Theme Song: Dave Grusin (The Graduate, Three Days of The Condor, Heaven Can Wait, The Champ, Tootsie) contributes a super funky score that has never been officially released.
Opening Theme: It’s what you’d expect for 70s cop drama, and it fucking jams.
Interesting Dated References: Police caring about how the homeless are treated; Police capturing serial rapists using decoys; Ensemble cast police comedies.
Best Line: There are none because everyone talks on top of each other for the entire film’s running length.
Social Context: Fuzz is based on the 87th Precinct novel series by Ed McBain. The series ran from the 1950s until the author’s death in 2005. As a result, they’re well-regarded by people who like police procedural novels (loners, outcasts, grandfathers, sad uncles).
Summary: Every review of this movie ever written mentions either Robert Altman or M*A*S*H. The similarities are there: A bunch of loosely connected characters talk over each other and struggle through various interconnecting stories. One thing missing, however, is any type of manageable or engaging storyline. You could have a 30-minute conversation with a schizophrenic on the street and it’d be more coherent and have less tonal shifts than Fuzz. There’s a decent movie somewhere in the running time, but I can’t make sense of how to find it.
Detective Carella, played by Burt Reynolds (Beverly Hills, 90210, The Golden Girls, Cannonball Run II), is working undercover to capture some kids who keep lighting bums on fire. Elsewhere in the station, Detective Kling, a young Tom Skerritt (The Other Sister, Wild Orchid II: Two Shades of Blue, Maneaters Are Loose!), fields phone calls from a hearing-impaired extortionist who keeps threatening to kill public officials. Then there’s Detective Meyers, who is investigating some other shit. I don’t know, robberies, I think. Oh, and then Raquel Welch (Muppet Video: The Kermit and Piggy Story, Mork & Mindy, McHale’s Navy) shows up to stand around, be sexually harassed, and investigate a serial rapist.
Those are just the main storylines. There’s also the bumbling painters, the black detective fighting racial injustice, some crime syndicate, some pool hall … it goes on and on. The entire time it jumps from serious (Reynolds having an emotional conversation with his deaf girlfriend) to slapstick (Reynolds with moustache undercover as a nun).
After an hour of banter, things almost come together in an interesting way: Reynolds and Skerritt are hiding in a liquor store to capture a robber, when the aforementioned hearing-impaired, telephone-extortionist, would-be public official-assassin (played by Yul Brynner of General Foods 25th Anniversary Show fame) comes in to buy celebratory Champagne after successfully blackmailing the mayor. Right as that happens, the robber busts in the other door and there’s a shootout. Brynner escapes, but is injured and collapses on a dock. Mistaking him for a bum, the two pyro kids light Brynner on fire as Reynolds arrives to arrest him.
Brynner then jumps into the water and everyone assumes he’s dead. As the credits role, we see Brynner’s hand rise from the water and grab his floating hearing aid. Brynner’s character, The Deaf Man, harassed the police of the precinct multiple times in the books, so it’s safe to say the ending was trying to lead into a sequel.
– Roger Ebert had an absurd amount of good things to say about this movie in 1972.
– According to Hollywood lore, Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch hated each other from previous work and had no scenes together.
– Fuzz was adapted for screen by Ed McBain (credited here as Evan Hunter, his legally-adopted name). That makes the dismal pacing even more intolerable, so we’ll lay blame at the feet of director Richard Colla, a television vet who must have struggled with the multiple storylines and pacing.
– The movie was partially blamed for a few real-life bum-burning incidents in 1973.
– Does anyone know what this device is? The mayor uses it to make phone calls. It’s some type of auto-dialer that uses punch cards.
– This will be my last Betamax review and I hereby declare this site finished.
Poster and Box Art: Since the world was entering Reynolds-mania, he’s featured twice on the poster. Once as a nun and again laid out in his trademark Playgirl pose.
Availability: There’s a DVD available at Amazon.