[Originally published in Movietone News 52, October 1976]
Things break fast in Seattle. The light, for instance. A fellow can come home to his rooftop pad, take a sniff of midafternoon air, follow that up with a quick shower, and drift into the livingroom to find it invaded by not only a ski-masked burglar but also the mellow gold of sunset. The apartment looks lovely at just that moment, right out of an ad for Northwest living; one is reminded that cameraman Laszlo Pal more frequently occupies himself hymning the Weyerhaeuser Corporation and otherwise shooting commercials. But, to pay quickly what compliments can be paid in connection with Scorchy, our latest made-righcheer-in-town movie, much of Pal’s color camerawork is more attractive and expensive-looking than what we are accustomed to see in grindhouse actioners—which, anywhere except its home shooting base, is the category Scorchy will fall into. Presumably he cannot be blamed for the absence of any coherent directorial notion of where the camera should be put, no more than ace Aldrich editor Michael Luciano can do much about a series of one-shots which, when spliced together, suggest interlocutor A was facing due west while interlocutor B kept his gaze rigidly focused south-southeast.
Only connoisseurs of visual klutziness are going to carry home tales of such directorial—or directional—gaffes. General audience members will remain content to shriek with laughter over action scenes in which the characters quite observably run in circles, and shotgun-toting syndicate lookouts stand obligingly slackjawed while the Big Boss has to fumble in his coat for a handgun and get blasted by the lone policewoman who has just thrown down on them with a single Police Special, and the overhead leaves so attractively reflected on a truck windshield and scrupulously composed by Pal refuse to change position even though the cops on the front seat beyond dutifully vibrate up and down to the rhythm of a supposedly fast-moving vehicle. Hikmet Avedis blatantly rips off the car-and-elevated chase from The French Connection (that’s right, co-opting the Monorail to play the train part) and the downhill racing from Bullitt and the desperate leap for the departing ferry—via motorcycle instead of Volkswagen or Fiat, depending whether the origin was What’s Up, Doc? or that TV commercial—and in the process treats the non-Seattleite to a hilariously compressed tour of local scenic sites, all mysteriously deserted in broad daylight. (This is perhaps atoned for later when, in the distance, you can glimpse a happy crowd of onlookers holding up their children the better to watch the interminable clown act of two baddies chasing each other around some waterfront rooftops; no police are in evidence.) All this is consistent with a scenario that maintains narcotics agent Jackie Parker (Connie Stevens—who is never called Scorchy, or even described as “scorchy”)—has successfully impersonated a Jet-Setting roundheels for the benefit of a local big-time dope smuggler, while still keeping a desk labeled SGT. JACKIE PARKER at police headquarters.
Screenplay, direction and production: Hikmet Avedis. Cinematography: Laszlo Pal. Editing: Michael Luciano. Assistant director: Bruce Wilson. Best Boy / Grip: Jon M. Purdy.
The players: Connie Stevens, Cesare Danova, Marlene Schmidt, William Smith, John Davis Chandler, Normann Burton.
© 1976 Richard T. Jameson