Directed by: Ricou Browning
Starring: Richard Jaeckel, Ron Slinker, Ted Vollrath, Lloyd Bochner, John Agar, Joie Chitwood and The Danger Angels
Written by: Jack Cowden
Runtime: 85 minutes
To many, Ricou Browning will be forever revered for his underwater swimming skills in his portrayal of the Gillman in Universal’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON trilogy (1954 onwards). To the fringe cult movie connoisseur, those of us who adore the sweat and sludge of 70s exploitation movies, Ricou Browning will be remembered as the one who brought us the unforgettably titled THE AMAZING MR. NO LEGS (onscreen title is just NO LEGS).
This grade Z no-budget crime caper centres on a mean-spirited low-level mob enforcer who doesn’t have any legs. With a wheelchair concealed with shotguns built into the armrests and throwing stars and switchblades concealed within the spokes, real-life double amputee Ted Vollrath plays the infamous hitman Lou, endearingly nicknamed ‘No Legs’.
THE AMAZING MR. NO LEGS is, ultimately, a pretty mundane and dreary crime drama about the usual local crime syndicate, informants and crooked cops. After a drug deal gone wrong, it appears that the cops are closing in on Florida mob-boss Mr. De’Angelo (Lloyd Bochner). Notorious enforcer No Legs is looking to take over operations but De’Angela has already put plans in place to take out No Legs.
B-movie buffs will delight in spotting favourite second-rate character actors like John Agar and Richard Jaeckel amongst the cast of largely unknowns. While packed with bouts of crap Kung-Fu, cardboard acting and bland stunts, THE AMAZING MR. NO LEGS oozes with incredibly offbeat scenes like a barroom brawl with a crossdresser and a dwarf or the crazed hoodlum who attacks a car with what looks like an oversized plastic ornamental sword. While the narrative may resemble a 1970s ‘TV movie of the week’ quality, lines like “he’s a pusher alright but what he’s pushing, you stroke . . . not smoke” are memorably amusing.
The remarkably accomplished Ted Vollrath was a former marine who had lost his legs during the Korean War. He went on to earn a Black Belt in Karate and established the Martial Arts for the Handicapped Incorporated. And he seems to be having a swell time in THE AMAZING MR NO LEGS, doing push-ups on his wheelchair while blond gangster molls stare on in admiration.
Of course, there’s the legendary fight scene where his muscular torso springs from the confines of his wheelchair and, with a bloodcurdling battle-cry, pulverises several would-be assassins. The rest he wrestles into a swimming pool to mercilessly drown them.
Revisiting THE AMAZING MR NO LEGS had me recalling late 70s Eastern film schlock like CRIPPLED MASTERS (1979) which showcased actors with varying disabilities who learn the martial arts to avenge themselves against a bullying society. Ever since Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932) there has been a sensitivity about how people with disabilities appear in films – specifically horror films – and how they are portrayed, from carnival sideshow attractions in Jack Cardiff’s THE MUTATIONS aka THE FREAKMAKER (1973) to the denizens of hell itself as in Michael Winner’s THE SENTINEL (1977).
The role of Lou No Legs is a showcase for the incredible physical abilities of Mr. Vollrath, but the film THE AMAZING MR. NO LEGS is uninspired and banal. Despite being the titular character and pivotal to the story, Vollrath is only a secondary character which does bring the title THE AMAZING MR. NO LEGS into question. Without Vollrath whose character is underutilised and the title where his character’s name is maximized, all that’s left, sadly, is a tedious crime drama with several unforgettable scenes.
Contributed by Tristan Thompson