Based on the novel The Sin Sniper written by Canadian author Hugh Garner Stone Cold Dead was the feature film debut of writer/director George Mendeluk (who would also helm The Kidnapping Of The President and a few other titles before then becoming a very prolific TV director).
The film is set in Toronto where a serial killer is preying on the city's prostitute population. The killer's shtick? He's got a camera attached to his sniper rifle that allows him to take a picture of his victims just as they're being murdered. He then mails these photos to the police department. The press dubs him ‘The Sin Sniper' and he's got the city in a bit of a panic. Enter Sergeant Boyd (Richard Crenna), the toughest cop in all of Hogtown. He's going to do whatever it takes to bring this killer in and make sure that he sees justice served, but it won't be easy.
Meanwhile, things head up with Julius Kurtz (Paul Williams), a pimp/drug dealer who may or may not have something to do with the case. As Boyd works his way through the mystery, the sniper keeps at it and the bodies start to pile up. If that weren't enough, he's also go to deal with a young up and coming rookie female detective, a few corrupt cops and the obligatory hooker with a heart of gold… is romance in the air?
Fairly predictable and at times more than a little silly, Stone Cold Dead is never the less a pretty enjoyable little mix of trashy exploitation filmmaking and hardboiled cop thriller. Less a horror movie than the marketing might lead you to believe, the film is still reasonably strong in the skin and the violence departments. Hookers aplenty are killed throughout the movie (the first of whom is played by a young Linnea Quigley) and the film is set primarily against the backdrop of Toronto's at the time fairly seedy downtown area (it's since been cleaned up much like New York City's Times Square, though some remnants do remain such as the infamous Zanzibar strip club), Yonge Street in particular. The late, lamented Rio Theater is also featured prominently here and there. Those who like films like Taxi Driver for showing off the New York that once was should appreciate Stone Cold Dead for offering Toronto the same courtesy.
Production values won't floor you but they're okay. The cinematography is rarely flashy but frequently effective. We get some nice location photography that shows off the city well and the lighting is decent. The film has a pretty solid soundtrack although a song entitled Children Of The Night, performed by Guidona Lee, is exceptionally goofy.
The performances are interesting. Crenna is pretty subdued here. We can buy him as a tough guy with no issue at all, he's well cast as a cop, but his performance is a little on the mellow side. Still, he's fun to watch and well-cast. Paul Williams, however, is just a bizarre choice for a pimp/drug dealer. We've seen him play seedier characters before (Phantom Of The Paradise is a great example) but here, well, he's definitely cast against type, that's for sure. It's also fun to see some supporting work from Michael Ironside, Lesleh Donaldson, Belinda Montgomery (Doogie Howser's mom… who also contributes to the soundtrack!) and the aforementioned Ms. Quigley in the film.The Blu-ray:
Stone Cold Dead arrives on a 25GB Blu-ray from Kino Studio Classics framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded transfer and it looks great in high definition. The source used for the transfer was clearly in great shape, the image is almost pristine, while detail and texture are strong throughout. Colors are nicely reproduced, black levels are fine and there are no issues with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction to note. We also get nice, natural looking skin tones and good shadow detail as well.Sound:
The only audio option provided is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 track. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. There aren't any problems to note here. There are times where things sound maybe a little bit flat but otherwise the dialogue is easy to understand, the levels are properly balanced and the score has decent range, depth and presence.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary with Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson. Lots of talk here about the film scene in and around Toronto at the time and the locations that are used throughout the movie, but so too is there quite a bit of insight into the different cast members that populate the film, Crenna in particular. There's also quite a bit of background into Mendeluk's career and directing work and a fair bit more. This is a solid track that relays some welcome information that is laid back, easy to listen to and at times reasonably humorous.
Also look out for a nine minute long interview with director George Mendeluk. He offer up some thoughts on the Canadian tax shelter program that led to a boom in exploitation pictures being shot there as well as some thoughts on the film and how it, intentionally or not, has quite a bit in common with the Jack The Ripper murders. Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other titles available from the Kino Studio Classics line, menus and chapter selection. Kino has also supplied some cool reversible cover sleeve art for this release.Final Thoughts:
Stone Cold Dead is an entertaining and reasonably sleazy slice of seventies exploitation filmmaking. The seedy Toronto locations give the movie some time capsule qualities and a decent cast helps the film rise above its modest budget and somewhat predictable storyline. The Blu-ray from Kino looks great, sounds fine, and features a few decent extras. Fans of seventies horror and exploitation should appreciate this, if you fall into that camp consider this one recommended.