Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fearless Fuzz (1977) review


Maurizio Merli (Wally the Fox), Joan Collins (Brigitte), Gaston Moschin (Karl), Massimo Vanni (Benny), Franco Ressell (Dr. Zimmer)

Directed by Stelvio Massi

***WARNING! This review contains nudity***

Removed from active duty, Wally (called The Fox) and his partner, Benny, work secretly as private detectives who frequently take the law into their own hands. With money running low, Wally receives a letter from a friend in Austria looking to find a missing girl. After easily locating her, the young lady is kidnapped once more. Picking up her trail again, the Fox is led to Austria where he uncovers a teenage prostitution racket and a cover up involving a rich business man.

Famed Italian screen tough guy, Maurizio Merli headlines his most peculiar crime movie of his career. Directed by his frequent collaborator, Stelvio Massi, the picture opens in typical Merli style with him gunning down some masked men attempting to kidnap some school girls. After this the film segues into a comedy for about 20 minutes. One scene even has Massimo Vanni imitating Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle character from TAXI DRIVER! Curiously, once the film switches locations to Vienna, the tone becomes increasingly somber. The comedy never returns and during the last 30 minutes, the movie showcases some unusual violence in light of what is seen in the earlier portion of the picture.

FEARLESS FUZZ is different from other Merli movies in that the mans persona isn't the near indestructible cop with no rules of many of his earlier pictures. Here, Merli gets beaten up, smiles a lot and jokes around and never uses a gun outside of the opening segment. He threatens to use one at the end, but he never fires the weapon himself. Merli's character is probably one of the most memorable he played as Wally is a fun loving and mischievious man whose apartment is adorned with assorted action hero posters.

It would appear Merli was intent on altering his hard ass portrayals of civic figures he was most associated with. Films such as HIGHWAY RACER (1977), IL COMMISSARIO DE FERRO (1978) and FROM CORLEONE TO BROOKLYN (1979) saw some tinkering with the typical Merli toughguy role. I assume it was inevitable that change would come considering how many of the 'Calabresi' inspired cop thrillers had come throughout the decade as well as Merli's own desire to escape the Franco Nero stigmatism he had been unjustly branded with.

Director Massi shows some occasional flair in addition to his fascination with mirrors whereby scenes play out through a glass table, a mirror on a wall, or a reflection of one kind or another. Near the end, the glass inside a picture frame aids in the discovery of some clues that reveals the truth behind the initial murder of a young girl and some other revalatory information. The locations and cinematography add to the experience as well. Massi's movie is more of a mystery thriller than an action film. Fans expecting something along the lines of VIOLENT ROME (1975), or ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH (1976) will be disappointed. Fans of Maurizio Merli himself will no doubt wish to see their hero on screen regardless.

The movie is also distinguished by the appearance of Joan Collins who became best known in America for her recurring role on DYNASTY (1981-1989). During the 1970's Collins appeared in a handful of genre pictures such as TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972), I DON'T WANT TO BE BORN (1975) and EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977).

For her one Eurocrime entry, Collins plays a mysterious character whom the Fox becomes entangled. Collins also flashes her ber groceries twice over the course of the movie. Once during her strip club act at the Queen Anne and again during the revealing conclusion.

It's not one of the action stars more popular movies, but it's definitely of curiosity value for those who enjoy the genre. After the peculiar, yet very funny opening 20 minutes, I found myself wondering just how good the film would have been had it not abandoned the comical trappings altogether by heading into more familiar territory once the film has changed locales from Rome to Austria. Merli is quite enjoyable undertaking his brief, albeit memorable humorous turn and would have no doubt been an ace at an all out comedy had he been given the chance.

Merli would return to a more serious tale with Stelvio Massi's THE REBEL in 1980, his last lead in an Italian crime picture. FEARLESS FUZZ is an unusual entry in the Eurocrime genre highlighted by the appearance of Joan Collins and an enticing look at Merli in an all too brief comedic shtick, which, if allowed to remain the duration of the film, could have been something truly special. It's recommended to Italian crime flick fans and Merli completists only. Any curiosity seekers are advised to check out some of the man's more popular and well known films before this one as it might begat a better appreciation for an alternative Merli movie such as this one.

This DVD is available for purchase here...
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