Somerville House // 1976 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // February 16th, 2007
They're a pair of car-crashing, womanizing, rough-housing loudmouths.
And they're the good guys.
Have you heard of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill? If not, I'm not surprised. These two made a bunch of buddy movies in the 70s and 80s. They were quite popular in the niche way, and many of them fall under an umbrella of movies called Trinity. This one, also known as I Due Superpiedi Quasi Piatti, is considered by some to be one of the best of the lot. As this is my first Spencer/Hill film, I can't corroborate or fight that claim, but this isn't the most engaging buddy film I've ever seen.
Matt Kirby (Hill) and Wilbur Walsh (Spencer) are two tough guys, currently out of work in Miami. They don't know each other, but they both end up down on the docks looking for a quick job unloading a cargo ship that just came in. The boss doesn't have any work for them, and his attitude ruffles the feathers of both. One by one, Walsh then Kirby pick a fight with the boss and his men, eventually leading to two totaled cars.
Soon thereafter, they bump into each other and begin a contentious friendship. Realizing their combined strength, they begin to draft a plan to rob a local supermarket. With little planning, they make their grand entrance to the back of the market only to find themselves in a police station. Thinking quickly, they enroll into the police academy as recruits.
They don't want to be there, but they can't get out. Doing just about everything wrong to become bad cops, the boys are puzzled to see everything they do making them appear as good cops. Eventually, Kirby and Walsh follow a trail that takes them back to that boss on the dock.
While I'd never heard of the Spencer/Hill combo, I am slightly familiar with half of it: Terence Hill. His film Super Fuzz is horrible by every conceivable measure of cinematic quality. Regardless, it's one of my biggest guilty pleasures from the 80s. And because of Hill I expected to enjoy Crime Busters. That isn't exactly what happened.
This film from 1976 is slow, exceedingly dated, and just too darn long. Clocking in just shy of two hours, it grows stale by the one-hour mark. I simply couldn't believe the movie could drag on for that long. Perhaps thirty years ago their buddy humor was funny, but today, our tastes have changed so much so that no vestige of humor is in sight. If you saw this movie in heavy rotation on cable decades ago you might consider it a guilty pleasure, but I didn't so I won't.
It's nothing to do with Spencer and Hill. They have a strong camaraderie and work well together, but this material is flimsy and preposterous. It's slapstick gone wrong. Hill was great as Dave Speed, and that Dudley Do-Right quality is still lurking beneath Kirby's gruff exterior. He's trying to play mean and tough in this one, but he's too nice to pull it off. His true personality seeps through his performance -- and it certainly doesn't help that he looks like Popeye in his little sailor's hat. Spencer, on the other hand, has no trouble being believable as a big brute, as he is a huge man (over 300 pounds). Together, as a poor man's Laurel and Hardy, there's potential -- but that was 30 years ago. Slapstick today is hard to appreciate. The over-the-top hamminess, the bad puns and jokes, and the absurdly choreographed fights don't captivate us today. With at least a half a dozen "fights" in Crime Busters, seeing Kirby and Walsh smack people around with open palms got old fast.
And what about all these bad people they keep bumping into? They too are some of the lamest enemies you'll see. The dock boss and his men are the truest personification of bad in the film, but they get slapped around so easily and quickly, are so dumb, and keep coming back for more that they end up as disposable characters. Or how about the group of thugs that come into the restaurant (which cooks its food on an early, early, early version of a George Foreman grill) and start tearing the place apart? Wimps and idiots! The leader of the gang reminded me more of Louis Skolnick's (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds) shorter brother than someone who'd be leading a gang. Even funnier in a not so funny way is the guy the dock boss hires to take out Kirby and Walsh, Geronimo. Geronimo is purportedly another big, tough gang leader, but he's a short, gangly, white kid that dresses up like an Indian. It's all really stupid, and makes me shake my head more than laugh.
The movie deserves to be over at the hour mark, but has fifty minutes to go. The second hour goes by more briskly as the two finally graduate from the academy and become police officers. Now, with the power of the badge behind them, their slapstick antics are a modicum more interesting. I uttered maybe three chuckles through the end of the movie.
Crime Buster is also known as I Due Superpiedi Quasi Piatti. Remember all those wonderful spaghetti westerns? Well, Spencer and Hill buddy films are spaghetti comedies. Written by Italians, directed by Italians, starring a multitude of Italians -- including Spencer and Hill -- and just about everything else done by Italians, this is why Crime Busters is the ultimate in cheesy slapstick: it's cheap, disposable Euro comedy. Terence Hill, born as Mario Girotti, had a dialogue coach to get him through his lines, hence his odd American accent (which isn't as "charming" in this one as it was in Fuzz). Bud Spencer, born as Carlo Pedersoli, didn't have a coach and didn't know what he was saying most of the time.
Speaking of dialogue, look at some of these gems: "Get back home you spaghetti head," "...you yellow-bellied coward," "...you big banana," "...you big gasbag." About the best that it gets is Kirby's one-two punch, "I've got crime in my blood," and "I've got bullets in my blood."
So if you're still interested at this point, what does the DVD have to offer? Crime Busters comes with a 1.85:1 anamorphic print that, unlike the humor, gives the smackdown to the test of time. The print looks remarkably good for its age. It has good color definition, decent blacks, solid contrast and detail, and no dirt. It's clearly not perfect as the blacks could be crisper and there are some scattered moments of shimmering and wavering (if that's an official, technical term). The audio track, a mono mix, doesn't fare as well as some of the dialogue is muffled and I had to turn up my volume about a third more than I do for other DVDs.
A couple of bonus items make an appearance. First on the menu are text-based biographies of Spencer, Hill, and director Enzo Barboni. Next is the only real special feature: a five-minute interview with Bud Spencer. In Italian with an English voiceover, it's a quick yet interesting overview of his life. Following this are trailers for Spencer/Hill films: Crime Buster, Odd & Evens, Keep Your Hands off the Island, and Double Trouble. Lastly is "Funny In Any Language," which is just four best-of trailers for even more Spence/Hill films.
Two more quibbles about Crime Busters. First, the small snippet of music that serves as the score/theme of the movie is played incessantly throughout the film. I think it intruded on my dreams the other night. Also, in comedy you have to have a foil for your leading men, and in this case it's the boys' police captain, McBride -- played by perennial supporting actor David Huddleston (Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Producers (2005)). In a comedy, this character has to let your heroes get away with all manner of things, but Captain McBride is just too stupid for the movie's own good.
As a newbie to the Spencer/Hill buddy films, I don't have the full frame of reference to fully understand and embrace their work. Nevertheless, this is a stinker. For fans of these two, I'm sure there's far more to love and appreciate. As a fan of the schlock of Super Fuzz, I really understand how that can happen. True fans may rejoice in "one of the best" of their films coming to DVD in a very solid package. For those of you looking for some light, silly fun, this is not the film you want to watch.
Crime Busters is hereby found guilty of being a big spaghetti head.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Somerville House
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interview with Bud Spencer
* "Funny in Any Language"
* The Movies of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill