10/16/12

Spare Parts(1979) : They Steal Organs! I'm not Kidneying You!

Sometimes, when you're a video tape collector, you buy a VHS to have the tape no mater if the film is any good or not. Often the box art brings back a memory or the packaging strikes some kind of fancy. The latter is the case of the case for today's film. Packaged in an over-sized puffy clamshell done in hot pink, the cover features a woman in pieces in what must have been a whole afternoon for someone with a pair of scissors. The whole impression of the art and box was unlike anything else I owned and I took no time snapping it up when I found I at the last Horrorhound Weekend. The box art declares the film "The Cutting Edge in Medical Terror” , but what it doesn't say is that this German made horror-thriller is definitely one of a kind. Spare Parts hits squarely on one of the great urban legends of all time as the thriller centers around organ thieves praying on tourists a full twenty five years before Turistas mined similar territory. So join me for the only movie I know of that combines German tourists, kidneys, 70s trucker culture, and a full blown international cartel of body harvesters. 

A young couple from Germany, Monica and Mike (Jutta Speidel and Herbert Herrmann) are traveling across Texas when they stop into the Honeymoon Motel for the night, a dive of a place that doesn't exactly meet Monica's standards. The motel owner seems nice, too nice, but the honeymooning couple have other things on their mind. After making love, the two frolic in a nearby field, but when an ambulance shows up and kidnaps Mike, Monica is forced to run for her life. When she returns to the hotel, the manager denies knowing her and calls the ambulance back. Running away into the setting sun, Monica is picked up by a trucker, Bill (Wolf Roth), with a heart of gold who believes her story and tries to get her to safety. Bill and his trucker friends help Monica trap the Ambulance drivers, and it leads the pair on a wild journey that takes them deep into a conspiracy to traffic organs across the country from the recently and conveniently deceased. 

For many film fans, more than the "medical terror" promised by the VHS case, shades of the Kurt Russell film Breakdown might come to mind more readily. While certainly the idea of people being kidnapped to be killed and their organs taken is a horrific concept, but Spare Parts falls more on the thriller side of the horror-thriller coin. While the film, directed by Rainer Erler for German TV under the name Fleisch, is essentially style-less, it gains something though the often funny, kitchy dialog. If this was a product of the original film or the brainchild of whoever dubbed the film for American audiences, I couldn't say, but as it was Spare Parts is the sum of some clunky stitching that for some reasons works. Scenes like when Monica takes refuge with Bill, it makes for an interesting moment thanks to his monologue on "trouble with Smokies" if for nothing else, and there are a few moments that pick up style points. To soaring guitars the young couple make love as the camera cuts back and forth to the ambulance coming in the distance, as the audience knows nothing except the hotel owner making a call, it is a well timed and cut moment of suspense in an otherwise predictably paced film.  

Take into account that I am basing my opinion on the film on the dub job as you read further. To some point there is no separating the actors from the voices I heard coming out of their mouths. Jutta Speidel  makes for a plucky and believable heroine who I really felt like I could get behind. Her character takes a giant dynamic shift from the opening to close of Spare Parts, and she handles each of the steps in her progression well. It also aids the movie when she is paired with Wolf Roth whose trucker character has a heart of gold. He, or his voice actor, was so charismatic that it was impossible not to like him from his first frame. Unfortunately some of the best characters are ill or under used such as Tedi Altice as the motel manager who gets only a wee bit of screen time. Charlotte Kerr gives an icy performance as head harvester Dr. Jackson, but she lacks the weight behind her performance to be the 'heavy'. The film lacks for a real focuses bad guy, and the big bad turns out to be more of a corporation, which I suppose are people, my friend. 

In the end, despite Spare Parts impressing me with some of the dialog, flashes of style, and a unique angle in its plot line  taken as a sum of, get ready to groan, its parts the film never comes up with enough to really solidify anything. Rainer Erler was clearly a journeyman director who primarily worked in the field of TV, and despite the fact that, as proved in the above screenshot, German TV was decidedly racier than American fare even in the 1970s, Spare Parts lacked thrills enough to succeed as a thriller and chills enough to make the whole affair horrific. Perhaps Spare Parts needed its own transplant from another movie to make it better. My suggestion would be to get rid of Bill and replace him with Stacey Keatch from Road Games. Now that is going to get things really going. However, while Spare Parts didn't impress me, I will still continue to love and cherish the pink clamshell that contains it. If you don't want to track down a VHS of your own, I believe the careful hunter will find this title nestled on one of the Mill Creek 50 packs. Well, that's all for the Bugg today, and with only two films left before the Bigger & Badder Halloween Top 13 kicks off, I hope everyone is ready for some big time menaces to invade The LBL.

Bugg Rating

There is no trailer, clip, or even a segment I can find of this film to post, but i gave you boobs this time instead. not even censored boobs. I know, I am magnanimous.  

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