Monday, June 01, 2015

Death In Small Doses

Peter Graves (MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE) stars in the amazing DEATH IN SMALL DOSES as an FDA agent who infiltrates the Los Angeles trucker scene as a student driver named Tom Kayler. His mission: find out who’s furnishing semi drivers with deadly amphetimines that cause one to hallucinate during an overnight run and run his rig over a cliff.

His first day, an old dude freaks out, wounds a man with a baling hook, and dies. I’m no drug expert, but I don’t think speed does what director Joseph Newman (THIS ISLAND EARTH) and screenwriter John McGreevey (THE WALTONS) think it does. McGreevey’s tough dialogue is good, though, tossing around slang like “co-pilots” and “riding with Benny,” like a pulp paperback crinkled by too many nights in someone’s back pocket.

The best reason to watch is Chuck Connors’ hilariously jacked-up performance as a pill-popping hepcat with the awesome name of Mink Reynolds who lives down the hall from Graves at a rooming house owned by Val Owens (Mala Powers). You probably haven’t seen the Rifleman grinning, dancing, jumping around, and swinging, man, swinging like Mink does. Graves is dull, of course, but his square-jawed hero turn works as an amusing contrast to Connors, particularly a possibly improvised bit in which a speeded-up Connors downs some bennies and tosses his crumpled paper cup off the noggin of an irritated Graves.

Newman directs this Allied Artists exploitation with a sure hand and even some excitment. Graves was the star of a popular Saturday morning TV series, FURY, at the time he made trashploitation classics like this, IT CONQUERED THE WORLD, and POOR WHITE TRASH. Also with Merry Anders, Harry Lauter, John Mitchum, Robert Shayne, Robert Williams, and Roy Engel.

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