Fuzz

FUZZ is a scattershot 1972 attempt to do something free-wheeling like MASH, except in a police department. The screenplay by Evan Hunter was based on his book of the same name from four years earlier, the 22nd of 55 “87th Precinct” novels he wrote between 1956 and 2005 under the pseudonym ‘Ed McBain’. Richard A. Colla directed, with Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch as headliners. The lamely obvious advertising campaign put the two sex-marketed front & center in garish poster art that had zip to do with the movie itself. *

Every morning garbage in the front seat. You know, coffee grounds, potato peels and moldy fruit. It just gets such a mess when it gets on the floor and, you know, walking around with it slipping on your heels. It’s disgusting; old chewed up bones like they had a dog or something. And one day it looked as though somebody had blown their nose in pieces of old toilet paper and wet cigarette butts and things like that. It’s really disgusting, and you can’t find that in your car seat every morning and live through it. My stomach turns and I really threw up several times, but not in the front seat of the car.

Though the 87th Precinct stories were set in a thinly-veiled New York City, the movie changes the locale to Boston, where veteran detectives ‘Carella’ (Reynolds), ‘Meyer’ (Jack Weston), ‘Kling’ (Tom Skerritt) and ‘McHenry’ (Welch) deal with cases that include a murderous extortion scheme targeting public officials, and random arson attacks on the homeless. Part farce (Reynolds and Weston undercover as nuns), part serious (bombings, and assorted murders), the jarring tonal tonal shifts are sloppy and contrived. Burt smirks, Raquel flashes a nice smile, the supporting cast is speckled with familiar faces from the era. Yul Brynner enjoys himself in a glorified guest star job as The Deaf Man’, the main bad guy. Funniest bit is done by Peter Brocco, ad-libbing a complaint about someone leaving trash in his car. Decidedly unfunny are the fiery assaults; their inclusion tarred the film with a tragic aftermath. **

Reviews were decent at the time, but it doesn’t hold up very well. A gross of $9,400,000 put it 44th on 72’s box office list. Music score by Dave Grusin. With James McEachin (solid pro who should have been a bigger star), Stewart Moss, Peter Bonerz, Steve Ihnat (last role, at 37, he died prior to its release), Dan Frazer, Bert Remsen, Don Gordon, Charles Tyner, Gino Conforti, Martine Bartlett, Charles Martin Smith (18, about to earn glory as American Graffiti’s ‘Toad’), Tamara Dobson (debut, about to become Cleopatra Jones), Brian Doyle-Murray (debut), Dominick Chianese (debut), Neile Adams (aka Mrs .Steve McQueen). 92 minutes.

* At 36, after 14 years of toiling in lots of TV and a slew of lousy movies, Reynolds “arrived” in ’72, with a showcase dramatic role in Deliverance, a gag photo layout in “Cosmopolitan” and a funny, well-timed cameo in Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Sex. After six years of packaging as a vacuous sex bomb, Welch, 31, finally delivered a halfway decent performance here. Though they’d eventually make up, Burt & Raquel were on such bad terms (after clashing on 100 Rifles) that they pointedly had nothing to do with each other during the filming, refusing even so much as eye contact.

** The fire-assault scenes in the film were horrifically mimicked in real-life incidents in Boston and Miami, with gangs of teenagers the perpetrators.

 

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