This week's VHS is Rainer Erler's 1979 teleplay Spare Parts.
Young newlyweds Monica & Mike (Jutta Speidel & Herbert Hermmann) run afoul of an organ thief ring while on honeymoon in New Mexico.
I had zero expectations for this one, but it actually ended up being pretty solid. Despite being a TV movie, it bore the quality I've come to expect from projects birthed in the seventies. It had a deliberate, yet engaging pace and was populated with naturalistic actors talented enough to perform no matter how outlandish the subject matter. This was a German production shot in the United States with an original title was even simpler than Spare Parts.
I think what really surprised me about this movie was that it constantly went against where I thought it was going to go. The biggest example of this was the character of Bill (Wolf Roth), the trucker that Monica encounters after her hubby gets snatched by dudes posing as paramedics. My first instinct was to think this guy must have an angle because no one is that nice. He almost immediately went all-in on helping her fight this growing conspiracy. This guy seriously needs some sort of Good Samaritanship medal or something. Look at this restraint!
After that oh-so-awkward exchange above, with the help of his network of hauler buddies, they basically take down the fake ambulance. Fifty minutes in and done, easy peasy. And even when Mike & Monica follow the trail and find the person running the show from a hospital in Roswell – I have to admit I was a little disappointed when it wasn't aliens behind the curtain – it was not the hand-rubbing mad scientist you would expect. Quite the opposite in fact. This all led up to a chase sequence with dual ambulances jockeying on an inexplicably empty highway.
I really liked the lead actress in this film. Speidel was (and still is) quite prolific in her native Germany. In this movie, she had a Marilyn Burns-like quality, except instead of being chased around with a chainsaw for half the picture, she would've been more likely to eventually turn around and smack Leatherface in the face with a tire iron.
|Jutta Speidel as Monica in Spare Parts.|
While director Erler's intent was likely a less flashy version of Michael Crichton's Coma, Spare Parts exists on its own merits and even managed to surprise me once or twice.