Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Episode 38: The Coroner (1999)


“You think you’re some sort of a god? Well, you’re only a god in here. Out there, in the real world, you’re nothing but another crazy fuck.”

Another Roger Corman movie, you say? Well, this is B-Movie Bonanza, and Roger’s Concorde/New Horizons films have contributed greatly to the direct-to-video market. Much to my chagrin, the golden era, when these cheapies lined video store shelves, has long-since passed. As recent documentaries like Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking have shown via emulsion-lined screens, nothing quite compares to VHS nostalgia. Oh how I miss picking up a dust-coated New Horizons Home Video sleeve to closely observe those lurid images of busty young actresses in varying stages of undress (as Corman always said, nudity is the cheapest special effect). Those moments following this almost hypnotic state, when I’d flip to peruse a hastily cranked-out synopsis of a thinly-veiled plot, was always the icing on the cake, especially when said synopsis contained typographical errors, or said cake featured stills of big-boobied actresses not even in the movie. The format may be long gone, but the movies themselves live on—if not on YouTube or Hulu or Netflix, then right here in my cozy little corner of the Interwebz.


Most often, it’s quite clear that the scripts for Corman’s expansive collection were cranked-out in, at most, a weekend. The excessive stock footage, predictable plot twists, and questionable caracter development give those away each and every time. But on rare occasions, I’d find myself watching a clearly bad film with some semblance of a compelling and/or original premise buried beneath poor direction, sloppy editing, thrown-together sets, and, of course, an abundance of nudity. Such is the case with The Coroner.


The plot centers around a prolific serial killer, who happens to be L.A.’s chief medical examiner. He destroys all evidence of his crimes while revisiting his victims as they lay upon a morgue slab. Our villain (Dean St. Louis) doesn’t choose victims at random, however. He specifically targets beautiful young women who’ve recently attempted suicide, but failed. He then stalks and holds them captive in a chamber of horrors, where he tortures and humiliates them before ultimately succeeding where they couldn’t. This demented hobby always takes place with a camcorder well within reach, so our scalpel-wielding madman can relive the butchery over and over.


Meanwhile, Emma Santiago (Jane Longnecker), an ill-mannered, high-strung attorney with a slightly atypical approach when it comes to cross-examining unreliable witnesses, finds herself the next victim in this string of brutal slayins. Fortunately, she is able to escape before she ends up in the morgue with the rest of The Coroner’s mutilated corpses. Unfortunately, no one believes her elaborate story. As detectives come to find, Emma has a history of mental instability to accompany her over-the-top court room antics, whereas our slice-n-dice medical examiner is a pillar of society with a healthy and longstanding rapport with several members of the police force, including the detectives investigating Emma’s claims.


Though The Coroner is a fairly interesting concept, the screenplay has a number of things working against it. First and foremost, it was produced by Concorde/New Horizons. Second, it was obviously tweaked to include unnecessary scenes that don’t exactly go with the film, all of them containing gratuitous nudity. Third, while the performances aren’t terrible (though Longnecker does do a fair bit of chewing the scenery) they’re rather inconsistent. Worst of all, The Coroner contains as much, if not more, stock footage as the 1996 Maria Ford quickie Strip for Action. Snippets of screaming actresses from completely unrelated films, like The Slumber Party Massacre and Sorority House Massacre II are randomly inserted throughout the movie to serve as, I can only assume, flashback footage from The Coroner’s previous slayings. It’s quite noticeable and even a non-Corman devotee would more than likely pick up on it immediately. Oh and I should probably mention the score, which was recycled from a handful of other Concorde productions.


I’m by no means implying The Coroner could’ve been something spectacular, but with a little dialogue polish, a bigger budget, and a few more seasoned actors, it definitely could’ve been something better. Alas, it is what it is and so it remains a movie I enjoy not because it’s good, but because it’s oh-so-delightfully bad. As always, you’re welcome to watch along with me (I believe it’s pretty easy to track down on YouTube and other streaming sites). I, however, used the original Concorde DVD, which runs 1:14:07.


Disclaimer: I often ramble nonsensically while struggling for material to fill the running time. On occasion, I unwittingly head off in some pretty kooky directions. This time, I gave something of a tutorial on how to correctly slit one’s wrists. I don’t know this from personal experience and the topic by no means appears randomly (several of the women in the film attempt suicide using this method). My thoughts, comments, opinions, and ramblings on the subject are NOT meant to inspire or encourage anyone to take a sharp implement to their own flesh. It’s just me, as per usual, acting like a total jackass. Now, as Fred Olen Ray says in the opening disclaimer for Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, my conscience is clear.
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