Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mask of Murder (1985)

...aka: Investigator, The

Directed by:
Arne Mattsson

In Nelson, a small, wintery Canadian town, masked maniac Johannes Krantz (Frank Brennan) is going around slashing women's throats with a straight razor, but the police have finally caught up to him. During a badly organized raid on his hideout, Krantz manages to shoot police chief Jonathan Rich (Christopher Lee) twice in the stomach before lead detective Bob McClain (Rod Taylor) gets fed up and unloads a machine gun close range into Johannes chest, killing him. Jonathan manages to survive his injuries though, and is rushed off to the hospital to recover. Soon after, a copycat killer (wearing the same exact white mask and using the same exact murder weapon) picks up right where Johannes left off. Is it Johannes back from the dead, or has someone involved in the initial investigation lost their mind? All the while, Bob's wife Maria (Valerie Perrine) - who is supposed to be having a holiday in Bermuda with her girlfriend but is actually still in town and hiding at a friend's apartment - is carrying on an affair with Bob's partner Ray Cooper (Sam Cook).

Though this film seems to want to function as a mystery (with plenty of horror-slasher scenes), it does a poor job of fleshing out the supporting characters or adding any kind of plot complication that will throw viewers off. Instead we're given some rather clumsy, obvious clues about who the new psycho is, and since just one person seems to really have a motive, don't be surprised if your initial hunch is the correct one. There's one occasion where Taylor's character catches some previously-unseen guy slashing up a barber with a razor, but people aren't stupid enough to fall for such an obvious red herring injected into the film about mid-way through. Some of the dialogue and performances are also painfully bad. This Canadian/Swedish co-production is cast with American, British, Swedish and French-Canadian actors. Perrine and Cook give awful performances, and most of the smaller roles are either badly acted or badly dubbed. Not surprisingly, the two who manage to rise above the material (despite being given some terrible dialogue) are Taylor and Lee; the former doing well carrying the film and the latter spending most of his screen time in a hospital bed, but still contributing a good supporting bit. The only other cast member of interest is Heinz Hopf (from THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE), who is good in his one brief scene.

Yet despite all these problems (or partially because of them), I have to admit that I was still mostly entertained by what I saw here. It moves along at a fairly brisk pace, there are plenty of murder scenes and nudity (male and female) and some surprisingly stylish moments. Even some of the badly delivered lines and stiff acting added to the entertainment value. There's also a hilarious scene at a disco club complete with some guy wearing a Michael Jackson Thriller jacket and a chick glaring at the camera as they dance around to some awful song called "Juicy Lucy." Cinematography is fairly good (even colorful at times), the score isn't bad and there are some slick edits and scene transitions.


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