hideout itself has been located by the girl, who the police have encouraged to endanger herself by spying on her boss. It was a massive disappointment to me that the two cops on the case emerged unscathed from the gunfight at the end; in fact, the youngest guy emerges with the girl. There truly is no justice.