Saturday, April 15, 2017

Retro Review: SUPER FUZZ (1981)

(Italy - 1980; US release 1981)

Directed by Sergio Corbucci. Written by Sergio Corbucci and Sabatino Ciufini. Cast: Terence Hill, Ernest Borgnine, Joanne Dru, Marc Lawrence, Julie Gordon, Lee Sandman, Sal Borgese, Woody Woodbury, Dow Stout, Herb Goldstein, Sergio Smacchi, Don Sebastian, Claudio Ruffini, Jack McDermott. (PG, 101 mins)

If you were an 8-to-10-year-old boy anywhere from 1981 to 1984, chances are there was a brief moment in time when SUPER FUZZ was your favorite movie. Playing regionally across the US from the fall of 1981 to the summer of 1982, SUPER FUZZ became a sleeper hit and is probably the best known Terence Hill solo movie in America after the early '70s smashes THEY CALL ME TRINITY (1970) and TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME (1971) that paired him with frequent co-star Bud Spencer. Born in 1939, Hill, whose career began under his real name Mario Girotti in films like Luchino Visconti's THE LEOPARD (1963), found a niche in post-Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns in the late '60s after adopting the Americanized "Terence Hill" pseudonym. Likewise, "Bud Spencer" was an alias for burly Carlo Pedersoli, and starting with 1967's GOD FORGIVES...I DON'T! and its sequels, 1968's ACE HIGH and 1969's BOOT HILL, Hill and Spencer made over 20 films together, with the last being 1994's TROUBLEMAKERS. By 1970, they were among the top box office draws in Europe, with the two TRINITY spaghetti western spoofs becoming major successes in the States. The duo would periodically make solo films but they were almost never as well-received on their own as they were together, though Hill enjoyed some success teaming with Henry Fonda for the Sergio Leone-produced 1973 spaghetti western MY NAME IS NOBODY. But when he tried his luck at crossing over to Hollywood in 1977, starring with Jackie Gleason in the comedy MR. BILLION and with Gene Hackman in the epic Foreign Legion adventure MARCH OR DIE, both films bombed and Hill went back to Italy to lick his wounds. Spencer's only attempt at going Hollywood never came to fruition: in 1987, Menahem Golan tried to kickstart an American career for him with the Cannon family comedy MY AFRICAN ADVENTURE, but Spencer was ultimately replaced by Dom DeLuise and the film retitled GOING BANANAS. His best-known solo vehicle away from Hill is 1979's THE SHERIFF AND THE SATELLITE KID, an Italian-produced, Georgia-shot CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND-inspired kids movie that skipped US theaters and debuted on cable. Spencer was paired with young Cary Guffey, memorably abducted by aliens in the Spielberg classic but here playing a cute extraterrestrial child who lands in Atlanta and spends a lot of time hanging out at Six Flags with the gruff Italian western star.

"Supa snoooo-paaaaah!"
While Spencer was making SATELLITE KID and its 1980 sequel WHY DID YOU PICK ON ME?, Hill starred in SUPER SNOOPER, a superhero cop comedy shot in Miami and directed by DJANGO auteur Sergio Corbucci. SUPER SNOOPER was acquired by Avco Embassy and retitled SUPER FUZZ for its October 1981 US release. Rather than opening it in theaters nationwide, Avco Embassy struck a limited number of prints and rolled it out regionally, moving from the west coast to the east coast at malls and drive-ins over a nine-month period. With a big TV push, the film became a moderate hit whose cult grew exponentially when it appeared on HBO by 1983, where its frequency in airing was perhaps rivaled only by THE BEASTMASTER. Possibly among the ten dumbest comedies ever made, SUPER FUZZ is ingratiatingly silly and filled with enough slapstick antics that it's easy to see why it appealed to young boys at an impressionable age. With his slight Italian accent giving him an Inspector Clouseau-meets-Latka Gravas goofball charm, Hill is engaging in a cartoonish way, mugging shamelessly as grinning, wide-eyed doofus Dave Speed, a rookie Miami cop delivering a traffic citation to an abandoned part of the Everglades where the government is testing a nuclear bomb (!). Unable to make it out in time, he's presumed killed in the line of duty until he reappears several hours later, boasting telepathic powers thanks to the radiation exposure. Paired with irate Willy Dunlop (Ernest Borgnine), a disgraced captain busted down to patrol duty, Dave finds he can see through and move objects, walk on water, catch bullets with his teeth, land on his feet after jumping out of the window of a skyscraper, outrun cars, fly through the air, create a makeshift radio just by making the "call me" gesture with his hand, and later, when he's falsely accused of murder, he can escape execution multiple times by beating the gas chamber, the electric chair, hanging, and a firing squad. His Kryptonite is the color red, a fact uncovered by fading '40s starlet Rosy Labouche ('40s and '50s leading lady Joanne Dru, in her first film since 1965 and her last before her death in 1996), the aging moll of Miami gangster Tony Torpedo (Marc Lawrence). Torpedo's nefarios plan is using his fish distribution company as a front for a counterfeit money operation that's being targeted by Dave and Willy, a former Hollywood stuntman still nursing a 40-year-old crush on Rosy.

Borgnine most likely shouting "ARE YOU CRAZY?!" 
SUPER FUZZ's infectious stupidity starts immediately, with the theme song "Super Snooper," performed by The Oceans. It's the kind of song that sticks with you forever, and its oft-invoked refrain--just one quick "Supa snooooo-paaaaaah!" functioning as a de facto mic drop whenever Dave does something amazing--was probably enough to induce giggle fits in the target demographic then and nostalgic chuckles to that same group now. There is no limit to how ludicrous SUPER FUZZ can be: marvel at how Dave gives three Torpedo guys a beatdown in a dog kennel, then frees the dogs and then crams the three guys into the cage as Corbucci ends the scene with goons panting; behold Dave's ability to communicate with fish while he's under water; and brace yourself for his ultimate display of superhero power ("Supa snooooo-paaaaaah!") as he rescues Willy from a sunken boat by chewing some gum and blowing a bubble so big that it lifts them out of the water and flies them high in the sky above Miami. Hill and Borgnine make a likable team, with Borgnine's Willy especially blustery over Dave's budding romance with his niece Evelyn (Julie Gordon). If you revisit SUPER FUZZ now and don't find yourself transported back to your childhood days of carefree innocence and a significantly less-refined taste in comedy, you can at least get shitfaced by taking a drink every time a harumphing, bloviating Borgnine gets a flustered "Why I oughta..." look on his face and shouts "Are you crazy?!" whenever Super Fuzz does something obviously crazy.

"Supa snoooo-paaaaah!" 
Avco Embassy made a few incidental changes to SUPER SNOOPER in its rechristening as SUPER FUZZ: some of the score cues throughout were replaced with more American-sounding library tracks and some minor edits were made to shorten the running time by a few minutes. The version currently streaming on Amazon is the European SUPER SNOOPER cut, in a pristine HD print with English audio and Italian credits sporting the title POLIZIOTTO SUPERPIU. Kudos to Avco Embassy for not messing up a great thing and leaving the song "Super Snooper" alone. A beloved figure in Italy, Hill is still with us--he's been starring as a crime-solving priest in the popular Italian TV series DON MATTEO since 2000--is very active on social media, and still looks spry and youthful at 78 (Spencer died in 2016 at 86). Where's the SUPER FUZZ Blu-ray with a Terence Hill commentary?

SUPER FUZZ opening in Toledo, OH on 1/29/1982

A recent photo of Hill, posted on his official Facebook page. 

No comments:

Post a Comment