Sunday, February 21, 2016

Scorchy

‘60s sexpot Connie Stevens (HAWAIIAN EYE) was approaching her fortieth birthday when she played supercop Jackie Parker in this lame crime drama shot on location in Seattle. After pursuing a drug operation all the way to Rome, where hitman Carl Henrich (William Smith) blows a courier’s brains out and steals both the dope and money, Jackie returns to Seattle to continue her deep cover as an independent charter pilot, who dresses in a dazzling display of frilly, shapeless, unrevealing clothing. Jackie has managed to befriend drug kingpin Philip Bianco (Cesare Danova) and his wife Claudia (Marlene Schmidt), while making periodic reports to her Narcotics Division boss Frank (Normann Burton). Future TV star Greg Evigan (BJ AND THE BEAR) romances Jackie to earn an “Introducing” screen credit.

Director Hikmet Avedis, who also wrote and produced this slow-moving turkey, popped up occasionally during the ‘70s and ‘80s with low-budget exploitation yarns like MORTUARY and DR. MINX, none of which are much good. SCORCHY suffers from an uneven tone, which bounces from scenes of extreme violence to Jackie’s flirtations with seemingly half the Seattle police force to strained comedy relief, and poorly defined characters.

Surprisingly, Avedis (who was sometimes billed as “Howard” Avedis) manages to string together a pair of long and well-staged action sequences. The first is a chase involving Stevens and Smith which begins on foot and ends with them riding a dune buggy and motorcycle respectively (and which manages to rip off the chases in BULLITT and THE FRENCH CONNECTION). The second is a bloody, drawn-out fight scene between Smith and Danova on a waterfront rooftop that features some veteran stuntwork and Smith displaying some pro wrestling moves.

The balloon-voiced Stevens must have taken the role as an attempt to goose her airheaded image. She appears in a couple of nude scenes (both of which were obviously, disappointingly, and abruptly spliced out of the DVD released by Shout Factory), and participates in a bit of gunplay at the end. She is, however, wildly miscast as a tough narc, and, although beautiful, looks a bit silly in her mod, dated costumes. Stevens later played a parody of Angie Dickinson’s POLICE WOMAN character in the made-for-TV spoof MURDER CAN HURT YOU. Only Smith manages to stand above the thin material and add some weight to his scenes, especially the ones in which he engages in violence.

Igo Kantor is credited with “Music Supervision,” which means he provided the lousy and inappropriate library tracks recorded at least a decade earlier. The “Mickey-Mousing” effect is hilarious, punctuating every pull of a knife or firing of a gun, and the “wacka-wacka” guitar is used at every available opportunity. I have no idea who or what SCORCHY is or means. The word is never used in the film, but that’s the title AIP released it under. Shot as UNDERCOVER GIRL, the film was retitled RACE WITH DEATH before hitting theaters and reverted to the latter title sometime after.

2 comments:

Grant said...

I haven't seen it in some time, but if I remember correctly, in THE GRISSOM GANG Connie Stevens sort of has it both ways. She plays a slightly comical celebrity, which could maybe be considered a little bit of a self-parody, but one who ends up in a very violent scene of the movie.

Roger said...

Thanks for covering this film, one of my favorite guilty pleasure from the drive-in '70s.

You mention there were nude scenes cut out -- I wonder when and where they were excised. Shout presumably would go after the most complete version and wouldn't be responsible for cutting them at this stage. Any idea if this was a later-date cable or VHS edit Shout got a hold of?

Keep up the good work! Roger