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Massage Parlor Murders(1972)
A deranged and ferocious killer terrorizes the red light district of Times Square in New York City.
For more about Massage Parlor Murders and the Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray release, see Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on July 28, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: George Spencer, John Moser, George Dzundza
Directors: Chester Fox, Alex Stevens
» See full cast & crew
Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray Review
There are no happy endings.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, July 28, 2013
"Massage Parlor Murders" opens with a scene that finds a lowly, frugal john negotiating with a comely working girl for special clothes-removing enhancements to his anticipated rubdown (scored to Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," natch). The scene has nothing to do with the rest of the picture, yet it's an apt start to the feature, which continues down a path of incoherence and slapdash filmmaking. Right from the start there's sleaze, a general reluctance to spend money, and naked breasts, which sums up the viewing event extraordinarily well. Exploitation cinema with a side serving of New York City travelogue, "Massage Parlor Murders" isn't much of a movie, but it's a heck of a viewing experience, packing in enough violence, vague confrontations, and nudity to satisfy those in the mood for gratuitous, no-budget entertainment.
In the heart of New York City, a madman is touring the town's massage parlors, murdering young women hoping to make a fast buck in the sex industry. On the case are cops Rizotti (George Spencer) and O'Mara (John Moser), who search for a connection between the crimes while precious time slips away, putting pressure on the case as the killer repeatedly strikes. Falling in love with Gwen (Sandra Peabody), one victim's roommate and a massage gal herself, O'Mara's attention to swayed by their affair, which takes them around town visiting movie theaters, nightclubs, and swinger establishments. For Rizotti, the lack of evidence burns him deeply, showing little patience for his wife, desperately trying to connect the dots and prevent more loss of life. As leads are chased and witnesses are grilled, the detectives find themselves scrambling to protect the working girls as the murder's design of torment grows more macabre.
"Massage Parlor Murders" is a rudimentary endeavor that lacks the polish of its serial killer brethren, looking as though most scenes came together by accident. Cinematography and editing aren't friends to the production, with directors Chester Fox and Alex Stevens mostly winging it as they assemble this nervous procedural concerning the mad antics of a faceless killer preying on females tasked with stress relief in the big city. It's exploitation, giving the movie license to detail unsavory business, which includes multiple murders that increase in ghoulishness as the effort progresses, finding the monster pouring acid on one body to leave his mark, while another victim's face is pushed through a mirror. "Massage Parlor Murders" certainly isn't pleasant with its concentration of violence toward women (the de rigueur of seventies cinema), but there's a goofiness about the picture that alleviates much of its illness, watching the case bring O'Mara and Rizotti to a private viewing window to watch a client perform a ballet piece for his rented lady (scored to Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King," just because), while cult comedian Brother Theodore pops up here as a demented astrologer who can't help the cops with mystical leads. It's impossible to be angry with the work when it's this scattershot.
The amazing thing about "Massage Parlor Murders" is that there's maybe 20 minutes worth of actual narrative during the entire 80 minute run time. The rest of the work is devoted to the fine art of padding, where we watch O'Mara and Gwen take a tour of the town on their various date nights, strolling past street posters and glowing marquees, bumping into pedestrians clearly unaware they've stumbled into a movie shoot. There's plenty of driving and waiting, while most shots linger on a few seconds longer than they should to inch "Massage Parlor Murders" to feature-length status. Helping to fill out the fun are a few unique visions, including a visit to a private pool filled with swingers out to celebrate the sexual revolution while soaked in chlorine and wayward bodily fluids. The detour into wet flesh and balloon close-ups (the film is at least 25% random cutaways) is meant to tie into O'Mara and Gwen's passionate union, but the concept never quite sticks, instead coming across as easy access to even more nudity in a picture that's already loaded with sin. For action enthusiasts, there's a car chase wedged in here to pump up heart rates, watching O'Mara (clad only in a gym towel) chase a suspect through NYC streets, smashing through a vegetable stand to add some punctuation to an otherwise routine display of spinning and squealing automobiles.
Performances are adequate for such a primitive endeavor, but for the curious, "Massage Parlor Murders" features a return to the screen for Peabody, who played the doomed Mari in Wes Craven's "The Last House on the Left," while character actor George Dzundza pops up as suspect Rizotti works over prematurely, with the recognizable performer (who went on to appear in "Basic Instinct" and "Dangerous Minds") also credited as an assistant director. Let's hope he's responsible for the few properly framed moments of the movie.
Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) has been assembled from 35mm elements, with the masters at Vinegar Syndrome doing their very best to polish the picture despite working with footage that's clearly in rough shape. Print damage is present, along with some shake and harsh reel changes, yet the overall quality of the image is impressive for an obscure title like this. Instead of ruinous, "Massage Parlor Murders" looks amazingly fresh, with tasteful coloring that brings out the brown costumes and red blood, while street visits also carry natural hues, supporting the funky highlights of the locations. Skintones are also quite inviting, keeping flesh pink and presentable. Grain is managed satisfactorily, with shots varying in intensity. Fine detail is limited to the ragtag cinematography, but textures are available for inspection, preserving thespian concern and sidewalk grime. Shadow detail isn't in tip-top shape, often solidifying screen information, making a few low-light encounters difficult to discern. Overall visual quality is inconsistent, but this is likely the best the enterprise has ever looked.
Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2.0 Dolby Digital track is expectedly thin, matching the visual materials in terms of innate craftsmanship limitations. The picture is largely dubbed, though dialogue exchanges remain murky, with a few lines lost during the listening experience. It's not a crisp presentation, but it's acceptable for what the movie is, finding soundtrack selections blended unsteadily with verbal activity, though music remains discernible, rarely overcrowding the track. Highs are crackly, and hiss and pops are present throughout. Again, the source material is sketchy at best, making the BD acceptable for what the producers were up against. Still, keep that volume control handy to catch everything the film has to offer.
Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's enough classical music presented here to qualify "Massage Parlor Murders" as the "Fantasia" of dead hooker masseuse movies, a liberal use of inner-monologue exposition that predates "Taxi Driver" by a few years, and some Herschell Gordon Lewis-style gore is tossed in to please genre fans looking for cheap thrills. It's all tied up with a sloppy bow and stained gift wrapping, but the essentials of sleaze and T.V. supercop heroism are nicely accounted for in this strange picture, while its snapshot of New York City during its most corroded era keeps the effort fascinating, especially when it wanders off to fill time.
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Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Massage Parlor Murders Blu-ray - November 30, 2012
Independent distributors Vinegar Syndrome have revealed that they are planning to release a combo pack edition of directors Alex Stevens and Chester Fox's The Massage Parlor Murders (1972). Restored in 2K from original camera negative, the film will be available ...
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