Friday, August 30, 2019

Strange Days in PA

This is my entry in the Alan Smithee Blogathon hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlogII

"Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh???!!  Are you serious, Quiggy?"

If you don't know me by now, that's what you're probably asking yourself.  Hell, even if you do know me, you may be asking that....

I thought it was high time to get back to the original intent of this blog, though.  That of highlighting the obscure, quirky or sometimes even downright insane movies that were the meat and potatoes of the drive-in movie theater in it's heyday.  Of course, this movie was made long after most drive-ins had been paved over to make way for condominiums, but it still has the essence of the themes intact.

Spoiler alert! of sorts.

There are no bloodsuckers in Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh.  There are no pharaohs in Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh.  It doesn't even take place in Pittsburgh... OK, so that part is not true.... it actually IS set in Pittsburgh...

This movie is one that requires more than just an "acquired taste".  (and if you know me, you know how much I dislike that phrase).  It requires a pretty jaded sense of movie style.  It was directed by Dean Tschetter who, after the snippers got through with the original cut, decided to use the Alan Smithee clause to credit the movie.

Alan Smithee, for those of you who don't know, is a legal loophole for directors.  It is used when the finished product is so far gone from the original, due to outside influences, that the director feels he has the right to remove his name from the credits.  After finishing watching the Smithee version, you may wonder just why it was deemed so far from the original.  It's pretty gory and bloody.  Well, apparently, Tschetter's version had way more blood and gore.

While not nearly as sick as, say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Saw, or The Evil Dead, it is pretty bloody.  It has the added effect that humor is used throughout, although you may be so disgusted by the gore you may miss some of the funnier parts.  (Just for example:  During one scene where the cops are investigating a murder the background music becomes very intense and loud, until one of the cops yells "Turn that stuff down!" at which point one of the cops turns off the radio in his cruiser [the source of the background music] . At least it was funny to me...)

A short background.  I think this movie was "straight to video".  I know I never saw an ad for it and I avidly read the counterculture magazine "The Austin Chronicle" which usually had ads for any movie that is currently showing (even if they don't review it).  I originally rented it on VHS from Hastings when they acquired a copy.  I don't think its even available on DVD.  But you can watch it on YouTube if this review piques your interest...

Most of the actors you probably will have never heard of.  With the exception of Veronica Hart (credited as Jane Esther Hamilton here), who was a fairly prolific porn star, most of them only had a handful of credits outside this movie.  The only name that is likely to trigger a memory is Tom Savini, a makeup artist who has his name in the credits of such movies as Creepshow.

Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991):

(Note:  I'll spare you any graphic pictures from the film.  You'll thank me later.)

Detectives Sweeney Birdwell (Jake Dengel) and Joe Blocker (Joe Sharkey) are called to the scene of a bizarre murder.

Sweeney and the rest of the the police ridicule Joe because he has a weak stomach and has to step aside and puke every time he sees one of the victims (part of the aforementioned humor).  The murders have a bizarre twist as each one involves removing certain body parts (brains, intestines, etc.)

Part of the background is that Joe was a former detective in Las Vegas where a similar series of bizarre murders occurred.  And we learn that Joe knew each one of the victims there.  Apparently he is also familiar with the victims in the current series occurring in Pittsburgh.

The Las Vegas murders ended when Joe's partner shot the culprit (multiple times, another sick, but funny scene).  The victims in Las Vegas and the ones in Pittsburgh are all hookers, which says something about Joe, who comes off as rather misogynistic, due to the fact that his wife left him for another man back in Vegas.

Clues abound in the fact that the serial killer keeps leaving messages in Egyptian hieroglyphics on the bodies of the victims.  So Joe and Sweeney end up going to investigate in "Egypt town" (is there really an "Egypt town" in Pittsburgh?  Your guess is as good as mine.  But it may be another factor in the humor aspect of the film.)

The daughter of Joe's former partner, Deedee (Susann Fletcher) shows up trying to discover what has happened to her disappearing father as well as to help the two bumbling detectives solve the current series of murders.  Although she is treated as an inferior (mainly because she is a woman, and a meter maid, at that...) it turns out she knows a hell of a lot about what happened in Las Vegas and sees the parallels in the events in Pittsburgh.

A side attraction (and one of the best humor points) is Sweeney's wife, Irma (Beverley Penberthy) as she tries to quit smoking.  She goes to an aversion therapy session where she views videos of people smoking in a building, which is subsequently demolished, and a plane, which subsequently crashes.  This is followed by a alternately a bunch of guys in gorilla costumes bursting in to the room and soaking her with hoses or a group of guys with shock rods shocking the crap out of her.

Eventually we get down to the meat (no pun intended) of the matter; who is actually responsible for the killings.  (It won't be who you think...)

I don't recommend this movie to anyone who may be a little skittish to the scenes of blood and gore.  And it's not really all that great a movie even if you like this sort of stuff.  But it is a diversion from the typical fare I have been reviewing of late, and I certainly want to thank Steve for being so accommodating as to let me include it in his blogathon.

Drive safely, folks.



  1. Some movies are just born to be directed by Alan Smithee, and this certainly looks like one of them. Thank you for this hilarious blogathon entry!

    1. It was a damn sight better than some of the other options (like Shrimp on the Barbie...) Thanks for reading.


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