Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Turkey for Thanksgiving – The “Superhero” Film You Have to See



By Jerry Chandler
It has many names. It’s been called Der Supercop, El Super Policia Nuclear, Super Snooper, Super Batsos, and a host of other names across the globe. But if you were living in America in the boom period of early 1980s cable television, you know it as simultaneously one of the worst and one of the best superhero films ever made- Super Fuzz! It is a film that must be tracked down and watched over this holiday weekend. Or, you know, whenever else you can track it down.

Super Fuzz (1980) trailer

The brainchild (or brain fart) of writer/director Sergio Corbucci, this was a superhero story with all the creative sensibilities (and budget) of the best of the fast and cheap Italian Spaghetti Western films. Corbucci made his name on an amazing string of cult favorite films such as Castle of Blood, the original Django, The Mercenary, Shoot First… Ask Questions Later, and The Great Silence among others. While he wasn’t primarily known for his comedies here in the states, he had a few popular ones under his belt; including helming one of the Terence Hill and Bud Spencer starring Trinity films. As a matter of fact, he would work with Terence Hill again almost immediately after doing the Trinity film by casting him as the lead in Super Fuzz.

Super Fuzz’s concept played with all the superhero comic book clichés you can think of when it comes to our hero. Dave Speed (Terence Hill) is a fresh out of the academy patrol cop in Florida with a heart of gold. But as our story opens, we don’t find him out hitting the beat. No, instead we find our hero sitting on death row awaiting his fourth attempt at execution for a crime he didn’t commit; the murder of his partner. We know it’s the fourth attempt as the film opens (after a credit sequence that makes you positive your video is totally screwed) with a news reporter standing outside of the prison explaining why Dave is to be executed as well as the bizarre series of events that were the prior three attempts to execute him. He simply inhaled the gas in the gas chamber like it was nothing, the rope broke when they tried to hang him, and when the firing squad had a go at him he survived without a scratch. They’ve moved on to the electric chair for what they hope will be the last try at it. We move to the inside of a cozy bayside office as a group of stereotypical mobsters with bad Sicilian accents are watching the TV as the big mob boss, Torpedo (Marc Lawrence), gets a phone call assuring him that arrangements are being made to ensure that Speed doesn’t survive this time.

We cut to Speed sitting in his cell eating his fourteenth plate of beans (but passing up the offer of champagne since that gives him gas) and awaiting the men who are going to walk him to the chair. As he goes, an actress named Rosy Labouche (Joanne Dru) tries to get inside to view the execution. When they won’t allow her in, she insists that they deliver a bunch of bright red roses to Speed to have with him when he dies. It’s an odd bit, but it actually makes sense later.

As Speed takes the long walk to the chair, he starts thinking about how it all started. Enter: The Origin Story.

We see a rocket launching. We then see Speed rowing through what looks like the Everglades in a canoe. As Speed gets himself up on dry land we cut to the police station where we see Sgt. Willy Dunlop (Ernest Borgnine) getting chewed out by the Chief for sending his trainee to an island Indian reservation to serve a ticket. Why is he getting chewed out? Because the island has been evacuated due to a secret rocket test being conducted that day by NASA. Dunlop protests with the obvious response. How was he to know there was a secret rocket test going on if it was a secret?

Speed delivers his ticket and returns to his canoe to find a rather large gator in it. He draws his service revolver and takes aim at the gator before slowly moving the gun to point skyward. He smiles at the gator and pulls the trigger- thus blowing the missile up. The sky goes bright red (from what we learn is a cargo of experimental red plutonium) and the force of the explosion wipes out everything on the island.



Dunlop is stripped of his rank for sending his trainee off to his death and exiled to traffic duty on a worksite when out of nowhere Speed comes riding up on his motorcycle. It’s here we see Speed’s first realization that he now has superpowers. As Dunlop- in a state of shock at seeing his “dead” trainee/partner -staggers forward while looking at Speed, he walks straight towards the open manhole. Speed reaches forward, about to yell a warning, and the manhole cover slides by itself across the ground and back into place.

We cut to Speed and Dunlop driving down the street with Dunlop chewing Speed out and questioning his story of surviving the rocket explosion. They arrive at a local takeout place where we’re introduced to Speed’s girlfriend Evelyn (Julie Gordon) who also happens to be Dunlop’s niece. Here we see Speed test his powers out when no one is looking. He uses telekinesis to move a large freight truck parked illegally into an impossible to exit from parking spot.

Over the next half hour or more of the film we see Speed display a wide range of powers and abilities. It almost feels like Corbucci simply grabbed every comic book he could from a local newsstand and pulled a superpower from each one. Speed has telekinesis, a form of Spidey-Sense, the ability to see through walls and objects, the ability to run faster than a speeding car, the ability to catch bullets, the ability to levitate and float in an almost flying manner, the ability to make an entire stadium full of people disappear in an instant, the ability to control his mass and walk on water, he possesses super strength and super endurance that lets him survive a 10+ story fall unharmed, and he has the ability to control the minds and actions of others. We later see him bust through a reinforced concrete wall, breath water, talk to fish, and create a giant rescue balloon out of… well… you’ll have to see it to believe it.


Corbucci also seems to have lifted the absolute worse aspect of the Green Lantern mythos from that book to stick onto Speed’s list of superhero characteristics. Early on, Speed’s powers seem to short out on him at the most random of moments. There seems no rhyme or reason to it at first, but then he learns that the great powers given him by the red plutonium explosion are shut down when he sees the color red.

The flashback story unfolds until it brings us up to just before where we left off, and we return to the prison just in time to see Speed escape, head off to find his “dead” partner, catch the bad guys, and win the day. Of course, he also gets the girl in the end (after a weird and unexpected trip to China) only to have her outsmart him on the matter of living with his powers.

The story is as fast and paint by number as one would expect from a quick and cheap Italian import film made back in the day. Most of the actors are only okay at best, the special effects are a little less than special, and most of the background and supporting characters are barely one dimensional clichés that would feel right at home in a 1960’s or 1970’s superhero comic book- and I say this as someone with a lifetime love of comic books.

But, you know what? The film is fun in that really goofy, really charming way that films of this sort can be. Yeah, a lot of the gags are silly as all get out, but you’ll laugh at them. Yeah, a lot of the acting is just above cardboard cutout level, but it works for the film. Plus, Terence Hill always had the ability to pull off a physical gag or even a look that made even the dumbest moments on film somehow work.

Besides that, the film has easily one of the best theme songs since The Green Slime.

Super Snooper by The Oceans

Super Fuzz will never be a top ten film on most sane individuals’ superhero films lists, but it is a superhero film that everyone who loves the odd campy, goofy film should see. But, damn… If only Bud Spencer had been available for the Dunlop role…

Jerry Chandler is a serious horror geek with a lifelong love of trying to find books and movies that can scare the spit out of him. When not watching and reading horror, he can sometimes be found helping to make horror with his filmmaking family in NC. He loves Halloween slightly more than Christmas, and almost as much as Dragon Con. When not writing here, he can be found at his other homes on the web by looking at his own blog, his Twitter, and his Facebook.

2 comments:

  1. This is one of my signature HBO movies, one of the gems that was on all the time when I was a kid. I loved it, but haven't seen it since then. I've kept an eye out for a home release on and off for years and have yet to see one. Time to check again.

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    1. Makes me wish I'd written this last year. It's been in print as a DVD for a few years now, but just went out of print early this year or late last year.

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