DAY 15. HELL ON FOUR WHEELS: Must involve characters in wheelchairs.
Also known as Killers Die Hard and Gun Fighter, the title of this movie pretty much tells you the main reason to watch this movie.
It’s really about a crime boss named D’Angelo (Lloyd Bochner, The Lonely Lady), who is smuggling drugs inside cigars, because that seems like the best way to move plenty of product inside the smallest delivery mechanisms possible. One of his smugglers is a student named Ken Wilson (Luke Halpin, who was on Flipper — and stay tuned for why that’s important), who one night gets in an argument with his girlfriend Tina and ends up accidentally killing her. D’Angelo’s men make it look like an overdose, which would be enough in any other reality to get Ken away with it, but Tina’s brother is Andy (pro wrestler Ron Slinker, who helped train The Rock, gave RVD his name and was the stepfather of Dennis “Mideon” Knight), a cop on the drug enforcement squad.
The real excitement of this movie comes in when we meet Mr. No Legs himself. He’s played by Ted Vollrath, a Lancaster, PA native and U.S. Marine veteran who lost his legs after thirteen years after surviving a mortar shell explosion during the Korean War. Despite what some would see a set-back, Ted still became a karate Grand Master and acquired black belts in several disciplines of the martial arts. In 1971, he founded the Martial Arts for the Handicapable Incorporated. He pretty much makes this movie with his extended fight sequences and gimmick-laden wheelchair.
If you don’t think Mr. No Legs isn’t cool enough, how about the fact that he hangs with a guy named Lou, who is played by Rance Howard (Smokey Bites the Dust), the father of Clint and Ron?
Somehow, this movie was able to round up plenty of old movie stars — who one presumes all moved to Tampa, Florida where it was made — including former husband of Shirley Temple John Agar, Richard Jaeckel and Templeton Fox, while also finding plenty of martial artists, including Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon and a smaller version of him named Tiny Kelly.
Speaking of Florida, this movie feels grimy and sweaty. Much like other Sunshine State scumtastic blasts of insanity like Satan’s Children, the films of Bill Grefé and My Brother Has Bad Dreams, everyone in this movie doesn’t look like anyone you’d see in a Hollywood big budget film. Even the character actors in it have moved on to leading man status just for being in this with them. There are several scenes in bars where nearly every person looks meaner and more dangerous than the next. It feels like murder, sex or murder after sex could happen at any minute.
There are plenty of fights, like one between women who have smashed beer bottles and knives that ends up with nearly everyone in the bar dead and another where a Stingray Corvette faces off with a maniac with a sword. But the real standout is any time Mr. No Legs is on screen, whether he’s firing a throwing star out of his chair, shotgun blasting folks or diving into a pool to kill off two henchmen sent to dispatch him.
That said, there’s plenty of padding, like the band Miracle playing in a club and a ten-minute car chase that ends up smashing into a wall of ice that has a bad guy only loosely tied to the rest of the story. As I grow older, however, I admire these non-sequitur moments, as one looks at old wallpaper in a house that is otherwise completely modern.
Oh yeah — Flipper. Mr. No Legs was directed by Ricou Browning and written by Jack Cowden, who previously created that family-friendly TV series. Cowden also wrote Island Claws and ended up as the script supervisor on Band of the Hand, The New Kids and Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach. And yes, that’s the very same Ricou Browning that was in the suit as The Creature from the Black Lagoon and was the second unit director on Thunderball*).
But man, the real star of all of this is greasy and flopsweat laden Florida.
You can get this from Massacre Video, whose new release has a brand new 2K restoration from an extremely rare French print.
*Browning and Cowden would also work together on Island Claws and Police Academy 5. I also never knew that Browning did second unit on Caddyshack.