Fuzz (1972) a (wildly) belated review

I saw the movie Fuzz only once before, a very, very long time ago and, once again, today (free time and all…!).

I saw the whole thing before. I had to have, because I recalled elements of the film from the beginning, middle, and end. Thing is, I couldn’t recall the movie’s plot too well and though I recognized this scene or that scene, the movie as a whole was rather “new” to me.

At least with regards to the story told.

Based on the Ed McBain (ie Evan Hunter) 87th Precinct novels, Fuzz has a screenplay by Mr. Hunter along with a pretty impressive cast for the time.

Playing Detective Steve Carolla is Burt Reynolds, in the movie he did quite literally right before he hit the stratosphere with Deliverance (also 1972). We’ve also got Rachel Welch as Detective Eileen McHenry, Tom Skerritt as Detective Burt King, and Jack Weston as Detective Meyer Meyer.

As the big bad, “The Deaf Man”, we’ve got none other than Yul Brynner as the mastermind extortionist/killer/blackmailer whose set his criminal sights on getting a fat payoff by scaring the city’s big politicians into giving him lots of money for not killing them.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

As should be pretty clear from the trailer, the film is often played for laughs, presenting us with a police department which is barely functional as such, with a host of screw-ups and oddballs that in many ways seem patterned after the same oddballs and screwups we saw two years before in the movie version of M.A.S.H. Its worth noting that movie featured one Tom Skerritt in it as well.

The laughs, alas, are often forced, as in the case of Corolla and Meyers inexplicably dressing as nuns while engaged in a stake off in a park (yeah, a set of nuns that look suspiciously like two men in a park will gather no attention whatsoever, amiright?!). Worse, after that part is over, they keep the costumes on for the interrogation of the suspect once they’re back at the station! I guess they had no change of clothing?

I can’t help but think the director thought it hysterical to have Burt Reynolds dressed up as a nun and therefore kept the joke going for longer than it probably should have.

There are no less than five stories -probably more if I were to dissect things more fully- going on. The biggest involves the “Deaf Man”, and for the most part the others wind up folding into each other by the movies climax.

Well, most of them.

The story involving Rachel Welch’s McHenry winds up being something of a strange one. She’s new to the station and was brought in to serve as bait to catch a rapist. In the meantime, she has to put up with boorish, sexist attitudes of others (I must say, seeing this sort of stuff today is rather uncomfortable) while trying to do her job. Eventually she’s romanced by Skerritt’s Detective King but her story winds up concluding well before the film’s actual conclusion.

Reading up on the film, I found that Rachel Welch refused to do any scenes with Burt Reynolds. The two co-starred in 100 Rifles in 1969 and, apparently, she developed a dislike of Mr. Reynolds. There is a grand total of one scene where the two characters are in the same vicinity/room, but they never exchange dialogue and I wonder if the actors were even there filming at the same time (I don’t believe they’re ever in the same frame together, though I could be wrong).

Even worse, Ms. Welch’s role is so minor -she reportedly worked a grand total of 9 days on this film, which amounts to an extended cameo- that it could have been cut from the film without really affecting the main story. In fact, if she had been cut from the film it might have helped to focus more on the “Deaf Man” and what he was up to. Regardless, her story within the film abruptly ends when (MINOR SPOILERS) she captures, singlehandedly, the rapist and that’s pretty much that. She’s not involved in the movie’s main climax at all and essentially disappears while the movie still has some 15 or so minutes left!

Still, when viewed as an artifact from another era, Fuzz does offer some interesting oddities.

It’s rather refreshing the way they attempted, for example, to show that a station filled with “professionals” whose job it is to capture criminals succeed in spite of everything they do. The movie’s message is humorously cynical: Sometimes its just dumb luck that allows you to succeed rather than brains or dedication.

Fuzz isn’t a great film nor do I feel it will be rediscovered at some future point as a lost classic, but it is competently done with good acting by the principles and enough stuff happening to keep your interest, even if when all is said and done it might not amount to all that much.

Recommended for fans of 1970’s era crime dramas and fans of either Burt Reynolds, Rachel Welch, or Yul Brynner.

Others, beware!