The Film (3.5/5)
The 87th Precinct has its hands full. There’s a new female officer (Raquel Welch), a serial bum attacker case led by Detective Carella (Burt Reynolds), and in the middle of the dead of winter, a new hack paint job. While things already sound tough, the force is shaken by a mysterious man known as “The Deaf Man” (Yul Brynner), who is going around and setting off bombs all around town. Can the 87th Precinct solve the case, or are they in over their heads?
1970’s cop movies are the perfect cinematic comfort food. The plots are usually by the book, but what makes the genre and time period so interesting is the development of characters and story. Unlike popular cop TV shows of the time, these films could up the stakes. What makes FUZZ (1972) so different and fresh, is how it plays with audience expectations and twists a loose yet airtight series of plots into a fine comic thriller.
The tone of the movie is unique. While mostly playing it straight, the movie has random moments of comedy or blackly comic situations. One example is a stake out where Burt Reynolds is disguised as a Nun. The scene is played straight, but Reynolds is doing pratfalls and failing at his job thanks to the bad nun outfit. This scene must have inspired a similar insane sequence in the over the top anime classic MAD BULL 34. Raquel Welch is treated as a sex object, yet the movie shows her at her most natural looking with minor to no make-up. These contradictions made the movie very fresh, but at the same time kind of sloppy, with many of the subplot felling rushed through. While the movie doesn’t completely work, it is well written with a lot of clever wit and by the end a clean-cut story where all the loose plot ends tie up.
The cast is simply magnificent here. Burt Reynolds (SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, STICK) is his charming best and underplays his part. Jack Weston (WAIT UNTIL DARK) does a fine job as the goofy cop, that constantly needs help. Tom Skerritt (ALIEN) gets the best scenes in the movie and is a great buddy team with Reynolds. Raquel Welch (FATHOM) shines in her limited role. Her comic timing is spot on and natural. Yul Brynner (MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) isn’t reveled until late in the movie, but when he is on screen he controls it. Brynner is completely underrated in the movie and does well with his limited screen time.
FUZZ comes with the English DTS-HD Master Audio track. The sound mix is well balanced and doesn’t feature any serious issues. There’s a couple minor drop off in sound, which have a hollow sound to them, but overall the dialogue and sound effects sound splendid. My personal favorite part of the mix was the groovetastic and purely 70’s funk soundtrack by Dave Grusin. The music sounds like it was recorded today. The main theme music also plays over the disc menu. No English subtitles are included.
The movie has a 1080p HD transfer, and it’s nearly perfect. The picture has some minor natural film grain and the colors are smooth. The black levels are clever and sharp, with no motion blur problems. Some scenes have some fuzzy image issues to the far left of the screen. But for a movie filmed in the 1970’s, this transfer is simply wonderful. The level of detail is impressive, including a hilarious opening gag at the police station with wet paint, the paint is building in piles, and due to the transfer, you can pick out the layers of fresh and dry paint.
The main extra is an audio commentary with director Richard A. Colla and filmmaker Elyah Drenner. The track has some dead air, but the two men are energetic and are very frank about the movie’s strengths and weaknesses. Next up is trailers from hell with screenwriter Josh Olson (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) talking about the movie over its trailer. Olson covers a lot of ground on the movie’s production and the source novel series. Rounding out the extras is a Burt Reynolds Trailer gallery, that includes FUZZ, WHITE LIGHTING, GATOR (which has some unwatchable video quality), SAM WHISKEY, and MALONE.
FUZZ is a very enjoyable cop movie from the 70’s. The cast is game, and it’s completely unexpected. While chunks of the movie are rough around the edges, the screenplay is airtight with story structure. Kino gives this underrated movie a very handsome transfer with some fun extras. Recommended.