The Amazing Mr. No Legs (1979)

The Amazing Mr. No Legs (1979)‘You’ve never seen anyone like him!’

A cop on the drug squad is devastated when his sister overdoses. But the autopsy throws up some interesting questions and he teams with a homicide detective for a further investigation. Can the case be linked to the activities of a local kingpin of organised crime and his wheelchair-bound enforcer?

This is a typical low-budget, late 1970s policer, which embraces all the usual clichés of the genre; cops with porn star moustaches, call girl stoolies in sleazy bars, stakeouts and brown leather jackets. The villain is Lloyd Bochner; a well-connected businessman who holds parties for the bigwigs of local society, plays a lot of golf and has an outdoor pool frequented by lots of girls in bikinis who don’t get any dialogue. The squad-room at the local precinct house is just a couple of small offices, but big enough to contain stars Richard Jaeckel, Ron Slinker and John Agar.

Slinker is the avenging brother and the main focus of the story. It’s his only involvement of any kind in the film business and he does not look like a professional actor. It’s not that he’s particularly bad, but he has very little screen presence and the scene where he single-handedly demolishes a downtown bar screams ‘Vanity Project’ at the top of its lungs. Having said that, Jaeckel was a familiar TV and movie presence (and always good value) and Agar (once Mr. Shirley Temple!) was a big screen veteran who had previously wrestled with ‘The Mole People’ (1956) and ‘The Brain from Planet Arous’ (1958). Directing was Ricou Browning, who was once ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’ (1954) (at least in all the underwater sequences!!)

All mildly interesting, but, by this point, you’d be forgiven for wondering why am I discussing this film at all. It all sounds pretty normal, right? Well, not quite. And that’s because of Ted Volraff, who plays Lou, the kingpin’s main enforcer. Volraff was a US marine and Korean veteran, where he received combat injuries so serious that both his legs were amputated. Afterwards, he became the first man to earn a black belt in karate from a wheelchair, eventually becoming a grand master of the art. Black belts in other disciplines followed and he founded an organisation to help the disabled get involved with martial arts. His performance here as an actor isn’t bad either; sure, it’s a totally one-dimensional character but he delivers his lines with confidence and conviction. Most of the time he zooms around in his wheelchair (with built-in shotguns and ninja stars as optional extras!) but there’s one poolside sequence where he gets involved in some direct combat. And very impressive it is too. Although all of this may seem a little dubious to some in the hysteria of today’s politically correct universe, I found nothing wrong with it. Presumably no-one held a gun to Volraff’s head and made him take part, and isn’t it actually quite inspiring to see someone taking their perceived disability and turning into something positive?

The Amazing Mr. No Legs (1979)

Amazing indeed!

Sadly this isn’t much of a showcase for Volraff’s talents. The script is strictly ‘by the numbers’ and the story development is pretty sloppy. For a start, why would a cop be allowed to investigate his own sister’s case (even if it’s not totally official)? Where was the boyfriend’s body dumped and how did the cops find it? Why is the entire last 20 minutes of the movie a dull car chase with some underwhelming stunts?

Unremarkable stuff then. Without the presence of Mr. Volraff, it would have probably been consigned to complete obscurity, but worth catching for the glimpse we get of his considerable skills.

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