Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard A. Colla|
|Produced by||George Edwards|
|Written by||Evan Hunter|
|Music by||Dave Grusin|
|Edited by||Robert L. Kimble|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|May 24, 1972 (Los Angeles)|
The screenplay was written by Evan Hunter, based on the 1968 novel of the same name that was part of the "87th Precinct" series he wrote under the name Ed McBain. Dave Grusin composed the film's soundtrack score.
Detectives Steve Carella (Reynolds), Meyer Meyer (Weston), Eileen McHenry (Welch) and Bert Kling (Skerritt) are part of the 87th Precinct's team, investigating a murder-extortion racket run by a mysterious deaf man (Brynner). While attempting to investigate and prevent the murders of several high-ranking city officials, they also must keep track of the perpetrators of a string of robberies. Further complicating matters is a rash of arson attacks on homeless men.
The film's opening-credits sequence was filmed in and around Charlestown's City Square station on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's elevated Orange Line (demolished in 1975), as well as the MBTA's Red Line as it emerged from its Cambridge, Massachusetts tunnel to cross the Longfellow Bridge en route into Boston. Other Boston filming locations included the North End, the Boston Common, and the Public Garden, where Burt Reynolds runs around disguised as a nun.
"It was kind of fuzzy," said Reynolds of the film. "It was made by one of those hot shot TV directors. I liked working with Jack Weston; it began our relationship. I did like working again with Raquel. And I liked the writer whose book the film was based on, Ed McBain, The 87th Precinct. I'd like to direct one of his books."
Welch was paid $100,000 for nine days work. There was meant to be a scene where Welch's character appears in her bra and panties in the men's room. Welch refused to film it. They shot it a number of other ways "but it just didn't work" said producer Ed Feldman. "We promised United Artists we'd deliver a certain picture and we haven't got it." However Welch still refused.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and called it "an offbeat, funny, quietly cheerful movie in which Ed McBain's 87th Precinct is finally brought to life. Several movies have been based on McBain's 87th Precinct novels, but never one in which the squad room was explored so lovingly by the camera, and the detectives were made so human." In a negative review for The New York Times, Vincent Canby remarked that the film "looks more like a dress rehearsal than a finished film, a very dry run for something that is apparently meant to be a comedy-melodrama about ineptitude, especially the day-to-day ineptitude of a group of detectives attached to a Boston police station." Arthur D. Murphy of Variety praised the screenplay as "excellent" and "a rare combination of effective interlocking vignettes which logically and literately evolve towards a climax." Of the performances Murphy wrote, "Reynolds is very good, Weston and James McEachin are excellent, and Skerritt is outstanding as the principal quartet of detectives spotlighted in the hunt for Brynner. Miss Welch's developed cameo as a sexy policewoman is a decided plus."Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three stars out of four and wrote that it has "something for everyone: Raquel Welch and Burt Reynolds. Only a solve-three-plots-at-once ending spoils the entertainment."Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times declared the film "a solid piece of craftsmanship, well-paced and skilfully assembled," though he felt that it "could have been just as diverting had it been played less broadly and for more in-depth characterization. As it is, 'Fuzz' succeeds as a mindless entertainment." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film "a sprightly, genial take-off on the cops-and-robbers formula" as well as "the most amusing and attractive commercial vehicle I've seen since 'Play It Again, Sam,' and it recommends itself in a similar way -- as an agreeable throwaway entertainment, ideally suited for summertime moviegoing." Tony Collier of The Monthly Film Bulletin thought that "the comedy here, ladled on with a satirical fervour that invites overstatement, works in isolation, with no real interplay between it and the violence, so that the two elements coexist without ever quite managing to coalesce. Fuzz is nevertheless an intelligent and enjoyable film, and often very funny."
In Boston, on October 2, 1973, 24-year-old Evelyn Wagler, after running out of fuel, was walking back to her car with a two-gallon can of gasoline. Six teenagers dragged her into an alley and forced her to pour gasoline on herself. She complied, and was then set on fire by the teenagers. The teenagers walked away laughing. Wagler was white, and the youths were black, and this murder occurred during a racially tense period in Boston history. After the incident, the press reported that Fuzz had aired on nationwide TV the previous weekend, and the perpetrators may have re-enacted the fictional arson attack portrayed in the movie. The case was never solved.
In Miami, on October 20, 1973, 38-year-old Charles Scales, a homeless person sleeping outdoors behind an abandoned building, was approached by a group of teenagers, doused with gasoline, and set on fire. Two other homeless people were also attacked in the same incident, but escaped. A homeless person that survived stated the teenagers "Were laughing and throwing gas and striking matches" at them. The film Fuzz was mentioned in the news reports about the killing, as the attack completely mimicked the movie's plot. Both the perpetrators and victims were black, ruling out the motivation for the murder may have been racial in nature.
The incidents led to a careful review by network Standards and Practices and a general public feeling that violence on television was inspiring violence in real life. Networks had to curb their violence throughout the decade as a result, and Fuzz got pulled temporarily from TV movie blocks until it returned in its uncut version to cable years later.