SCORCHY (1976) Blu-ray
Director: Hikmet Avedis
Shout! Factory

Singer Connie Stevens ditches the microphone for a gun in SCORCHY on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory.

Jackie Parker (Stevens) is a policewoman working deep undercover as a jet-setting "bum" ostensibly running her own one-woman/one-plane charter flight company. For the past two years she has been trying to bust a drug smuggling operation of the Bianco brothers, antique dealers in Rome and Seattle who transport heroin inside "priceless" statues sold to American tourists. The latest is a bronze wolf being shipped to actress Mary Davis (Joyce Jameson, DEATH RACE 2000) under the guard of ruthless courier/hitman Karl Heinrich (William Smith, GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE). With her chief (Norman Burton, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) leaning on her to make a break after flitting around the world tracking the Biancos for two years, Jackie gets lucky when Philip Bianco (Cesare Danova, MEAN STREETS) decides to collect on his $50,000 dollar loan to Jackie to start up her charter company by having her transport the drugs to their buyer. Shockingly, neither one of them expect to be repeatedly double-crossed by their shady partners.

Directed by Hikmet (aka Howard) Avedis (MORTUARY), SCORCHY may be one of the oddest 1970s cop films in its incongruous mix of the campy and the grim. A joyously squealing Stevens is an odd choice for a female cop (Stella Stevens, maybe), and her presence – along with Danova and B.J. AND THE BEAR's Greg Evigan (in his introductory role as Bianco's unsuspecting brother-in-law) – suggests something more lightweight and middle-aged-audience-friendly until Stevens' topless romps, some bloody squibs, and a bit of coitus interruptus involving a spear gun. On the flipside of that is a wonderfully ruthless performance by Smith – who interrupts the breezy fun of a race car versus sports car chase to not only knock a motorcyclist off his bike but also kicks him in the face and then shoots him – and a bloody shootout finale capped by a surprisingly grim freeze-frame final shot. Avedis' wife Marlene Schmidt (1961's Miss Universe) appears as Bianco's wife.

Released theatrically by American International, the film was one of a number of American and foreign pick-ups that ran into music rights issues when Orion prepped them for home video, and the Lightning Video release was rescored by synthesizer musician Kendall Schmidt who was also behind the rescore jobs on THE CONQUEROR WORM, THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, and others. When Shout! released the film on DVD as part of the four feature, two-DVD 4 ACTION PACKED MOVIES VOLUME TWO (with BAMBOO GODS AND IRON MEN, BULLETPROOF and TRACKDOWN), they resorted to a fullscreen TV print title RACE WITH DEATH that preserved the original Igo Kantor score – presumably a mix of library tracks since he is credited as "music supervisor" – but was missing nudity and violence. Shout!'s 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray comes from a brand new HD master of the uncut version (99:18 versus 94:32 on the DVD) and sports more vibrant colors, a fine layer of grain, some occasional white and black specs, and much more obvious stock shots like the opening panning establishing shot of Rome. Stevens' nude scenes have been restored, along with one from Ingrid Cedergren as the girlfriend of Bianco's double-crossing chauffeur Nicky (John Davis Chandler, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES). On the other hand, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track features the Kendall Schmidt synthesizer score, which sounds even cheaper when it dominates the soundtrack without supportive effects or even some optical hiss. This suggests that music rights may indeed be still an issue for this title (as it had been with UNHOLY ROLLERS) since MGM must surely have had the original English audio for the uncut materials (as well as the music and effects track since Orion was able to provide a separate tracks for the video rescore). Fans may want to hold onto the poor quality Shout! DVD transfer for the original score (although it is nowhere near as entertaining as some of the other scores Orion had to replace at that time). The sole extra is a theatrical trailer (1:24). (Eric Cotenas)