Everyone loves a good crime syndicate movie and I needed something to team up with my recently acquired Mr No Legs for another fun packed Zombie Club. It's no massive surprise that the movie that catches my eye happens to be Italian, directed by Umberto Lenzi, and stars the utterly fantabulous Thomas Milian as a character with a name that predates a certain Stallone persona we’ve all come to know and loathe. Even if Syndicate Sadists aka Rambo's Revengewas an Italian Rambo rip-off, it would be likely to end up in Zombie Club for that very reason (check out this ZC if you don’t believe me). But this is not a Rambo Rip-off. No, it’s much better than that, and nothing whatsoever to do with the depiction of fellatio on the cover of my copy acquired from www.zerodaydvd.com.
Following Milian’s laid-back ball-busting adventures, we’re going to go make an appointment to see a certain henchman called Mr No Legs. Why? Because the first day us three deadheads met, I happened to have my Video Nasties 2 book with me, and we were pretty bowled over when we opened it at the Mr No Legs page, saying something like, ”We’ve got to see that movie someday!” Three years later, here we are.
This evening’s Zombie Club is brought to you by Zomblee in association with Thomas Milian’s groovy red hat and a man with no legs doing double stump thrusts.
Syndicate Sadists (Rambo's Revenge) (1975)
Plot Something about Rambo getting revenge.
Zomblee Some movies from this period simply ooze all the right factors that earn it some kind of cult kudos and this one has it in spades. It’s got Thomas Milian and it’s directed by Umberto Lenzi. This partnership has been tried and tested, the results of which range from Almost Human to The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist to Rome: Armed to the Teeth. I know what you're thinking - those movies sound awesome, and they really are, especially if you're a fan of funky soundtracks, babes who love to get naked, cops who act like criminals to punish the guilty, great hair and general great attire. Tonight, we monikered this deliciously 70's brand of attire, "Saxonwear", after the great man to whom we've already dedicated two Zombie Clubs, himself a veteran of the golden age of Italian crime movies. And boy did he dress well. Hail Saxon.
Syndicate Sadists sees Rambo (Milian) return to Milan after an absence of some 6 months to find his old friend Pino involved in a private policing business. When Pino isn't brown-nosing Rambo, he's trying to show off how hard he is in the dojo ("Wow, I wasn't expecting a dojo sequence!" - Jim) but he fails to make much of an impression and Rambo playfully whips his ass. Soon however, Pino gets involved in a kidnap investigation where the son of a prosperous businessman has been snatched, but ends up with his brains smashed out at the side of the road. When Rambo gets involved, he plays rival gangs against one another; the grand puppeteer manipulating the henchmen puppets. Of course, he rescues the kid and compensates Pino's widow and son with dirty money, and also gets to waste a lot of thugs in the process. Brilliant.
Milian really gets to look his coolest here, like when he’s "riding his motorbike menacingly with the hat his granny knitted him" (Rawshark), and most of the driving in this movie really is superb. Those crazed Italian stuntmen really deliver the goods here, no doubt utilising the skills they honed in countless other movies of the same ilk. If this isn't enough, SS occasionally delivers some script gold dust (”Life is a hole. You’re born through a hole. You eat through a hole. You shit through a hole and you end up in a hole”).
Hollywood legend Joseph Cotton features as the head of one of the syndicates, playing the role of the elderly (and blind, despite what Jim and Rawshark may think) 'Paterno', but he was in his Autumn years by this point, and no doubt a victim of the evil bottle, which may explain why Rawshark thought he resembled a Thunderbird puppet. He was right, too.
"Hell I ain't no prevert!"
Rawshark Make way at the back, there’s a new (or should that be old?) cinematic Rambo in town, and Sly Stallone had better take cover, because Tomas Milian’s Rambo is in no mood to take prisoners. Yep, we’re back in the hard-as-nails, down and dirty, action vigilante Italiano area (circa the 70s), so you know damn well what to expect; guns, gruff grunts, lots more guns, flashes of flesh and some of the best motorbike stunt sequences known to man. Ah, it’s always good to see Lenzi back in action at Zombie Club.
When Rambo (Tomas Milian) returns to town after having been away for six months, his mate Pino persuades him to go along for an interview with a local ‘security agency’. The fact that the said interview involves a dojo fight sequence as well as a firing range (”I’d like to give that a shot!” - Zomblee) says it all really. Luckily Rambo passes the ‘interview’ but it’s not long before Pino is killed, and some VIP’s kid is kidnapped, prompting Rambo to embark on his mission of revenge, rescue the boy and save the day.
