Strange Shadows In An Empty Room (1976)
This Giallo like production made in Canada has the benefit of starring three well known actors all having long resumes and solid entries in various genres throughout the years.
Stuart Whitman is our central figure cast as a Dirty Harry like officer of the law in Ottawa, Canada. To give us that opinion he busts up a heist with a high speed car chase and brandishes a very large gun to take down the gang members. The large magnum he carries factored in to some of the marketing for the films campaign under the alternate title.
Just up the road in the province of Quebec, Whitman has a younger sister attending university and is seemingly linked to an older man played by Martin Landau. Location filming in Montreal ensues as Whitman flies in when his sister shockingly dies in the midst of a party where Landau who happens to be a doctor can’t revive her. Meeting Whitman at the airport is our third actor of note John Saxon as a Montreal police officer.
When an autopsy report points to murder,Whitman and Saxon take up the case and all fingers begin to point at our red herring Martin Landau.
As with most cases certain facts don’t quite add up and Whitman keeps prodding others who were at the fatal party including Gayle Hunnicutt who it turns out has just had a brother killed as well in rather gruesome fashion. Stuart is going to find himself in some rather strange predicaments including a tough fight with a group of transvestites to a solid car chase scene from director Alberto De Martino billed here as Martin Herbert. It’s no Bullitt or French Connection but it’s better than anyone should have expected in this glossy low budget affair.
With a heightened soundtrack from Armando Trovajoli the film delvers a solid Giallo killing as the film comes to a climax and Whitman discovers more than he cares to as the explanation toward the end for the killings delivers a disturbing scene for both Stuart and the viewer.
I have to admit I got more than I bargained for here and enjoyed this “B” production with Dario Argento styled themes. Had Argento actually directed this himself it might have been much more memorable looking back. When I refer to Dario directing this, I mean the Dario of the mid seventies into the early eighties and sadly not the Dario from 2000 forward.
All three of our leading actors have turned up in numerous projects like these while at the same time flirted with top flight films over the course of their careers which all began in the fifties. Whitman has turned up in some notable films including one I love to revisit on occasion opposite Stanley Baker called Sands of the Kalahari among many others. Once the seventies rolled around he was more apt to turn up in lesser fare like this Crazy Mama, Eaten Alive or Shatter.
John Saxon on the credit list usually catches my eye. Even when the films are not to memorable. Saxon has always seemed to move easily between grade C productions on up to first rate fare with plenty of television work mixed in.
As for Martin Landau, he was never really on my radar till seeing him in Ed Wood as Bela Lugosi. It was after that film that I began to go back and look at some of his previous work. I find he needs a tight rein on him to keep him from going over the top though sometimes it works to a films benefit such as Alone in the Dark.
Like Mean Frank and Crazy Tony from 1973, this was in a collection of titles I picked up called Grindhouse Experience Volume 2.