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SMALL KILL (1991).

You have to admire any horror film with the audacity to hire innocuous Gary Burghoff to play a tough-as-nails psycho killer! The idea is sheer genius! I guess his M.A.S.H. residuals had run dry--or maybe he was sick of hanging out with Larry Linville in the welfare line. Well, believe it or not, Burghoff is incredibly creepy as an unshaven, no-conscience dirtbag named Fleck (complete with a toupee you can spot at 1000 yards) who gets off on kidnapping and ransoming little children. He's so real you can almost smell the li'l bug-eyed fuck. Unfortunately director Rob Fresco doesn't focus only on grubby Gary. Instead he turns the film into a sub-standard, shot-on-video policier featuring an undercover Pacino/Serpico clone who's out to bust the city's drug kingpins (though from the look of their nickel-'n'-dime operation, a paper route would seem more lucrative). Outside of some surprisingly nasty shotgun action (nice exploding heads), the cop scenes are barely-watchable, Z-grade tripe, padded out with their repulsive, Long Island domestic lives. Thank god for Gary Burghoff (who, as the end credits explain, directed his own scenes!). When he's not terrorizing tots with a straight razor, Fleck is picking up male prostitutes and tieing them to his bed, or checking out topless shows at ringside and tipping with C-notes. Lemme tell you, the sight of Burghoff getting a lapdance from a busty whore is a cornea-singeing image! Fleck is also involved in the local cocaine trade, thus giving him the opportunity to blow away drug lords who're ripping him off. The script also gives Fleck a Mother Complex, so no grimy cliche is left unwrung. Hell, the whole story makes no sense, but Burghoff is outstanding, giving one of the great, career-decimating performances of all time. The rest of the cast looks like they were plucked from a not-very-successful community theatre troupe, with the exception of Christopher Cooke (Adrienne Shelly's dad in THE UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH) as a police captain and Jason Miller (Father Karras from THE EXORCIST, nowadays looking more like Father Merrin) as a suburban rummy. Though Miller is second billed, he appears in only two scenes, which is still a couple too many. But this is Burghoff's show through and through! He's the true personification of white-trash evil and the darker side of Radar O'Reilly. Too bad everything else about the film sucks.

© 1994 by Steven Puchalski.