Poised somewhere between a serial-killer horror film and an old-fashioned murder mystery, Armand Mastroianni's smartly plotted The Killing Hour
doesn't quite reach its potential but offers an entertaining ride to the climax. A handcuff killer is running around New York and the NYPD's best hope lies in a psychic artist who sketches death scenes from the eyes of the killer. Norman Parker is a genial New York cop and part-time standup comic who falls in love with artist Elizabeth Kemp, while muckraking talk-show host Perry King exploits her for ratings at the expense of her safety: the killer is out there and he's still hunting. The opening murder scenes are vivid and accomplished, economically realized with style and suggestion, and similar scenes sprinkled throughout punctuate an otherwise flatly directed drama. The film is invigorated by NYC location shooting, an inventive screenplay, quirky, character-rich performances by the always reliable Joe Morton, Jon Polito, and Kenneth McMillan in small roles, and an engaging, understated lead by Parker.
The DVD also features entertaining audio commentary by Mastroianni and fellow director William Lustig--who reminisce about the old days as exploitation auteurs making pictures on the streets of New York--as well as deleted scenes that illuminate the hard choices directors make, sacrificing detail for pace and rhythm. The picture's title is explained in those cut moments. --Sean Axmaker