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Lawrence David Foldes
Lynda Day George
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A crazed sniper is killing prostitutes in Toronto. Using a camera mounted on the gun, the killer takes pictures of the victims as they're gunned down. Boyd (Richard Crenna) is a police sergeant who suspects high-level pimp, Julius Kurtz (Paul Williams), of being behind the slayings. Harboring an intense distaste for Kurtz, Boyd would like nothing more than to lock him up and throw away the key, but are these cases ever that easy?
Stone Cold Dead is a grimy amalgamation of giallo, crime drama and exploitation archetypes. The sniper's appearance and M.O. are right out of a giallo, as is the terrific music that pops up whenever the sniper is in action. I also loved the scenes in the killer's darkroom with whispering voices running rampantly through a damaged psyche. The addition of the camera mount to shoot pictures and bullets at the same time is certainly an inspired touch. Psychological aspect aside, it ensures that the various murder scenes lack a feeling of repetition.
The atmosphere of the film is one of grunge and decay. The photography is gritty, due in part to the budget, and the locations are trashy. It's an appropriate look, and this thing would have been right at home on the grindhouse circuit. There's an ample amount of sleaze on display as we're treated to the seedy underbelly of Toronto. Kurtz dealing with his girls and Boyd's quest to bring him down get as much screen time as the hunt for the killer. We also get a small taste of blaxploitation when an undercover policewoman gets into it with a mean black chick brandishing a knife.
Paul Williams gives a standout performance as Kurtz, a classy type who actually shows a level of compassion and respect for those under his employ. His character is supposed to be scum, yet I actually found him to be more likable than Richard Crenna's hard-ass sergeant. Boyd isn't all bad, however, as he makes sure that his pet fish are taken care of when he's too busy to come home. How? By rigging up a contraption that feeds them when he calls his house. Genre favorite Michael Ironside shows up in one of the briefest roles ever as an ill-fated cop. What a tease! I was going back and forth between two characters as far as the sniper's identity goes. I managed to get it right about fifteen minutes before the revelation. The revelation scene itself is a winner. The person playing the killer, and I won't name names so as not to spoil it, is strong in the part. Let's just say that I was impressed with the performance, and the reveal certainly wasn't a cop-out as is the case with some films focusing on a mystery murderer.
While some of the subplots only serve to slow the film down, this seldom-seen little cheapie has a lot going for it, especially if you're into gialli. I saw this when it played on MGM HD, and the hi-def image quality was impressive.
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