Grindhouse Classics : “Massage Parlor Murders”

Posted: April 15, 2013 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



One thing’s for sure — they don’t make ’em like this anymore.

And that’s too bad, really, because if there’s one thing the shot-in-1973, released-in-1974 exploitation oddity Massage Parlor Murders (originally released with six minutes of additional footage featuring an at-first-reluctant, later-even-more-reluctant —uhhmmm — “client” choosing to high-tail it out of a New York “health club” once his fetching young — again with the uhhmmm — “masseuse” displays her — third and final, I promise, uhhmmm — “wares” under the title Massage Parlor Hookers) is, it’s fun. The kind of dirty, seedy, oughtta-make-you-feel-guilty-but-oddly-doesn’t fun that just plain can’t be had at the movies today.

Fortunately for us, there’s Vinegar Syndrome, a newish cult label that made quite a splash a few months back with their Lost Films Of Herschell Gordon Lewis DVD box set and has followed it up with their so-far-downright-awesome “Drive-In Collection” series and this, their first (at least to my knowledge) DVD/Blu-Ray combo release. And what a release it is! But more on that later, first the particulars of the film itself —



A killer with, we’re later to learn, a very warped sense of morality apparently has an axe to grind (or a face to bash in, or a switchblade to unsheathe, or a — you get the idea) with the “working girls” at a Times Square massage parlor called, appealingly enough, the Venus Paradise. Rather than quit en masse as the dead bodies begin piling up, though, as you’d think they would (but which would probably result in an already-slim 80-minute feature being whittled down to a half-hour production at best), the ladies keep plying their profession (it is, after all, the world’s oldest), and why not? They’re under the tough-as-nails protection of two gritty New York vice cops, in the form of  ultra-low-rung exploitation vets John Moser and George Spencer, the latter of whom is finding himself with some trouble on the domestic front due to his overly-enthusiastic full-scale immersion, at least psychologically (or should that be psycho-sexually?) into the grimy, anything-goes-for-a-price underworld he’s, lucky guy, getting paid to poke his nose (at the very least) in. Their investigation starts when a good-time gal named Rosie (Chris Jordan, in an early and decidedly even-farther-down-the-barrel role than those she’d later become known best for) meets a gruesome and untimely demise, proceeds through a few predictable twists and turns (Rosie’s roommate, Gwen, played by Sandra Peabody — who’s best known for her starring turn as doomed-as-all-hell Mari in Last House On The Left, where she worked under the name Sandra Cassell — falls for Moser ; there’s a low-rent imitation of the famous car chase scene from The French Connection, things like that) as well as some decidedly unpredictable ones (like the cops questioning none other than Brother Theodore himself!), and finally ends pretty much like you’d expect it to, with plenty of vintage, Plato’s Retreat-era 42nd Street footage thrown in for good measure.

What sets this film apart from many of its counterparts, though, is its grimy authenticity. Only Andy Milligan came close to matching the street-level (or maybe that should be gutter-level) grittiness and desperation that directors Alex Stevens and Chester Fox capture here, and he always filtered it through a lens warped (enjoyably, at times unbelievably, warped — but warped nonetheless) by his own obsessions and — okay, one more uhhmmm — “sensibilities.” This is the straight dope, as it was, and the sleaze unrepentantly oozes from every frame. Hell, even much-later Law & Order  stalwart George Dzundza plays a guy named “Mr. Creepy” here (and he also served as a co-producer!).

The titular “massage parlor murders” themselves aren’t terribly well-realized, of course, but that’s part of the charm. This is the lowest of the lowest of the lowest of the lowest of the low . Is there any better way to spend your free time?



