Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh is a strange one. Writer/director Dean Tschetter's homage to the "Godfather of Gore" Herschell Gordon Lewis (especially Blood Feast) is a bizarre mixture of broad comedy, slasher movie moments, side trips into the Airplane! school of humour and make-up effects by maestro Tom Savini. It's a flick I remembered mostly for its title, even though I'd seen in back when it first arrived on VHS courtesy of Paramount, and is definitely an obscure little movie that's never quite been able to gather the cult following of other horror comedies that came out around the same time - with equally goofy titles like Chopper Chicks in Zombietown.
The tone of the flick is set right away as we see a shadowy figure lurking around lover's lane pulling something noisily behind all the cars filled with lust-filled couples. We get to listen in on all kinds of humourous conversations before our killer cranks up his blaringly loud portable generator and proceeds to buzz saw a few people.
Into the picture comes the inept seeming detective duo of Sweeney (Jake Dengel) and Joe (Joe Sharkey). Joe has to deal with the fact that he's liable to puke at any bloody crime scene while Sweeney has to put-up with his chain smoking wife and her voice box. They're soon on the case when our murderer continues to roam around town killing off various women using all sorts of unconventional weapons (including a Shop Vac and, in one of the more amusing moments, a parking meter).
Soon our duo finds themselves teamed up with a recently deceased detective friend's daughter Deedee (Susann Fletcher) who's flown in from Las Vegas where similar killings took place. They end up following the clues into the Egyptian part of Pittsburgh, meet up with dense roller skating waitress Grace (Veronica Hart) and try to stop the killer leading to a lame over-the-top finale that at least has a few decent gore effects.
Speaking of gore effects and bloodshed, while watching this I had the distinct feeling that this had obviously fallen victim to editing which, upon listening to the commentary and watching an interview with Tschetter on the now out-of-print DVD, it was as co-producer/co-star Beverly Penberthy took Tschetter's efforts and proceeded to re-edit it into a disjointed jumble of a flick. It's something that he's still bitter about (or at least was when the disc came out in 2000) and it led to him talking on the much used Hollywood pseudonym Alan Smithee. Hell, he even much prefers the flick's original title Picking Up the Pieces.
While the movie itself doesn't work that well at least the cast seems to be game. Dengel and Sharkey play off each other pretty well as they stumble through the case while their amateur partner does all the grunt work. Penberthy, playing Sharkey's aforementioned wife, gets to be involved in one of the flick's more bizarre set pieces when she goes to a clinic to try and stop smoking and is assaulted by disaster videos and some gorilla suited guys with a fire hose but, in general, her entire character is ludicrous. However, if I was to pick who does the best here I'd have to give credit to Hart. Billed here as Jane Esther Hamilton she's mostly known as a porn star in the 70s and 80s but some of us will recognize her from various Chuck Vincent T&A comedies (Wimps, Sex Appeal). She seems to be having fun with the role and gets most of the best moments during the finale.
I'm not really sure if Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh might benefit from one day being re-released in its original form but what's on display here just isn't that great. It just seems to be trying too hard to be funny while not delivering the bloodshed we'd expect. Of course, I suspect lots of gore was trimmed as there's still a handful of decent effects but, for a movie celebrating H.G. Lewis, it feels rather tame. I mostly enjoyed the performances and there were a few amusing scenes (like the one with the kindly coroner and his little old lady sidekicks) but the flick generally just doesn't work. That's too bad as it still has one Hell of a title. (Chris Hartley, 9/25/13)
Directed By: Dean Tschetter.
Written By: Dean Tschetter.
Starring: Jake Dengel, Joe Sharkey, Susann Fletcher, Beverly Penberthy.