Friday, July 29, 2016

Assault On Paradise aka Ransom aka Maniac! (1977)

Roger Corman tried like hell to get this Arizona-lensed action movie to catch on with audiences. New World released it as ASSAULT ON PARADISE, RANSOM, THE TOWN THAT CRIED TERROR, and MANIAC!, apparently to little success under any title. Frankly, if drive-in audiences weren’t interested in something called ASSAULT ON PARADISE with a boozy cast including Oliver Reed (THE THREE MUSKETEERS), Stuart Whitman (RUBY), Jim Mitchum (TRACKDOWN), and John Ireland (THE SWISS CONSPIRACY), probably nothing could save it.

A killer (MR. MAJESTYK’s Paul Koslo) plants a couple of arrows in a couple of cops and leaves a ransom note at the police station demanding $1 million or the local millionaires are gonna be skewered too. Instead of leaving it to weasly police chief Ireland to deal with, crooked rich guy Whitman hires mercenary Reed to find the shooter and kill him. Despite a tight deadline of 3:00 p.m. the next day, Reed’s first move is to drink Scotch and a tequila sunrise at a bar and hit it and quit it with superfluous reporter Deborah Raffin (DEATH WISH 3).

Reed, who has bullied local guide Mitchum into helping, manages to lose Koslo at the drop site, and the revelation that greedy Whitman has substituted blank paper for the million bucks means more millionaires are gonna feel the sting of Koslo’s crossbow. Koslo, who dons Native American war paint in front of a photo of Lee Harvey Oswald before going on killing sprees, is revealed to be a former athlete who failed the Olympic tryouts. What isn’t revealed is why he has such a mad-on for Whitman. One problem with the film is that Whitman and Reed are not likable enough to root for and Mitchum not interesting enough.

Director Richard Compton earned his exploitation-movie credentials with the dark soldiers-back-from-Nam flick WELCOME HOME, SOLDIER BOYS followed by the classic MACON COUNTY LINE and its more-or-less sequel RETURN TO MACON COUNTY. A stalk-and-shoot set in Whitman’s mansion showcases some effective shots, and the action scenes in general show pep. Almost as much as the out-of-his-mind Reed, who bulls his way through this china shop in search of his next drink. Don Ellis (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) papers over the plot holes with a gonzo music score, and Roger McGuinn’s closing theme song, “Victor’s Theme: Shoot Him,” is hilarious.

When Corman re-released the film as MANIAC!, he and post-production supervisor Miller Drake, who directed a new prologue for SCREAMERS, tacked on a prologue that has nothing to do with the rest of the film that shows a gunman in a creepy clown mask (Corman couldn’t get Koslo back for reshoots) gunning down a couple necking in a convertible. Despite the steamy sex and attention-getting gore, MANIAC! went out with ASSAULT ON PARADISE’s original PG rating. It’s likely the MPAA never saw this cut of the film.

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