It’s easy to get the impression during the first third of Alberto De Martino’s ‘Blazing Magnum’(1976) aka ‘Una Magnum Special per Tony Saitta’ aka ‘Strange Shadows in an Empty Room’ that you’re watching a load of crap because the opening thirty minutes or so are what I can only call objectively stupid and shit… and I mean REALLY stupid and shit to the point I was asking myself “Why the hell am I watching this garbage?!”
Then something remarkable happens because the film suddenly becomes… well, still objectively stupid and shit but you can also add the words “ludicrously entertaining”, with “ludicrous” being the operative word.
‘Blazing Magnum’ is part of the well known sub-genre of movies called ‘1970’s Canadian/Italian Cop Thriller Hybrid Action Films’ (I know, I had no idea such a thing existed either) where we follow police detective Tony Saitta (Stuart Whitman) as he attempts to track down the person(s) responsible for the lethal poisoning of his sister, something he sets about doing by beating up everyone in Montreal.
And it’s tough going at first, for the viewer that is, because it’s not just that this movie’s seams are showing but that ‘Blazing Magnum’ is practically falling apart at them, something especially evident during the early scene where Tony’s sister is poisoned and her lover, Dr. Tracer (Martin Landau), attempts to resuscitate her as it’s a piece of filmmaking so clunky and handled so cack-handedly it almost renders ‘Blazing Magnum’ unwatchable. That’s followed by a sub-plot involving a blind girl that’s so pointless I again exclaimed out loud, and to no one in particular, “This is bloody awful!”
Fortunately once the set-up to the “plot” is established and it concentrates on Whitman searching for the killer the movie kicks into high gear by using the subtle and delicately nuanced cinematic device of going completely off the rails and losing its fucking mind with the next hour or so being nothing other than Whitman turning utterly berserk and attacking everyone he sees, something made even more unsettling by the fact that with his weird hair, out of control eyebrows and dishevelled demeanour he looks like a psychopathic, hung-over Chris De Burgh.
So — BLAM! — suddenly there’s fist fights, heads smashed through glass panels, frantic foot chases, kicks to the groin and it’s so relentless I was wondering how crazy it was going to get only for the film to magnificently respond by serving up out of nowhere one of the most insanely ridiculous (and ridiculously impressive) extended car chases I’ve ever seen. It’s a genuinely outstanding set-piece but, in keeping with the rest of the movie, also profoundly idiotic (it’s like they watched the chase scene from ‘Bullitt’ (1968) and thought “Let’s do that but, you know, ramp up the stupidity”), and when we discover that the guy he was chasing knows absolutely nothing about the murder we also discover it was completely pointless, totally meaningless and, therefore, utterly hilarious.
In fact, “hilariously meaningless” can be applied to almost every aspect of ‘Blazing Magnum’ because every time Whitman captures or beats up a suspect it turns out they have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual crime he’s investigating, hence making his character seem even more unhinged. At one point, around two thirds of the way through, he even says to his “partner” (John Saxon) that they might as well go back to headquarters and start all over again thus automatically making the last hour of the movie — i.e. everything we’ve seen — COMPLETELY redundant! Have I mentioned this film is stupid?
For the climax ‘Blazing Magnum’ manages to deftly maintain its momentum and neatly tie everything up by… suddenly changing genres and transforming into a Giallo? So now it’s all about a mysterious necklace his sister owned, something that had in no way shape or form been mentioned beforehand, but it’s futile asking this movie to start making sense now anyway so who cares.
‘Blazing Magnum’ is, with a doubt, the stupidest Italian cop thriller I’ve ever seen (and that’s really saying something) to the extent I think it should be taught in film schools as an example of what happens when nothing in your script is driven by any form of discernible motivation or active intelligence. The only problem is the film’s so unbelievably entertaining I also wish there was more like it.