Wham! USA // 1981 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // January 18th, 2005
Super. Super. Super. Super. Super.
We all have this movie in our memory. It's probably not this exact movie, but you know what it is: It's that campy, cheesy movie from the late '70s or early '80s that was in constant rotation on cable -- back when cable had just come out and its repertoire was limited (much like today, but in a better way). And every time you went surfing through your twenty channels, you would see this movie and you just couldn't help stopping and watching it again...and again...and again -- just like kids and their obsession with Disney movies. But you weren't a kid, it wasn't a cartoon, and it wasn't a very good movie. It was just a bad, cheap movie, but there was something that tickled your fancy and made you stop and watch it. Every. Single. Time. That is Super Fuzz, a hokey little movie that is so bad and corny that you crave it.
Rookie Police Officer Dave Speed (Terence Hill, star of innumerable Italian schlock films) has been sent by his partner, Sergeant Willie Dunlop (Ernest Borgnine, Airwolf, The Black Hole), to issue a parking ticket at the local Indian reservation. Unbeknownst to the two officers, that reservation has been evacuated because NASA is conducting a "top secret" experiment there today: They are detonating a red plutonium rocket. Officer Speed is caught in the massive explosion and is presumed dead.
But that presumption is wrong; Speed is alive and well...and different. Almost immediately, Speed realizes he now has powers -- superpowers, such as telekinesis, super-speed, super-strength, the ability to see the future, and so much more. Of course, no one believes Speed, especially Dunlop, who is extremely frustrated by the odd things that his partner can now do. The situation becomes really complicated when his powers begin to come and go without cause. What is causing this? He eventually learns that it's the color red. The red plutonium gave him his super powers, but seeing the color red temporarily takes them away.
Speed is an idealistic young man who begins to use his powers in the line of duty, becoming Super Fuzz. His new skills eventually lead Dunlop and Speed into the web of a master money counterfeiter, who is flooding the city with bogus one-dollar bills! It's up to Speed and Dunlop to stop these thieves from destroying the city, but the bad guys are going to fight back, and fight back hard! It'll come to be that the Sarge, Speed's mentor and best friend, will be killed in the line of duty and Speed will be charged with his murder and sentenced to death. How will Super Fuzz save the day when he's tied to the electric chair?
Super Fuzz is one of my guilty pleasures from the '80s. I do remember watching this movie over and over again, and I fondly recall watching it as a young teenager. It had been some time since I had thought about the film, but while browsing Amazon.com, I saw that the VHS tape was being released in December 2004. Honestly, I would have bought that tape if it was selling for less than the posted price of $19.99. It was something I really wanted to see again, but twenty bucks felt just a pinch too high. Imagine my delight, then, when in January 2005, I was back on Amazon and found there was now a DVD release of Super Fuzz. With barely a moment's hesitation, I pulled out my credit card, paid the $19.99, and had the disc on my doorstep a few days later.
But it had been twenty years since I had seen the film, so I was both anxious and nervous when I put the disc in the night I got it in the mail. Would it be as silly, campy, and bad yet good as I recalled? Would it bring back the fun I had twenty years ago? Would I regret spending twenty dollars? What exactly was I getting on this disc, since Amazon provided no details and there isn't an official site for the studio?
I sat down and watched the movie and was completely surprised at how much I remembered. Only one small scene didn't ring a bell, but the rest was almost as if I had just viewed it a few months instead of a few decades ago. Still, I have to say that it doesn't fully live up to my recollection. I think I need to stop trying to relive those fond memories of the past, because doing so just tarnishes and diminishes them. Super Fuzz was good in its way, but it didn't completely live up to the expectations I had built around it. The film was fun but lacking the complete zaniness I recalled.
Super Fuzz is a silly, corny, cheeseball movie made from a really goofy idea and filled with some awful acting, lame special effects, bad music, and clichéd characters. But despite all that, you really do end up liking this film. It seems to have everything going against it, but everything that's bad is also quite good.
Before every comic book superhero came to the big screen, you had Super Fuzz. Just a cop in the wrong place -- an Indian reservation! -- at the wrong time. Talk about a goofy idea: He gets his powers from a red plutonium rocket. Detonated by NASA! In a "top secret" project, which is on the local news. And his powers really aren't all that super. He can see into the future, or is it he can see around corners? Or is it just intuition? He can run as fast as a car, but not as fast as a speeding bullet. Well, he can catch bullets in his teeth, but can they bounce off his chest? (More on that later.) And he can breathe underwater. Okay, maybe they're more creative than I thought, but, really, having the color red negate your powers? And goofiest of all, counterfeiting one-dollar bills! Nobody counterfeits those ever because it's just not worth it.
Now I'm wondering if the odd plot has any direct correlation to the sub-par acting in Super Fuzz or if it's simply a result of the C-grade list of actors involved. The only big name in the film is Borgnine, and we all know he's not high up on the Hollywood food chain. Still, no one is flat-out bad in the film, although there is a ton of borderline acting and even more hammy acting, most of which exudes from Borgnine. In the film, when Dave's not making him grumpy and frustrated, he's floating around, head-over-heels in love with a visiting movie star named Rosy Labouche. When's he not crabby, he's like a teenager with his hormones in overdrive. Granted, he does effectively convey his feelings, but he is way over the top. And, yet again, it's amusing in its sheer hamminess. On the flip side, Terrance Hill has done a lot of movies, but not a lot of good movies, so he does nicely portray a certain Dudley Do-Right quality about Speed so you can't help but like the guy; nonetheless, Hill is lacking that leading star quality -- not to mention an American accent.
