Freaky Friday: Is This The Greatest Under-appreciated Car Chase Ever Filmed?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
freaky friday is this the greatest under appreciated car chase ever filmed

Very few people enjoy Canadian films, and there’s damn good reason for it. Public funding is heavily bureaucratized, giving birth to movies essentially “filmed by committee.” Artsy, yes. Depressing? Very often so. But Scandinavia already has that covered!

This wasn’t the case in the glorious, sleazy 1970s. For a brief era, Canada was a free-wheeling, balls-out orgy of low-grade filmmaking, all thanks to insane tax write-offs. Slasher flicks and soft-core porn, lewd sex comedies and gritty crime dramas, this era had it all — and most of it was awful.

One film crew, who probably saw Bullitt way too many times, knew what audiences — American audiences especially — wanted to see, and set about filming one of the most un-Canadian films ever shot north of the border.

They also produced one of the greatest and least-known car chases ever filmed.

The 1976 movie Strange Shadows in an Empty Room (a.k.a. Blazing Magnum, a.k.a. Blazing Magnums, a.k.a. .44 Special, a.k.a. Una Magnum Special per Tony Saitta) saw an Italian director partner with a Canadian film crew to make a movie filled with guns, car chases, killings, and ’70s camp.

Box-office gold, right? Well, with the 100-percent write-off allocated to film expenses during the “tax shelter era,” it wasn’t hard to make a buck.

With director Alberto De Martino at the helm ([s]famous[/s] known for garbage flicks like Holocaust 2000 and Puma Man), the team hired character actor Stuart Whitman and it was off to the races.

Blazing Magnum (1976) 1971 Ford Mustang VS… by Z-cinema

Blazing Magnum is the story of a hard-nosed, .44-packing Ottawa cop (think Dirty Harry) who travels to Montreal to solve his kid sister’s murder. Along the way, the detective finds himself involved in multiple car chases, numerous shootouts, and is attacked by a gang of Kung Fu transvestites. (See the trailer below for excerpts.)

The film’s genre is poliziottesco, a popular ’70s Italian movie trend featuring violent loners rebelling against bureaucracy, vigilantism, graphic violence, organized crime, and corrupt politicians. So, basically Montreal in the ’70s.

The hallmark chase through the south side of Montreal’s downtown covers every cliché in the book. Completely over the top, accompanied by cheesy, twangy [s]porn[/s] chase music and filled with continuity errors, the chase pits our anti-hero’s 1968 (or ’69) Buick Special against the bad guy’s 1971 Ford Mustang.

Like Bullitt or Gone in 60 Seconds, the two cars pass the same car more than once, plow through stacked boxes filled with air, upset a motorcycle rider, launch themselves into the air with no undercarriage damage, and have surprising off-road prowess.

Exploitative, bloody and very lowbrow, the movie is anything but polite. Sadly, the tax shelter era ended in the early 1980s and movie production dwindled (as did audiences). Some will tell you it was for the better — that quality and meaningfulness blossomed in Canadian films — but I don’t hang out in those circles.

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  • -Nate -Nate on Sep 14, 2016

    Great watch ! . I'd never heard of this one before, liked all the links too =8-) . -Nate

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Sep 15, 2016

    I saw this at a drive in when it came out. The Seven Ups was the second, and IMHO, vastly superior movie. My GF at the time had never seen any of the big chase movies and really seemed to enjoy the airborne cars in Blazing Magnum, and the end of the chase in the Seven ups really shocked her. I don't think she hated the movies I picked to see as I did the ones she picked. Damn, I hate chick flicks so much.

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