Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Scalpel aka False Face

Robert Lansing’s outstanding performance as a mad plastic surgeon anchors this sick chiller filmed in Georgia. Lansing, who starred in the television series 87TH PRECINCT, 12 O’CLOCK HIGH, and THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS, as well as dozens of episodic guest turns, plays Dr. Phillip Reynolds, whose daughter Heather (Judith Chapman, another busy TV actor who found long-running success on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS) ran away a year earlier after she saw him drowning her boyfriend in the family pool (out of jealousy?).

Reynolds drowned Heather’s mother too. That death was chalked off as an accident by the authorities, but not by Heather’s grandfather. He dies and leaves his entire $5 million fortune to Heather, who isn’t around to collect. Reynolds wants that money. What is an unscrupulous, greedy plastic surgeon to do?

How about inviting a topless stripper, whom he finds laying in the street near death with her face beaten to a bloody pulp, back to his place with a scheme to reconstruct her features to resemble Heather. That way “Jane Doe” can collect the $5 million, sharing half with him, of course. What could go wrong? How about the real Heather returning to the Reynolds mansion and discovering her father in a sexual relationship with a woman who looks just like her!

Considering its broad portrayals of greed, murder, and incest, SCALPEL (which also saw release as FALSE FACE) is not quite as sleazy as it could have been. Or maybe should have been. Not a lot happens in terms of story turns, but what does happen is pretty entertaining, thanks mostly to the leads. Lansing played few film or television roles with as much range as the murderous Svengali Phillip Reynolds, and you can almost taste the glee he brings to the part. Chapman is also effective, even though director John Grissmer (BLOOD RAGE) and co-writer/producer/editor Joseph Weintraub don’t allow her to cut loose the way Lansing does.

One of SCALPEL’s failings as that it doesn’t provide much difference between Heather and her double — Chapman, as good as she is, plays them almost identically. However, any demerits earlier in the film are more than balanced out by Grissmer’s final reel, which throws in as many bizarre twists as the director and the writer can think of, including an insane ending perhaps more appropriate to a caper film, but entirely satisfying and laughable.

Arlen Dean Snyder (HEARTBREAK RIDGE) plays Lansing’s suspicious brother-in-law. DARK SHADOWS composer Robert Cobert provides the effective string-laden score. Originally released by tiny United International Pictures, which specialized in dubbed kung fu and sex films, SCALPEL also saw theatrical release by Avco Embassy and a VHS release by Charter Entertainment.

1 comment:

Grant said...

You don't have to know her from many roles to have a thing for Judith Chapman.