Blu-ray Review: Massage Parlor Murders



Before Disney and MTV arrived, Times Square in New York City was a sinful and scummy adult wonderland. The streets were lined with XXX rated theaters, live action peep shows and massage parlors that didn’t take Blue Cross. It was a pants optional neighborhood. Now it’s a clean space that proudly serves up Guy Fieri’s Donkey Sauce. Massage Parlor Murders is a time machine back to the days when a businessman could take an extended lunch break from Wall Street to get his kinks worked out. These were the glory days for the carnally inclined.

Massage Parlor Murders opens with a nervous customer learning about all the options offered by the massage parlor worker. She just wants him to be comfortable so he can open up his wallet. We get a perfect sense of what goes on behind the shut doors. These businesses are not licensed for rehabilitation therapy. It’s pretty much a bordello except the room has a massage table instead of a bed. However this is not a faux-documentary about happy endings. This movie turns into the granddaddy of Law & Order: SVU except without Ice T. Another client at the massage parlor is less jittery about the arrangement. He’s interested in more than an afternoon quickie. He puts on latex gloves, kills the masseuse and escapes. Detectives Rizotti (George Spencer) and O’Mara (John Moser) arrive on the crime scene filled with reluctant witnesses. Rizzoti should be excused from the case since he was the last guy to require the services of the dead girl. But what cop wants to admit to the captain that he’s connected to the dead hooker? The only urge greater than Rizotti’s desire to catcher her killer is O’Mara’s craving to nail her hot roomie (Last House on the Left‘s Sandra Peabody). These are a pair of swinging cops. O’Mara even hits an orgy at an indoor pool that turn out to be a crime scene. This starts feeling like our cop might be the prime suspect, but the movie doesn’t get that edgy. The killer doesn’t wear a badge. One of the suspects is George Dzundza (also the assistant director), who starred on Law & Order for one season. Another would be homicidal maniac is New York fixture Brother Theodore. He plays some sort of deep thinker who confuses the cops with his metaphysical banter. The cops must figure out the serial killer’s pattern to beat him to his next victim. Ultimately, the cops need to keep Times Square safe for seedy cops.

This is a rather elaborate film for a low budget exploitation flick shot quietly in Manhattan. They found a way to stage a car chase involving a wreck in a burned out part of the city. The car stunts probably rivaled their ability to avoid the police for shooting without a permit. They did take the camera down to seedy Times Square to capture the true flavor of a time before TGIFridays hit the block. Massage Parlor Murders is a step back into yesteryear for bemoaners. The movie outshines it’s low budget roots. The script could easily be turned into a Law & Order: SUV episode when they find the key clue to the serial killer’s pattern. There is a Se7en element. The Massage Parlor Murders is so worth watching if you’re a fan of low budget R-rated films that embrace exploitation, but don’t completely sacrifice story.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the richness of this scummy time. The higher resolution also exposes how much the cinematographer pushed the film. The frame gets extra grainy in the darker moments. The audio is mono. It reflect the low budget roughness of the production. Most of the exterior audio was created in post production.

DVD version of the Blu-ray. This is always good for watching in the car. You could watch this movie while driving through Times Square.

Original Trailer (2:43) promotes the film as a modern Jack the Ripper tale.

Re-release Trailer
(1:57) promotes the sin and fun angle to Time Square by changing the film’s name to Massage Parlor Hookers. Watching this trailer, you won’t have a clue there’s a serial killer on the loose.

Outtakes (7:50) is extra footage of the pool house orgy. There’s more time with the lady spinning fire on a lit baton. The couples walks out of a theater showing Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter.

Re-release Cut snips off the introduction to the massage parlor. This shortens the film by six minutes. What’s curious is that the re-release was renamed Massage Parlor Hookers yet the scene that illustrates how the masseuse works her customers gets yanked. They kept the gruesome killing scenes though.

Radio Spots (0:28) is for the Massage Parlor Hookers. Moviegoers might be upset when their pure exploitation film has a murdering plot.

Massage Parlor Murders forces a cop hunt down a serial killer that’s snuffing his hooker girlfriends. The film is a perfect view of Times Square at its seedy peak in the mid-1970s. This is a grindhouse film that deserves the Blu-ray treatment.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Massage Parlor Murders. Directed by: Chester Fox & Alex Stevens. Starring: John Moser, Sandra Peabody, George Spencer and Brother Theodore. Running time: 80 minutes. Rated: R. Released: April 9, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

Tags: