I was checking around for information on tonight’s film and one of the sites I checked was Tom Savini’s. Strangely, I could find no mention of his involvement with the project, but perhaps not so strange after all. Our Lord and Savior Tom (for more info on why Tom is the son of god check the review of Zombiegeddon) has participated in a ton of films over the years, and admittedly there’s bound to be some that just aren’t winners. It’s OK though; I forgive Tom for his sins as I know he has forgiven mine. For tonight I shine a light on one of Tom’s lesser moments when we take a trip to The Steel City, and you should steel yourself for….
Bloodsucking Pharaohs From Pittsbugh (1990) starring Jake Dengel, Joe Sharkey, Susan Fletcher, and Veronica Hart. Directed by Dean Tschetter (as Alan Smithee).
There’s a killer stalking lovers lane. A killer out for blood. A killer with a gas powered electrical generator to plug in his rotary saw. The moment when the killer stops to start up his generator, plug in his power tool, and get down to business is repeated several times throughout the film. From the first time I saw it I knew exactly what kind of movie I was going to get. A comedy painted in broad strokes a la Airplane or The Naked Gun, but Joe Sharkey is no Leslie Neilson. What he is is Joe Blocker, a formally hard boiled detective from Las Vegas that is until “what happened on that case, and how his wife left him, and his sexual problem”. These three facts are repeated over and over and over in what I can only assume was seen as a hilarious running gag. With him is his partner, Sweeney Birdwell (Dengel), the mousy husband of chain smoking, voice-box talking, exercise freak Erma Birdwell, who resembles Dennis Kucinich which for some reason bothered me.
Blocker and Birdwell are called in to investigate the lovers lane killing which is the latest in a string of grisly murders in Pittsburgh. Blocker has no stomach for the sight of blood and guts and the officers have pool on if he will vomit or not. (See this movie is all class.) They find a note written in hieroglyphs in the dead girls skull, so they call in Deke Taylor, another Las Vegas cop, with connections to a similar series of murders there. However Deke is missing and his daughter DeDe shows up instead to help the guys out. After a trip down to “Egypt-town”, they find a connection to a proprietor of a Egyptian eatery who also used to live in Vegas.
Cairo runs a dive out of a double wide, and he’s assisted by his henchman/cook and guarded by a coterie of ninjas. Yes, ninjas. I don’t know why. (And from how it looks on IMDB, they were all lady ninjas) His new roller skating Cleopatra costume wearing waitress is the bumbling Grace (Veronica Hart, porn star), but is she all that she appears to be?Does she know something about the Home Depot equipped Fez wearing killer, or is she the next victim?
This film suffers from how funny it thinks it is. Some of the jokes seem to work, but while they work once, they don’t work once they’ve done it twice or seven more times. I must admit I did like the style of the killer. Death by industrial power vacuum will forever seem like a bad way to go. I also enjoyed the banter with the M.E. about the surgical precision the killer had with hedge clippers. You have got to really be on your game for that to work for you. Some of the other bits work half the time. Like Sweeney’s wife Erma and her aggressive smoking cessation program. They attack her with gorillas wielding a water hoses, stun her with electric cow prods, and even have someone beat her face in, but nothing seems to work on this woman.
In the end this movie is too “zany” for it’s own good. The story makes very little sense, and you never give half a crap about any of the characters. The shining moments should have been brought by Lord Tom Savini and his special effects, but they looked more like things he had left over from projects which looked too crappy to use. Was he like “Sure guys, I’ll do the special effects. Let me see what I have in my garage.”? From the man who brought us Day of the Dead’s “Bub”, it was very slapdash looking work. (Which may explain it’s absence from Tom’s web page. ) To top it all off the film offered no Pharaohs and no bloodsucking, but it did have Pittsburgh. I know cause everything looked like shit. (I kid because I love Pittsburgians.)
I couldn’t recommend highly enough to you fine folks that you steer clear of this flick. There was good reason for the director to use the infamous Alan Smithee pseudonym. I wanted to use a nom de viewing, but I didn’t Moonies. I stuck it out to the bitter end of this 105 minute travesty so you don’t have to endure such pain. So until next time, this is the Lighting Bug signing off and wondering if an industrial vac could suck all the knowledge of this movie out of my brain.