In this Boston police precinct there's never a dull moment, as the newly arrived Detective Eileen McHenry (Raquel Welch) finds out on her first day there, having been transferred from elsewhere. As she settles in, her new colleagues are harrassed by the station's current redecoration, especially Detective Meyer Meyer (Jack Weston) whose desk is hidden under a dust sheet, so when he gets a call he has to wade into a clutter just to answer the telephone. However, he immediately regrets it, for on the line is an anonymous voice which tells him he will assassinate a public official if the sum of five thousand dollars is not paid to him within the next day. Is this a crank or something more serious?
It's difficult to tell whether Fuzz was supposed to be serious or funny as well, as it consisted of a mishmash of scenes adapted by Evan Hunter from one of his best selling, long-running 87th Precinct novels he penned under the name Ed McBain. Even to this day that series has a loyal following, which makes the uncertain attempts to bring its specific quality to the screen all the more frustrating for the fans, and this instance was heavily criticised at the time for its missing of the mark so drastically. For those wanting a comedy, this mixture of the grim and the farcical was something Robert Altman might have pulled off in MASH, but giving such material to Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch was downright perverse.
Not that Burt and Raquel were going to be seen together in Fuzz, as they had fallen out on a previous movie, 100 Rifles, and had never kissed and made up, which is why when you watch this you don't see their characters have so much as a terse exchange, indeed they might as well be acting in entirely different films for all the point of casting them in the same production offered. On the other hand, if you were a Yul Brynner fan and were hoping to see him in action, well he had a reputation of being rather difficult himself but that wasn't the reason he was hardly in this, as that was down to the plot keeping him off the screen till over an hour into the ninety minute running time.
All you'll get of Yul is his voice on the phone for a couple of brief scenes until he is revealed as The Deaf Man, the chap holding the city to ransom along with his gang which includes the dream team of Peter Bonerz and Tamara Dobson, and proceeds to rampage through to the end where he's set up in what looks like a spoof of Reynolds' big hit at the time Deliverance for the final shot. But Yul isn't the sole ne'erdowell in the plot, as Burt's Detective Steve Carella is first seen going undercover as a down and out to find out who has been setting fire to "bums" (a repeated phrase which has a different connotation in the U.K.). Carella is so good at disappearing into his role that he, you guessed it, is set alight by two whiny teens responsible for this mini-crime wave, one of whom is a pre-American GraffitiCharles Martin Smith.
Presumably that isn't supposed to be one of the funny bits, yet with director Richard A. Colla at the helm, whose career was mostly in television, every scene has a chaotic tone making it difficult to get a handle on and pin down precisely how we are meant to be reacting, which was likely why audiences back in the early seventies were resistant to its charms. But take a closer look at that television connection, for regarding Fuzz now with the passage of time taken into account and you'll see it was an early adopter of the sort of police drama series on the small screen which would become dominant from the eighties onwards, so you may well find it playing significantly better now than it did then. Naturally, you still have to be sympathetic to the mood of the decade it hailed from where in one scene Reynolds and Weston are dressed as nuns for a cheap laugh, and in another Welch is struggling with a rapist, which might have been given more space to breathe in a weekly show but crammed into a small space looks crass. Funky, jazzy music by Dave Grusin.