With its jam-packed scenes of fights, motorbike chases (whilst Rambo constantly wears his woolly red hat), Molotov cocktails and gun play, Syndicate Sadists is a great action thriller and a great example of the classic Polizia sub-genre. There may be a hint of a Western feel, with a plot echoing A Fistful of Dollars and a final shooting very reminiscent of the spaghetti Westerrn classics but with its well-performed characters (it’s great to see Joseph Cotton on screen as the blind gang leader Paterno) and groovy music Syndicate Sadists truly emerges as a little gem of a movie. Lenzi, we love you.
“I don’t want to hear that man. It’s my script and I know all my lines”.
Jim "His name's actually Rambo, how cool is that?" observed Rawshark early on, followed by the equally accurate "He looks like a cross between Deer Hunter, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon!" Yes everyone, welcome to another Italian 70s crime thriller influenced Zombie Club courtesy of Zomblee. He loves this shit, you know.
So yeah, Rambo turns up after being away for a while (giving every other character the gift of opening with, "You shouldn't have come back Rambo...") and catches up with his rent-a-cop mate who promptly gets killed, leaving Rambo looking for revenge. There are also a couple of gangs, a kidnapped rich kid, a lot of cool car chases, shootouts aplenty and a dojo sequence. I love dojo sequences; I'd put them in every film if I could.
Along the way Rambo visits an old flame who also dies just after telling him that he shouldn’t have come back ("Old flame, new flame, dead flame!" - Zomblee), we meet a guy with a Hi-Di-Hi jacket, witness a "symbolic horse against door shot" (Rawshark, I dunno either...) and have a disagreement over whether there are two characters in the movie called Maria. ("You don't get two Marias or two Daves in a movie, you don't get it!" - Zomblee, but I'm sure he's wrong)
And then before you know it we get the final chase scene, a cool shoot out where he "uses the help of flares while actually wearing flares" (Zomblee), and a final confrontation with good ol' Joe Cotton where we find out that he is blind after all even though we'd been telling Zomblee he was wrong about that for most of the movie. I guess Rawshark and I should have thought that one through, seeing as Zomblee had seen the film before. Tch.
"You shouldn't have come back Rambo..."
Director Umberto Lenzi
Cast Tomas Milian
Runtime 92 mins
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Mr. No Legs (1981)
Plot Something about this Mister, who has no legs.
Jim At last, we finally we get round to watching the elusive Mr No Legs, and about time too. The plot, as such, is really quite straightforward. Essentially, Mr No Legs is a mob boss henchman with designs on the top job and he plans to make that step up by playing the boss off against the crooked police chief over a big drug deal which involves hiding the drugs in hand rolled cigars. This means it’s quite early on that we realise that Mr No Legs isn’t actually a very nice guy (“The ‘Amazing’ lead me into thinking he was good, like Spiderman.” – Rawshark). The hero of the piece is, in fact, a chubby police detective called Andy whose girlfriend has an amazing massive feathered bed and whose mate Richard Jaeckel, of Dirty Dozen fame, has an amazing orange mustang and has an amusing habit of turning up just after the fights have all finished.
And a few fights there are in this movie too, including one with “a random midget dressed in red!” (Rawshark), although they’re only really there to demonstrate that Andy has a good line in chubby kung-fu and that Mr No Legs is hard. And boy is he hard. But wouldn’t you be if you had a double-barrelled shotgun on each side of your wheelchair, shuriken wheels hidden in the spokes and was a master of the No Leg kung-fu technique? (“Mr No Legs isn’t in as many scenes as you’d like but the scenes that he’s in are extremely good value for money. And he even makes Bruce Lee noises when he fights.” – Zomblee). This is demonstrated quite clearly in the amazing kung-fu by the pool sequence around an hour in to the running time. Let’s just say I thought I’d seen just about everything a B-movie could throw at you, but I was so wrong.
After there’s a big encounter between, err, all the remaining cast members, where things really hit the fan. In the ensuing gunfight, No Legs kills his mate that (“…looks like George from George & Mildred.” – Zomblee) but is actually Ron Howard’s dad, then kills the mob boss, but is then himself killed by the crooked chief. This stunned us incredibly as there was a good 20 minutes left, and no matter how good the following car chase sequence involving cops that hadn’t had breakfast was, I don’t think we got over the early loss of the title character. Still, we did see him doing press-ups in his wheel chair at one point, so what else do you want?
“It’s the liveliest morgue I’ve ever been in, I’ll tell you that!”
