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GUILTY AS CHARGED (director: Sam Irvin; screenwriter: Charles Gale; cinematographer: Richard Michalak; editor: Kevin Tent; music: Steve Bartek; cast: Rod Steiger (Ben Kallin), Lauren Hutton (Liz), Isaac Hayes (Aloysius), Heather Graham (Kimberly Adams), Lyman Ward (Congressman Mark Stanford), Zelda Rubinstein (Edna), Irwin Keyes (Deek), Thomas F. Duffy (Evans), Ricky Dean Logan (Ricky Landon), Michael Beach (James Hamilton), Michael Talbott (Billy Sparrow), Mitch Pileggi (Dominique), James Dybas (Juan), Shawn Thompson (Gary), Terrence “Terry” Ellis (Georgie), Gale Mayron (Fran); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Randolph Gale; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 1991)
The tawdry premise is a killer to overcome.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The early directorial effort by Sam Irvin(“Kiss of a Stranger”/”Magic Island”/”Elvira’s Haunted Hills“) is a convoluted vigilante black comedy, that’s stylish but implausible. It’s written by Charles Gale as if he were high on weed. Rod Steiger, the film’s star, gives a scene-stealing over-the-top performance that there was no escape from.

Ben Kallin (Rod Steiger) is a nice guy but a religious fanatic, who is a frozen meats millionaire. His wife was murdered by someone released on parole before his sentence was up. The mournful hubby reacts by kidnapping those who deserved the death penalty but were spared by the system. In the basement of his meat packing plant makes them repent before he executes them in his home-made electric chair. Ben’s assistant and organist is Aloysius (Isaac Hayes). His other helper is Deek (Irwin Keyes). The victims are invited to watch the execution.

Kimberly Adams (Heather Graham) is an intern for the parole board. She notices that most of the early released paroled convicts vanish. The right-wing Congressman Mark Stanford (Lyman Ward), in his campaign for governor, cries out for no more parole pardons. Kimberly, though a campaign volunteer for Stanford, thinks differently, that everyone deserves a chance to be rehabilitated. What she doesn’t know is what a venal person she is working for. Stanford previously killed a woman he was involved with who threatened to expose him to his wife if he didn’t leave her. Stanford then set it up so petty thief James Hamilton (Michael Beach) would get convicted for the murder. To prove his innocence, Hamilton makes a jail break. But Ben plans to capture Hamilton and give him the chair. All these parties will meet again for a diverting but contrived conclusion, that defies logic.

Supermodel turned actress Lauren Hutton plays the embittered wife of the corrupt congressman. Mitch Pileggi is one of Ben’s prisoners.

I doubt if this film was meant to be taken seriously, but it does nevertheless seriously lambaste proponents on both sides of the capital punishment issue for being hypocrites. Though an obscure film, there were enough viewers who found this film when it was on video and made it a cult favorite.

For me, the tawdry premise is a killer to overcome. It’s a flawed film that seems to want to say something important, but never gets around to it.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”