BLAZING MAGNUM: A 1976 Ottawa Bank Heist & Car Chase Captured on film

In 1976 Ottawa had a starring role in an obscure Italian produced film called “Strange Shadows In An Empty Room” starring Stuart Whitman. Filmed in both Ottawa and Montreal, this gritty, Dirty Harry style detective film puts Ottawa in the spotlight as the backdrop for a gritty bank heist and intense car chase sequence.


Ottawa was a crazy and dangerous place in the 1970s, as portrayed in this film poster.

Who knew Ottawa was such a raw and dangerous place in the 1970s as we will soon see.  Strange Shadows in an Empty Room was released in Italy on March 9, 1976. The film has been released with different titles in other English-speaking countries such as Blazing Magnum in the United Kingdom.


Without further ado, lets see how Ottawa looked in this blazing 1970s action film… Lights, camera….ACTION!


The title sequence of the film opens with an aerial shot of Montreal.


A young woman uses a payphone to try and call her brother, a police detective in Ottawa. No cell phones or texting back then.


Cut to the brother (Stuart Whitman) in Ottawa cruising around in his car. 


 In 1976 the police budget for Ottawa must have been generous…the Place DeVille Tower stands in for Ottawa Police Headquarters.


uh-oh. Some brazen bank robbers are robbing a bank in downtown Ottawa with machine guns and Leggs stockings over their heads!  


Ottawa detective Tony is on it! He drops a cherry on his brown boat of a car and heads to the bank!


Things are getting crazy at the bank. 1970s Ottawa dudes in plaid pants are not liked by the bank robbers, obviously. 


Tony puts the pedal to the metal and blows by the Parliament buildings, in what looks to be a quiet 1970s Sunday….or maybe its rush hour on a weekday and that’s how quiet rush hour traffic was during the 70s. Not sure. 


Chateau Laurier, The Daly Building, and an OC Transpo bus have a cameo! 


I don’t know where this bank is that’s being robbed, but the cops en route are taking the scenic route. Canal looks nice in 1976, and great job on those sad median planters NCC. 


Oh Hey! It’s Albert Street! Looks like Air Canada was in the Fuller Building on the left…

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 11.43.16 PM

The same scene as it appears today… (GoogleMaps)


Bank robbers have had enough and got their cash and head out onto the street into the getaway car…maybe soon heading to the Old Spaghetti Factory or Mother’s to spend some of their new found cash. 


As the getaway car peels away, I couldn’t help to notice the neat old Canada Post box. Also: classic salt stains on the cars. 


uh-oh…the bad guys in the Leggs stocking masks do not like Ottawa cops chasing them and open fire with their machine guns. 


The Ottawa Cops get hit with machine gun fire sending them into a VW Beetle…


The 1976 Ottawa Police car has a no-nonsense logo and font choice, noticed as it careens into the blue Beetle.


Things just went from bad to worse for the Ottawa cops…hang on lads…


The Ottawa Chief is not going to like this. 



The Leggs stockings over the head obviously have affected the vision of the bad guys as they crash into a storefront.


Being on the mean streets of Ottawa has taught Tony not to take any chances with these Bytown Baddasses and blasts some lead in their general direction. 


It did not go well for the robbers. 


Still no answer from brother Tony…still on hold as he is blasting bank robbers with his BLAZING MAGNUM.

That’s all folks! The movie then cuts to Montreal for more action packed 1970s entertainment including topless women and a cross dresser. Highly recommended film available on Amazon.

So glad Ottawa cleaned up its act since the 1970s…

Andrew King, November 2018






  1. This film is a lot of fun, Andrew. I pre-ordered the blu ray the second it was announced. It’s a strange cross between a Poliziotteschi (crime/police drama) and a Giallo (psycho/suspense thriller) that tries to have it both ways… hence the two titles. For an example of big studio Hollywood coming to Ottawa, check out 1946’s THE IRON CURTAIN, starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, both of LAURA fame. It’s the story of Igor Gouzenko’s defection and features lots of Ottawa scenery. It’s available on a nice English blu ray, which I also own. Another fun movie is 1953’s THE LOST MISSILE, in which our beloved Ottawa is levelled by a radioactive missile from parts unknown on it’s way to New York. This one stars a young Robert Loggia and is sadly only available to view in a battered print online. Several scenes feature location shots of our city before it is turned into a burned out cinder.

  2. I worked at Place de Ville for over ten years. No idea it was the fictional Ottawa Police Headquarters in this cool film. Nice to know!

  3. That chase scene is one crazy 613-514 mashup – if you look closely at the skyline when the bank robbers make their exit you can see the Hydro Québec office tower in the background. The phone numbers on the back of the stop sign where he hops the curb and the paint store towards the end point to Lachine and St Léonard, also in 514. Front plates were still required in QC until ‘79, otherwise it would have been a lot more obvious.

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