Rawshark Yes, we really did get to see the amazing Mr No Legs do press-ups in his chair at one point, although let’s face it, that never comes close to the stand-out sequence of this entire film (perhaps what the whole film was made for in the first place) – the poolside kung-fu fight featuring the titular Mr Stumpy himself.
”My eyes deceive me!” squealed Jim as Mr No Legs, surrounded by assorted full-height heavies, launched himself off his wheelchair into a vicious ”double stump thrust”, before spinning around into a ”reverse double stump thrust” as he took on everyone around him. Cue five minutes of Zombie Club applause and excited shouting at the TV - ”Oh, he’s gone through his legs!” (Jim), ”This has to be seen!” (Zomblee) and ”Oh! He’s sat on him!” (Jim).
However, despite the ‘classic’ poolside fight, and a pretty rollicking 20 minute car chase at the end, Mr No Legs never really lifts itself above the title card marked ‘curiosity’. Ron Linker who played Mr No Legs never appeared again, and the film’s director, Ricou Browning (who also played the creature in The Creature From the Black Lagoon) never directed another film and it’s not hard to see why in either case. With it’s TV feel, the film never really engages when Mr No Legs is off-screen, and thanks to a lifeless performance from Ron Linker is not really that engaging when he’s onscreen either.
Having said that, where else are you going to see a movie featuring a wheelchair with machine guns, midget shadow-boxing, telephone-strangling, bitchy hair-pulling AND a cameo by Jim Kelly (missed, much to their annoyance, by both Jim and Zomblee)? Some great Top Ten suggestions too; Top Ten Driving Through Stuff, Top Ten Dispatch Ladies, Top Ten Road Blocks, Top Ten Cars On Rail Tracks and Top Ten Death Sequences That Involve Ice.
“What do you know about a guy in a wheelchair?”
Zomblee I really wish we actually completed these Top Tens instead of just endlessly suggesting them. My fault entirely - all talk and no action. When watching a curiosity like Mr No Legs however, you may feel the need every now and then to make your own agenda in terms of entertainment because although Ron Linker’s limbless high jinks have got to be seen to be believed, the movie as a whole is a dull affair with clunky, workmanlike direction. And not a very good workman at that.
There really are a couple of scenes that makes this movie worth seeing, one of which involves a poolside fight at the syndicate boss’s luxurious house. No Legs takes on no less than three bad guys in a style that is as preposterous as it is infinitely entertaining. This is when Jim realised that Ron Linker (No Legs himself) really had no legs (”I thought they were…tucked underneath”) and then coined his special move as the ”stump thrust” or ”reverse double stump thrust”. Seldom has such a cacophony of laughter been heard at Zombie Club as when No Legs jumped off the wheelchair, then slipped between the legs of his opponent, battering him like a man possessed before being dragged into the swimming pool for some watery ass-whipping (I couldn't really write "ass kicking" there). Is this as good as it gets? Quite possibly...
If this isn’t quite un-PC enough for you, then fear not, because a midget makes an amusing entrance in the bar fight where two rather unsightly gals (”white trash with missing teeth” Rawshark) are beating the bejesus out of each other before No Legs comes in and does what he does best, apart from stump thrusting. He’s a real shit that No Legs, and don’t worry, he gets his comeuppance, although a little too early if you ask me, which is why the remainder of the movie is padded out with a ridiculously long car chase.
So, not so much of a great movie but one that contains a couple of great scenes and one strangely out-of-place comedy morgue scene. The cast includes Richard Jaekel (from The Dirty Dozen) and Lloyd Bochner (from TV’s Dynasty and Crowhaven Farm) playing D’Angelo, the crime boss, who’s got quite possibly the longest telephone extension cord we have ever seen - the John Holmes of extension cords (”Ohh…look at the length of his cord” Rawshark).
"You were never raised. You grew."
Director Ricou Browning
Cast Richard Jaeckel
Runtime 90 mins
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It’s a good job we’re not very PC here at Zombie Club. Movies like the amazing Mr No Legs would be out of the equation altogether and we wouldn’t get to be stunned by his reverse double stump thrust. Sometimes it goes too far for Jim though, who refused to get involved in myself and Rawshark’s conversation about what type of shorts he should wear (that’s shorts for Mr No Legs, not shorts for Jim). Jim wore shorts on his stag weekend - his legs were black and blue from paint balling, but that’s a whole other story I guess.
See you at next Zombie Club for some sleazy girls in prison-type stuff, courtesy of that man Rawshark. And some sleazy girls. Magic.
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