Sunday, March 31, 2013

Massage Parlor Murders - Blu-ray/DVD Combo Review

Massage Parlor Murders

For the Right Price They Never Rub You the Wrong Way!

Year: 1973-1976 - uh, it's complicated, be sure to read the DVD insert
Directors: Chester Fox, Alex Stevens
John Moser, Chris Jordan, Sandra Peabody, Brother Theodore

"A vicious serial killer is stalking the streets of New York City, murdering Times Square massage girls in a variety of brutal ways. It's up to a rogue detective team to solve the case as the body count continues to rise! Chock full of over the top sex and violence and complete with a high-speed car chase through Manhattan, Massage Parlor Murders is an exploitation film lover's dream movie. Featuring performances from Sandra Peabody (The Last House on the Left), Chris Jordan (Deep Throat 2), Brother Theodore (The 'Burbs),
and George Dzundza (The Deer Hunter) in one of his earliest appearances."

Mirror-smashed faces, women strangled with their own undergarments, and nude car chases, Massage Parlor Murders is another ultra-bizzare rarity lovingly restored by Vinegar Syndrome. Also known as Massage Parlor Hookers, Massage Parlor Murders is an entertaining, yet very uneven film that seems almost like it was patched together from a few different films. It's part religious fanatic murder mystery, part cop drama and part oddball comedy. At 80 minutes the film moves at a brisk pace, though it's frequently bogged down with pointless scenes of annoying quirkiness that add nothing to the plot, like a nudist pool party, or a scene where a portly German fellow strips down to a purple ballet outfit and dances with his masseuse. Though often obnoxious, the film's quirkiness does occasionally lead to awesomeness, like a wild scene featuring a deranged diatribe by 'Burbs scene-stealer Brother Theodore who overacts so much in his one scene I thought he was going to pass out.

In one of the film's highlights an unrelated pervert crashes a pool sex party that Jimmy the blond cop happens to be attending. The leads to a car chase with the cop chasing the pervy perp in a hi-jacked taxi while wearing nothing but a towel. This chase is a blast, very well shot and exciting, a welcome change of pace from the boring pool orgy scene that preceded it.

The murder scenes aren't very gory, but still very bloody and quite effective. A point of view shot lets us know we're about to see a murder take place, but even though we see it coming the hooker killings are usually sudden and shocking, especially a gut busting scene that takes place halfway through. The final death scene at the end is particularly nasty, this individual does not go out quietly. The blood-curdling screams will haunt my nightmares. Speaking of the ending, the final 2 or 3 minutes absolutely blew my mind and made me completely forgive the film's many missteps.  It's actually kind of a shame there were so many playfully quirky moments throughout the film because the finale is fucking epic and with a darker overall tone this could've really been something great.

Though there were several aimless scenes that prevented this from being a lost classic, Massage Parlor Murders is still well worth a purchase. There's enough naked women, gruesome splattery death and spasticated dialogue ("That's it, the guy's a religious nut!") to keep exploitation fans happy. And that is glorious, especially that final shot. I'd pay $20 just to be able to watch those 2 minutes over and over again.

The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack features two versions of the movie, the Standard Version and the Re-release Version. I say skip the standard version and check out the re-release. The only difference is the re-release drops a dull 6 minute long opening scene that really tested my patience. I'll save you six minutes and just recap here. A chubby man who calls himself Irving haggles with a masseuse/hooker to try and get her naked. She offers to drop her top for $20, this fat bastard offers $10. A hooker is not a pawn shop, there is no bargaining in prostitution. So, they go back and forth with this for several minutes. He haggles enough to get her down to her panties, she offers him a $45 handjob (Jesus, that's an expensive 70's handjob), he cheaps out and leaves. This whole scene was very tedious and led to NOTHING. Well, nothing but titties, but there are dozens of those in this film so that isn't all that big of a deal. The girl from this scene does show up again later in an important scene, but even if we didn't see her in this opening scene the later scene would've still worked out the same. This was a bad, bad way to start a film. You want to start with a bang to suck the viewer in, a brutal murder scene is often a popular way to do this. A long comedy-less comedy scene in a non-comedy with no payoff is a terrible way to do this. I actually hated the movie for this first six minutes, but it does get better.

Anyway, the transfer is beautiful for the most part. Some scratches and a tiny bit of print damage here and there, but overall pretty spectacular given the obscurity. Also included on the disc are a couple of trailers and about 8 minutes of outtakes. Chris Poggiali of Temple of Schlock provides very detailed and interesting liner notes on the insert.

For those of you outside the US, fear not, this release is region free. You can buy it directly from Vinegar Syndrome or Amazon.

Things to watch for:

Irving McMantits
Brazierre Strangulation
Friend of Henenlotter Beverly Bonner
Slo-mo Bitch Slap

Note: These screenshots are from the DVD. My Blu-ray drive went tits up, and my new one won't be here until Monday or Tuesday. I wanted to get the review posted, so I just threw a few DVD caps up for now, I'll update with Blu-ray caps when my drive shows up.

1 comment:

Raúl Calvo said...

Thanks for letting know the "region free" status of this release. This looks just like the kind of trash I like and enjoy.


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