From the creators of Flipper comes the next chapter in helpful, legless mammal entertainment.
A cult oddity forever only available on VHS and DVD bootlegs, Mr. No Legs has taunted exploitation fetishists for decades. I mean, c'mon, that poster and tagline ("Don't Cross Him Or He'll Cut You Down To Size"), it's the Sirens' Song to Odysseus:
Odysseus, bravest of heroes,
Draw near to us, on our green island,
Odysseus, we’ll teach you wisdom,
We’ll give you love, sweeter than honey.
The songs we sing, soothe away sorrow,
And in our arms, you will be happy.
Odysseus, bravest of heroes,
The songs we sing, will bring you peace.
Or maybe it just seems like that story, since my wife always ties me down to keep me from buying more
But much like Odysseus spent a lifetime getting home, Flipper creators, Ricou Browning and Jack Cowden waited their entire lives to make this film. I'm kidding, of course, but what is Mr. No Legs, if not the obvious product of a passion project—or at the very least, the fulfillment of some destiny willed by the gods themselves? Both men could have lain low, living off that sweet dolphin money, but no. They pooled together their resources, called in every favor, and made...this movie?
(And yes, if you're confusing your Ricou Brownings, this is the very same Ricou Browning who played the Gill-man in the underwater scenes from The Creature from the Black Lagoon.)
The film follows detectives Chuck (Richard Jaeckel) and Andy (Ron Slinker) as they attempt to bring down a local drug kingpin. However, things get personal when Andy's sister becomes the latest casualty to the violence sweeping the town...
...but yeah, yeah, you're not here for that. You're here for the titular Mr. No Legs, the kingpin's no-nonsense-or-legged enforcer with shotgun wheelchair handles and badass martial arts skills. No Legs is played by Ted Vollrath, who was actually a pretty fascinating person, should anyone bother looking him up. A real-life double amputee from serving in the Korean War, he came back to the States and took up karate. He was the first person in a wheelchair ever to earn a black belt, eventually even becoming a karate Grand Master before founding a martial arts school solely for handicapped students.
Though Vollrath isn't the greatest actor in the world (and this would be his only film appearance), he has a formidable screen presence, sorta like an unpolished Jack Palance. But man, oh man, when you see him leap out of that chair and whup some goon ass, it's a sight to be behold. It's a shame we didn't get to see anymore from Vollrath, as I could've totally embraced a cycle of 70's wheelchairsploitation karate films.
The movie itself is fine. Richard Jaeckel (of The Green Slime fame) adds some much needed charm, for his screen partner, Ron Slinker is a bit of a stinker. Apparently, Slinker was a semi-famous-semi-pro wrestler, who came with none of the charisma we would associate with the likes of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper or The Rock.
Held together by some rather eye-popping set pieces (a race war dust up in a bar with a drag queen and little person comes to mind), Mr. No Legs keeps a nice pace, even rewarding the viewer with a gratuitous, 10-minute car chase at the end. And I mean gratuitous literally: the plot has wrapped up completely before the chase begins, rendering the entire affair rather meaningless. But then again, who am I to complain about superfluous shit?
Worth seeking out.
Note: Seeking it out is about to become a lot easier, because Massacre Video is releasing a restored Blu-ray of the film next week (July 14).