Now, about that Vinegar Syndrome Blu-Ray/DVD combo. I’ve taken a look at both discs, and frankly the Blu-Ray only looks marginally better. Which isn’t meant as a knock, rather it’s high praise for how fucking great the DVD looks. Taken from a remastered high-def transfer, the picture on both is damn near flawless barring the occasional warped frame, and the same can essentially be said for the two-channel mono sound — absolutely pristine, apart from the occasional near-complete audio dropout. Honestly, friends, to have something this obscure — it’s never been released on home video before in any format, even VHS — look and sound this good is flat-out miraculous. As far as extras go, there’s an option to view this in either the Massage Parlor Murders or Massage Parlor Hookers cut, the theatrical trailer is included, there’s a largely uneventful outtake reel, and the package is rounded off with a radio spot for the film from back in the day. The real treat, though, are the exhaustively-researched, meticulously-detailed liner notes provided by Temple Of Schlock’s Chris Poggiali, which clearly establish him as the guy on the planet who knows the most about this particular film. They’re a joy to read and really enhance one’s understandings of the proceedings to an unbelievable degree. Bravo, Mr. Poggiali, bravo. As a fellow B-movie critic/amateur historian, I’m in awe (and, truth be told, green with envy).



Try this — next time you’re at your local live peep show booth (assuming there are any left in your town), after you’ve blown your last handful of tokens on the the girl on the other side of the window (you know, the one who tries to keep the veins on her arms covered up and talks about needing extra cash to pay for her kid’s medicine), screw up all your courage and reach into that trash can in the corner. Plunge your hand in there good and deep (you might want to wear rubber gloves). Reach under all those discarded Trojan wrappers and those used (you know what for) kleenex. Go down beyond the crusted, dried-out, half-empty vaseline tubes and those safety razor blades caked and flaking with the blood of the girl who slit her wrists in there a few weeks back. Reach for the bottom. The very bottom. I guarantee you’ll find a copy of Massage Parlor Murders waiting there for you. Take it home. Clean the the lube, the cum, and the slime of who knows (hell, who even wants to know) origin off the case. Pop it into your Blu-Ray  —or DVD — player, sit back, and enjoy. Congratulations, you lucky, twisted,  hopelessly sick bastard.  Underneath all the hurriedly,  desperately tossed-out remains of  humanity’s most basic — and least talked-about — urges, you’ve found celluloid gold.


  1. Great write up. This is on the list to see once I get more cash. Its difficult keeping up,with all these releases (not to mention films I need to replace).

    • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

      Yup, it’s a constant battle, balancing what you want with what you can afford. I know it all too well.

      • Right now I can’t afford much lol. So much spent on replacing left me out a lot. After Tuesday with the release of Django Unchained I won’t be buying much

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I’ll be buying “Django,” as well.

      • I’m sort of a Tarantino fan boy. Haven’t seen it yet though. Where I was living after the hurricane it was like an hr ride since I’d have to switch buses. So tomorrow night I’m so watching (as long as I’m free)

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I think you’ll enjoy it quite a bit!

      • I’m sure I,will. As a QT fan boy lol.

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        No doubt!

      • I just came into a tiny bit extra cash. Late Christmas gift. I was thinking about getting Massage Parlor Murders. There a couple of other things I am deciding between.

        You know my style based on my writing here. Think I would like it? To me it sounds along the lines of Maniac & New York Ripper. 2 films I love. So yeah should I buy this?

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I’d get it if I were you, especially since it will probably go out of print at some point.

      • Good point. I’ll pass and it will go oop. Thanks. Gonna order this tonight

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Smart move.

      • Ok ordered it. Got it from a 3rd party seller so might take a while to,arrive. I should have gotten it directly from amazon, but the few $$ I save can be used towards something else I guess.

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        I know how that goes, trust me.

      • I’m like a kid. Come Christmas time all I want is gift cards from amazon. Forget clothes lol. I’ll wear the same thing everyday if it means more movies lol, my birthday is like 2 weeks after Christmas.

        So I do a lot of my buying at that point. In the flood I lost roughly 900-discs (that’s bought and recorded). Some things I had to replace ASAP like Suspiria and so on…..

        I replaced as much as the core stuff now its stuff I wanted. So to save money more 3rd party sellers. Sometimes it takes like 6 or so days. Others nearly 2-weeks!

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Yeah, I feel your pain on that, marketplace and third-party sellers are totally inconsistent in terms of their ship times.

      • Ok it arrived today way quicker than expected only like 6 days. Anyways, watched it tonight. Fun little movie but damn that score gets annoying lol. But pacing was an issue despite the 89-min running time. Film is a bit unfocused.

        But I still found it a fun watch. 3/5

      • trashfilmguru (Ryan C.) says:

        Glad you liked it for the most part, and glad to know it arrived sooner than you’d expected! That’s always nice.

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