Probably the worst part of Super Fuzz is the characters. I'm not going to pick on the leads so much as the supporting characters, who are millimeters away from being insulting stereotypes. This is most evident with the bad guys, the goons, the hoods. On the one hand, the bad guys are portrayed with such ineptitude, stupidity, and lack of creativity that you don't fear them in the least. And that's probably the point of this film. Yet they are also what I would describe as Italian mafia, but not in a Sopranos way. These idiot bad guys are just an amalgamation of the worst clichés that can be pieced together to form the baddie in a film. Remember, I did say they are close to insulting but not quite there, so you won't be too mad because they are so stupid and dress in the most awful clothes. It makes me shiver just thinking about those hats, those Panama shirts, and that gaudy jewelry.
For a very low budget movie from 1981, the special effects are nothing to speak of, yet I am going to talk about them for a minute. There are just a few in there, and they are all painfully bad in today's CGI world. And here's that caveat one more time, they are so bad they add to the movie. Three in particular deserve special note: Speed falling out of a twenty-story window, Speed jumping through a wall, and Speed and Sarge on the bubble-gum balloon. The first two are "birds of a feather" similar and you can easily tell these are some kind of mannequin. For some reason, the obviousness of it will just make you chuckle. But the two cops on the bubble-gum balloon, now that's just bad and weird. First, the balloon looks like a balloon and not bubble-gum, which is what it's supposed to be, and second, there's some really bad bluescreen work. Yet, it does afford us a chance to see Ernest Borgnine get his dance groove on.
And I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the music. Anyone who's seen this film can instantly sing the "supah supah jingle." It's one of those stupid-but-catchy tunes that will stick with you forever. It perfectly captures the feel of the film, and it'll be something you'll sing from time to time. Also, and I know I've forgotten a connection or two in the intervening decades, but the jingle from The People's Court also makes an appearance as an action cue later in the film. That's good stuff.
What I really miss about Super Fuzz after all these years is the feeling of complete camp. My recollection was that the film was bad and campy from stem to stern. It is, but it isn't. It's goofy but it isn't as through-and-through campy as I remembered. I was really hoping for that. Luckily, the film does have its gloriously campy moments, but it takes a while before Super Fuzz hits its full, campy stride. You'll know when you get there when Speed starts talking to the fishes...and they respond!
If you're interested in this disc, it's because of the movie and not the technical specifications of the DVD; that's a good thing. I have to speculate on the exact specs since I can't find them listed anywhere, so I apologize if they end up being wrong. According to the packaging, this disc contains the "full length feature fulm" (yes, fulm) that's been "digitally remastered" with "enhanced audio." My deduction is that you have a full-frame transfer with a Dolby 1.0 mono track. The video was not as bad as I feared, but it's nothing great. There's a whole bunch of dirt and grain throughout, the picture is very dull with a weak palette, and the sharpness and detail are sorely lacking. I didn't see any significant errors, so you'll just have to wade through the murky picture, which is about even with a VHS tape. The audio fares a bit worse, lacking any depth or directionality. While you can hear and understand everything, the sound is a bit clipped and there's a lot of hiss; in fact, I had to turn the sound up higher than average for a DVD.
The disc does feature one tiny bonus item, some brief cast bios. Terence Hill's and Ernest Borgnine's are actually very thorough and interesting, but once you get past them, the rest are worthless.
And don't be alarmed when you put in the disc and start watching the movie. The opening credits are supposed to look that way, but don't look too closely because the entire movie is spoiled in quick snippets during these credits.
You should already have a very clear idea of how bad but good this film is, so let's briefly discuss the cover art for the DVD. I have no idea if Super Fuzz was originally some type of comic, but that's the direction the cover took. When you look at it, you can see Officer Speed lifting a car with one arm, running alongside a train, deflecting bullets off his chest, and bursting through a brick wall. While he somewhat does the last item, the other three powers are nowhere to be seen in this movie. What's up with that? Are those on the deleted scenes that should have been included?
Oh, how much I wanted to watch this film and experience that simple joy from my youth, but it wasn't meant to be. Here's how we'll boil all this down: If you have a fond place in your heart for Super Fuzz, then go ahead and pick this one up from Amazon. You'll be glad it's in your collection, even if it's not quite the movie you remember. There's plenty of fun and camp to be had, and I have a feeling it'll grow on me once again. If you've never seen this film, then you don't want to do a blind buy. Super Fuzz is something that needs to have simmered in your memory for twenty years to be fully appreciated. Since you'll never find this at Blockbuster and I don't see it listed at NetFlix, then I can't recommend a rental.
Super Fuzz is hereby found guilty of hiding weapons of mass destruction. It is free to go.
Review content copyright © 2005 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Wham! USA
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Cast Bios