Stone Cold Dead (1979)


Canada. 1979.


Director/Screenplay – George Mendeluk, Based on the Novel The Sin Sniper by Hugh Garner, Producers – George Mendeluk & John Ryan, Photography – Dennis Miller, Music – Paul James Zaza, Special Effects – Jacques Bradette, Art Direction – Ted Watkins. Production Company – Ko-Zak Productions


Richard Crenna (Boyd), Paul Williams (Julius Kurtz), Linda Sorensen (Monica Page), Belinda J. Montgomery (McCauley), Alberta Watson (Olivia Page)


Police detective Boyd investigates a series of murders where prostitutes are being killed by a sniper who then takes photographs of the bodies and sends them to the police. Boyd suspects the killer is pimp Julius Schwartz and that Schwartz is killing off the girls who try to leave him. However, as Boyd investigates further, he realises that he is hunting a serial killer.

The Canadian-made Stone Cold Dead is a cliched and lacklustre variant on the vice underworld thriller. It is included here as a policier thriller, the genre that was prototypic of the emergence of the serial killer thriller in the 1990s.

Everything in Stone Cold Dead has been done before. The investigation at the heart of the story holds no suspense to it. Moreover, the script fails to even bother to trace the trail of clues – Richard Crenna just happens to find the darkroom, the film never tells us how. The detective story traipses its way doggedly through the film. The underworld is insipidly presented – it feels as though the filmmakers are straining at cliches of the seedy underside of society on an economy-sized budget. Although, to its credit, the film is momentarily lifted by an ending that holds a good surprise revelation of the killer’s identity.

The dubious highlight of Stone Cold Dead is pint-sized Paul Williams, who was best known a musician and attained brief fame as an actor in the 1970s, most notably in The Phantom of the Paradise (1974) and the Smokey and the Bandit films. Williams is wildly miscast in the role of a pimp and spends the whole film obtrusively over-acting. In fact, whenever Williams turns up, you end up laughing Stone Cold Dead off the screen. The underrated Alberta Watson emerges well towards the end. The film’s only real colour is Belinda Montgomery, who is constantly lively despite being lumbered with some cringe-inducing lines about finding phlegmatic hangdog lead Richard Crenna attractive.

Stone Cold Dead was the debut of Canadian director George Mendeluk. Mendeluk went onto make the William Shatner thriller The Kidnapping of the President (1980) and the excruciating Meatballs III: Summer Job (1987), before disappearing off to direct much Canadian-shot US television, although did return to genre material some years later with the zombie film Fight or Flight (2010). His one other genre works have consisted of a string of tv movies I Know What I Saw (2007), Swarm/Destination Infestation (2007) about ants on a plane, Nightmare at the End of the Hall (2008), Riddles of the Sphinx (2008), Storm Seekers (2008) and Forever 16 (2013).

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