Here come the Fuzz!
A pair of bored teenagers have found a unique way to get some laughs: they find incapacitated skid row winos, douse them with gasoline and set them ablaze. A low-rent career criminal (Don Gordon, Bullitt) catches the ear of a police informant in a dive pool hall, while flapping his gums about setting up a job. A hearing-impaired mastermind (Yul Brynner, The King And I) has been phoning the squad room and threatening to kill high-ranking local politicians if his ransom demands aren’t met. When the money doesn’t show, the murders start happening, as promised.
Yep, the hardworking detective squad of Boston’s 87th Precinct has their hands full during the cruel winter of 1971; there’s hellzapoppin’ on those frozen city streets.
One more thing. The (male) departmental decoys aren’t fooling the park side rapist currently at large, so Lieutenant Byrnes (Dan Frazer, Kojak) takes drastic action, calling in (gasp!) a woman detective named Eileen McHenry (Raquel Welch, Myra Breckinridge). Well, you can just imagine the kind of hubbub this creates among the ranks.
Fuzz, the big-screen adaptation of celebrated crime writer Ed McBain’s novel (with a script by celebrated screenwriter Evan Hunter, aka crime novelist Ed McBain) is a strange mix of the silly and the sinister; of bumbling, sophomoric comedy and brutal, shocking violence. While both elements work well individually–thanks to a game and professional cast, some masterful staging by veteran helmsman Richard A. Colla (Battlestar Galactica) and gritty, atmospheric location work from cinematographer Jacques Marquette (A Bucket of Blood)–the goofy and the gory bits don’t necessarily go well together and the abrupt back and forth can be unsettling.
By the time this pure popcorn thriller hit the circuit, viewing audiences had become pretty familiar with the detectives of the 87th precinct, who’d already had a television series and several film appearances to their credit. This time around, the role of Steve Carella went to Burt Reynolds (then a recent Cosmopolitan centerfold and just on the cusp of super-stardom with his next release, Deliverance); Bert Kling to Tom Skerritt (Alien); Arthur Brown to James McEachin (Play Misty For Me) and Meyer Meyer to Jack Weston (Dirty Dancing). Reynolds and Weston bounce off each other particularly well (they’d team up again for Gator), though Skerritt and McEachin seem a bit over qualified for this assignment. For her part, Ms. Welch looks spectacular, but is sadly under-used and pretty much abandoned by the last reel.
On the bright side, Kino Lorber have done a decent job with this 1.85:1/1080p transfer, which–aside from a minimum of age-related wear and tear–probably looks much as it did when it the film first came out. The DTS-HD mono audio track does a heckuva good job translating the dialogue-heavy station house scenes (very reminiscent of Robert Altman) and without skimping on Dave Gruisin’s cool, cop rockin’ score.
Extras are few but worthy. There’s a dynamite audio commentary track by the self-effacing (and slightly forgetful) Colla and film-maker/factotum Elijah Drenner (American Grindhouse). Josh Olson contributes an interesting “Trailers from Hell” segment and the set is further padded with the theatrical trailer for Fuzz and several other Burt Reynolds features (Gator, White Lightning, Sam Whiskey and Malone).
All in all, here’s a nifty little package, reasonably priced, though honestly, unless you’re a big fan of ‘seventies kitsch, Burt Reynolds or Raquel Welch, you probably won’t need to see this one a second time.