Retro Review: ‘Mr. No Legs’
If there is one cause I am passionate about it is film preservation. Throughout the 100+ years of the artform so many movies from so many eras and genres are now lost and aside from perhaps some surviving stills they will never be seen again. Such was almost the case for this 1978 grindhouse flick Mr. No Legs when Hurricane Sandy seemingly destroyed the last viable print in existence. Luckily a print of the heavily censored French print of the film was discovered. The people at Massacre Video put in the effort of editing the rough grimy footage which survived of the full cut of the film into this print. Recently I stumbled across this exploitation flick in the Recently Acquired Oddities section of my local video store Black Lodge, and decided to give it a viewing.
After the murder of his sister is found dead from an apparent drug overdose, top cop Andy and his partner Chuck begin looking into the matter as they know she never touched narcotics. Together they discover that the most powerful drug syndicate in Florida is behind it and they plan on taking the fight right to the kingpin of the operation himself, De’Anglo. Standing in their way is De’Angelo’s top enforcer Mr. No Legs, a dangerous man with twin shotguns and a variety of other weapons built into his wheelchair and he does not mind using any of them. With his ruthlessness and ability to unleash violence, it may be only a matter of time before Mr. No Legs decides to be his own boss.
This exploitation flick holds the distinction of being the sole directorial effort of stunt man, writer, and Ricou Browning who is probably most famous for portraying the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The movie he made is what you would expect it to be a fun low budget exploitation flick filled with 70’s cheese. What this gritty action flick lacks in budget in more than makes up for in enthusiasm. If they have a bar set with ugly puke green walls then by God they are going to have destroying the crap out of it in a big brawl scene. In fact it seems like every set piece in this film is simply there for a big fight scene all of which are fun and are directed with the expertise you would expect from a veteran stunt man and second unit director like Browning.
The cast is largely made up of recognizable character actors and B-listers like John Agar and Rance Howard. Among these veteran hands in the acting business it is Ted Vollrath who in his sole acting gig plays the infamous Mr. No Legs. He has a powerful screen presence which allows him to dominate every scene he is in with a cool confidence. A former Marine, Vollrath lost both of his legs during the Korean War but that did not deter him from coming home and becoming the first man in a wheelchair to earn a black belt in karate as well as other forms of martial arts. In this sole movie performance this expert fighter gets to show off his combat prowess especially in one memorable scene where he takes on six gangsters at once. While he may have never acted again after Mr. No Legs, Ted Vollrath devoted his life to teaching martial arts to other handicapped individuals so that they may achieve the success he did.
As mentioned previously the full unedited cut of Mr. No Legs likely no longer exists. When watching certain scenes you will no doubt notice the jarring cuts in the various action scenes once things get more visceral. The fact that we have what we have of this movie is a victory for film preservationists. Because of their work this sleazy exploitation movie about a double amputee enforcer giving the beatdown to fools while the cops try to bring down a drug kingpin can now be seen by the masses. No longer does one have to time travel to a grindhouse theatre in 1978 to have seen the kick ass flick Mr. No Legs.