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Rental Review: The Killing Hour (1982)

July 9, 2011

The video store is a place of great promise and great fear, especially when one decides to engage in a blind rental. With no promise of quality other than some snazzy cover art, the film buff takes a leap of faith straight into a suspect piece of cinema. The results can be good, bad, or just mediocre, but the real thrill lies in the decision-making process amongst the display shelves…

  • Dir. Armand Mastroianni
  • Released by 20th Century Fox
  • Alternate Title: The Clairvoyant
  • Rating: ***

A home video release from Blue Underground of a crime thriller from a director with an Italian name. Do we have a giallo film on our hands, perhaps? Nope, this is an American-made suspense flick filmed in New York City by a Brooklyn-born director, although I suspect that Blue Underground would like to dupe us into thinking that it’s an Italian splatter mystery.

The mistake would be easy enough to make. The elements are all here: elaborate murder scenes, hokey police procedural segments, a whodunit building toward a shocking reveal of the killer and his bizarre motive, and stand-up comedy interludes. Okay, so the last one is unique to this picture, but the point is made.

In the film, a murderer picks off a series of victims in NYC using handcuffs. (One particularly memorable death involves the use of the cuffs in an indoor swimming pool.) Elizabeth Kemp plays a clairvoyant artist who compulsively draws images that come to her mind whenever the killer strikes. Her powers catch the attention of a police officer (Norman Parker) on the case, as well as his reporter friend (Perry King), whom he has been keeping informed of the classified details.

The friendship becomes strained as the reporter tries to exploit the story–and the artist–to further his career, endangering the detective’s career in the process. (Luckily, the detective has a stand-up gig to fall back on, which makes me wonder how this movie would play to the Police Academy crowd.) A love triangle forms, and the artist finds herself the main target for the killer as well as for the men’s affections.

Anyone who has seen My Bloody Valentine knows how such a love triangle must end, and the killer’s identity is hardly a surprise. However, the motive is quite a surprise, and that twist redeems what would have otherwise been a textbook low-budget thriller into something slightly above mediocre. Well, that and the presence of Jon Polito and Joe Morton as police officers.

The characters are likeable, the clairvoyance contrivance comes off convincingly, the mystery is engaging, and the George Burns impersonations are delightfully awful. The movie is sure to entertain fans of police thrillers (as long as they’re not expecting Bullitt), and it won’t be a total bore for anyone suckered into watching it with the first group. Unlike the killer himself, it’s harmless.


From → Film Criticism

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