Massage Parlor Murders! opens in about as perfect a manner as any exploitation flick of the 70s could. A chubby middle-aged goof gets a massage from a saucy lady who swindles more and more money out of him until he leaves, politely disappointed and apologising profusely. It’s captured in a couple of wides and features a lot of mumbling (and I’m assuming) adlibbed dialogue. It’s sleazy but utterly fucking charming, and all before the opening credits kick in.
MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS!
aka: Massage Parlor Hookers
USA, 1973, Chester Fox & Alex Stevens
Some sick fuck is going around killing ladies of the night — massage parlor ladies — in the most horrific of ways. Rizotti — being a regular massage parlor hound — is super pissed off. O’Mara is pretty casual about the whole thing and starts an inappropriate relationship with Gwen (Last House on the Left‘s Sandra Peabody), the roommate of one of the murder victims. It doesn’t end well.
While Rizotti fights with his wife and O’Mara gallivants around at pool orgies, the Massage Parlor Murderer is free to kill women. He gets his kicks in a variety of ways. He pours acid over a victim’s body. Another girl is stabbed to death with a broken bottle. He’s also a fan of classic strangulation. But hey, what sexual deviant psychopath isn’t?
On several occasions, Rizotti and O’Mara jump to the conclusion they’ve found the killer the moment they get a hot tip. This includes a guy called Mr. Creepy (George Dzundza). Rizotti beats the shit out of him until another murder takes place proving Creepy’s not their man. O’Mara spots a slightly-more-dodgy-than-everyone-else guy at the aforementioned pool orgy and car-chases him through Manhattan in nothing but a bath towel. This car chase features the funniest crates-of-fruit-getting-run-into moment I’ve ever seen. It builds up FOR SO LONG. The car chase is pretty cool too.
These cops suck. They even admit it in one scene. They achieve nothing, except for significant damages to public property and leaving innocent people bloodied and bruised. Despite eventually working out the killer’s motive (which is weirdly similar to David Fincher’s Seven), they still can’t catch him. They only manage to nab their man out of sheer luck and with help from a far more competent massage girl.
If you can’t tell from the synopsis, Massage Parlor Murders! is fucking great. It delivers on sleaze and stupidity. The death scenes are filthy and crass. The nudity is rampant and gratuitous. The performances are big and stupid. Though it drags in parts, this is solid exploitation nonsense filled with all the bizarro non sequiturs you’d hope for in a film of this vintage.
Even better than its exploitation goodness is the vision it presents of 1970s New York. I love seeing the New York of yesteryear, and Massage Parlor Murders! captures it lovingly. The grime of Times Square is in full effect. The buildings are as full of character as the slick cars and slicker people. It’s a perfect time capsule. Being a sheltered wuss, I’m sure it would terrify me, but damn, I wish I could travel back in time to this era of New York.
A lot of people will find Massage Parlor Murders! excruciatingly boring. This is through and through a 70s exploitation flick. That means it’s not always fast-paced. There are long stretches of irritating monologues and sometimes frustrating tangents. The editing is mostly frantic with split second cuts, other times shots drag on seemingly forever. This is all part of the joy of this kind of movie. Take it or leave it, chump.
(Oh yeah, and one more bonus tidbit. Beverly Bonner of Basket Case fame shows up in this for a single shot! I thought I was seeing things, but not according to IMDB! Wow.)
Massage Parlor Murders! is available in an excellent blu-ray/DVD double pack from the great folks at Vinegar Syndrome. I highly recommend picking it up. It features two cuts of the film (I watched the original cut) and a great extra feature of reels that show a glimpse of the very loose looking behind the scenes of the film.