Monday, March 20, 2017

Mr. No Legs (1979)

          Warped drive-in flicks on the order of Mr. No Legs demand two different types of reviews, one for rational viewers and one for seekers of the bizarre. The rational take on Mr. No Legs characterizes the picture as an atrocious action/thriller saga marred by bad acting, cheap production values, dumb scripting, and the wholly distasteful presentation of a double amputee as a sideshow freak. In other words, steer clear if you want your sanity to remain intact. However, if your bag is cinematic strangeness, then cook up some popcorn and grab your controlled substance of choice, because it’s party time. Everything about Mr. No Legs stimulates trash-cinema pleasure centers to the point of ecstasy. The plot is straight out of a dimwitted crime novel, with nearly every narrative event predicated on the complete stupidity of characters. The filmmaking operates at roughly the level of a vintage driver’s-ed movie, so everything’s basically in focus and in frame, but you can virtually hear the director calling for every stilted entrance and exit. And then there’s the whole business of the title character.
          In his one and only movie role, Ted Vollrath plays a mob enforcer who scoots around in a tricked-out wheelchair that has a double-barreled shotgun hidden inside each of the armrests, plus Japanese throwing stars affixed to the wheels. Whenever his weapons fail, he leaps from the chair to wallop opponents with karate. Yes, karate. In real life, Vollrath attained a black belt despite being legless. The jaw-dropping highlight of Mr. No Legs is an epic slow-motion scene during which Vollrath raises himself up by his arms and pummels a dude with his stumps, then hops onto the ground and squares off against the guy, Bruce Lee-style, though his arms barely reach the man’s belt. Vollrath’s athleticism is impressive, but if you aim your retinas at Mr. No Legs, you will inevitably find yourself asking what the hell you’re watching. The centerpiece of the picture is a bar brawl involving a catfight, a giddy little person, and a transvestite hooker. Oh, and that particular scene is a setup for yet another fight, during which a cop squares off against a hoodlum wielding a broadsword. A broadsword, mind you, that the hoodlum carries outside the bar and uses to attack the policeman’s Stingray. That’s the world of Mr. No Legs, where not even sportscars are safe from cruel and unusual punishment.
          Oddly, this deranged picture was made by people normally associated with wholesome entertainment: Director Ricou Browning and writer Jack Cowden cocreated the 1960s TV series Flipper, and Browning’s most iconic credit stems from his stunt performance as the titular monster in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Insert your own jokes about how too much time spent underwater pickled Browning’s brain. Anyway, back to Mr. No LegsAmong the familiar actors wandering through this fever dream of a movie are John Agar, Lloyd Bochner, Richard Jaeckel, and Rance Howard (father to Clint and Ron). Each embarrasses himself at some point by delivering an idiotic line or rendering a nonsensical reaction shot. But wait, there’s more! At one point, the movie’s nominal hero, a detective named Andy—played by the perfectly named Ron Slinker, a doughy Rob Reiner lookalike—retires to his girlfriend’s place, which looks like Hugh Hefner’s crash pad. The bedroom features silk bedding that’s laid on the floor amid matching white-fur carpeting and comforters, complemented by furniture and wall decorations more suitable for a European castle. There’s a plot, too, but surely by now it’s clear that couldn’t matter less. Mr. No Legs. Come for the crass exploitation, stay for the bewildering madness.

Mr. No Legs: FREAKY


Guy Callaway said...

'...BUT NO ONE WANTS TO MEET HIM FACE TO FACE'. Seems to me no one CAN meet him face to face.
I've been cautious about this, as I'm afraid it wouldn't live up (down) to the entertainment offered, but now I need to see it.
Would make a great double bill with 'For Your Height Only'(1981).

Guy Callaway said...

Also, how could you not mention it was directed by The Creature From The Black Lagoon??

Cindylover1969 said...

From the people who gave us Flipper!