Monday, October 5, 2009

The Ransom a/k/a Maniac a/k/a Assault on Paradise a/k/a The Town That Cried Terror (1977)

Released by American International Pictures in 1977, and reissued under several titles over the next few years, this turgid potboiler features ridiculous action sequences, a dopey script, and a cast of veteran actors picking up a quick paycheck. Namely Oliver Reed, sporting an exaggerated American tough guy accent, a sweaty and hungover looking Stuart Whitman, an equally sweaty John Ireland, and the laconic Jim Mitchum, son of Robert. The female lead is played by Deborah Raffin, who followed her early success in The Dove and Once is Not Enough with roles in made-for-television movies and B-flicks. This movie falls into the latter category, even if director Richard Compton gives the film the flat, cheap look of a '70s TV series.

The ludicrous plot concerns a series of murders by crossbow in a corrupt Arizona resort town, with the killer (Paul Koslo, who you may recall from his awful performance in Tomorrow Never Comes) demanding a ransom from the wealthy businessmen who run the town. Trying to keep a lid on things, Whitman hires world-weary mercenary Nick McCormick (Reed) and his faithful bald companion Wolf (Paul Lussier) to terminate the blackmailer with extreme prejudice.

A series of absurd set-pieces ensue, while the wealthy are picked off one by one, and Reed reaches the boiling point after Wolf gets an arrow in the back.

Reed is photographed to emphasize his short stature, while his scenes with Raffin are particularly incredulous. She's a TV reporter, he's a soldier of fortune. He steals her microphone, she confronts him, he pulls a gun on her, she sleeps with him.

It's totally '70s.

Originally entitled The Ransom, the film was rechristened Maniac in the fall of '77, with a lurid ad campaign created to tie it in with the Son of Sam killings. It later showed up at drive-ins and grindhouses, and on TV under the titles Assault on Paradise and The Town That Cried Terror.

Yeah, this movie is a piece of shit, but it has its moments.

Originally published in BLOG! by JM Dobies 16 May 2008.

Though currently unavailable on DVD, the VHS can be found cheap under the titles Maniac and The Ransom.

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