The Movie Waffler Bluray Review - BLAZING MAGNUM | The Movie Waffler

Bluray Review - BLAZING MAGNUM

Blazing Magnum review
A cop tears apart Montreal in search of his sister's killer.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alberto De Martino

Starring: Stuart Whitman, Carole Laure, Martin Landau, John Saxon, Tisa Farrow, Gayle Hunnicutt

Blazing Magnum bluray

Italian cop thrillers of the 1970s were generally set in two locations, usually the Mafia infested metropolises of home soil or the gritty streets of a then notoriously crime ridden New York. Alberto De Martino's 1976 thriller Blazing Magnum is an oddity in that it picks the not so notorious streets of Canada, an early example of foreign filmmakers taking advantage of that country's tax breaks and geographical similarities to the US. Where subsequent Canadian shot genre pics would usually have Canadian cities stand in for American counterparts, Blazing Magnum is actually set in the Canuck cities of Ottawa and Montreal.

In the former city we find tough police detective Tony (an alternate title for the film was 'Tough Tony'), played by Stuart Whitman. In classic Dirty Harry fashion he accidentally stumbles across a crime in progress, giving chase to a bunch of bank robbers and mowing them down once he catches up with the hoods. Tony's actions mean he misses a phone call from his troubled sister Louise (Carole Laure, who might have been more appropriately cast as Whitman's daughter: side-note, check out her 1978 album 'Alibis'), a Montreal based student whom we witnessed having an unheard argument with her professor, Dr. Tracer (Martin Landau), in the opening credits sequence.

Blazing Magnum review

When Louise collapses and dies unexpectedly at a party that night, Tony heads to Montreal where he begins to suspect foul play in his sister's death. Sure enough, an autopsy reveals she was poisoned. The chief suspect is Tracer, who administered a drug to Louise as he attempted to revive her. Landau adds a touch of class to the drama, and his performance is reminiscent of his turn as the villain of the week in the Columbo episode 'Double Shock'. The actor is so good at playing weaselly types that he really keeps us guessing as to whether Tracer is actually guilty or just a victim of circumstance.

Whoever the killer might be, they don't want to leave any witnesses, and so the various characters who were present when Louise dropped dead are either killed or manage to escape such a fate. This plot sees the film veer into giallo territory, with the sort of stalking sequences and deaths at the hand of an unseen killer you expect from that sub-genre. In similar fashion to the Clint Eastwood thriller Tightrope, Blazing Magnum is a curious mix of a Dirty Harry type cop movie and a sleazy murder mystery. Another of the film's alternate titles was 'Strange Shadows in an Empty Room', a giallo title if ever there was one.

Blazing Magnum review

Unlike many Italian genre movies, Blazing Magnum has a relatively straightforward plot that won't give you too much of a headache. At times it could be mistaken for a pilot for the sort of cop dramas that were popular on US TV at the time, but every 10 minutes or so De Martino reminds us we're watching an Italian film, with stylish murders and outrageous action.

The action side is largely down to the work of legendary second unit director and stunt coordinator Rémy Julienne, who was to 1970s car chases as Yakima Canutt was to 1950s chariot races. There's a cracking chase through the streets of Montreal that prefigures To Live and Die in LA with Tony giving chase to a suspect through oncoming traffic. A not so politically correct punch-up involves Tony taking on a transvestite trio, leaving him hanging off the edge of a high rise building at one point. Such sequences are shot with an urgency that adds a realistic edge to their over-the-top exuberance.

Blazing Magnum review

On the giallo side we have Tisa Farrow following her sister Mia's tentative See No Evil footsteps by playing a young blind woman who finds herself targeted by the killer. There's a tense sequence in which the fiend tries to lure her into walking off the edge of a building under construction by rearranging the protective guard rails. Classy Gayle Hunnicutt is cast against type as a promiscuous professor who likes to sleep with her students, and her performance makes you wish she had done more work in the Italian exploitation field.

If you're looking for a realistic depiction of police work, look elsewhere. Whitman's Tony would be hauled in front of an IA panel for his actions in the opening scene alone, never mind the havoc he wreaks on a city that isn't even in his jurisdiction later on. But if you're already onboard with the unique delights of Italian genre cinema of this era you'll embrace the madness on display here. If you're new to this sort of thing, Blazing Magnum might act as a sturdy bridge between American genre cinema and its more lurid Mediterranean cousin.

An audio interview with De Martino; an interview with the always informative Kim Newman; choice of English and Italian audio; trailer.

Blazing Magnum
 is on UK bluray now from Studiocanal.