Cool as Vice

Revisited an old friend last night via Netfilx Streaming — the movie Busting, one of the most underrated films of the 1970s (aka the greatest decade in the history of cinema) in my humble opinion.

Gotta love those 70s movie posters

First encountered this gem on the fantastic WHT. Yes, amazingly did not see this in the theaters, but even my Dad would have thought there’s a bit too many nekkid boobies in this one for an 7 1/2 year old. (It was 1974 after all). But I did see the more comedic Freebie and the Bean in the theaters. Almost as memorable, but I’ll take Busting, thank you.

Our Reader’s Digest version of the story: vice cops Keneely (70s go-to-guy Elliott Gould ) and Farrel (little tough guy Robert Blake — typecast?) are hot after sleazy crime boss Rizzo (Allen Garfield, who isn’t very threatening except for that creepy smile), and don’t care which hot prostitutes, icky massage parlor managers, bell-bottomed wearing hit men, or second bananas (the imposing Sid Haig) they have to take down to get at him. Hell, they’ll even work after hours, and after they get broken up, to put this sleaze ball away.

Nasty facial hair on balding man = 70s bad guy

After watching Busting again, I was surprised at how much I forgot about it (including the very un-PC gay bar scene with Antonio Fargas of Starsky and Hutch fame, who is billed way too high for such a short time on screen) and also how much I remembered. Of course, there’s the part I remember most, where the two cops get their asses kicked (complete with some extremely fake blood) is the one that always comes to mind. But then there’s the hands-down-best scene in the movie.

The two detectives end up breaking into an apartment looking for evidence (warrant? nah….) and come across a trio of hit men/guns with no lines and the chase ensues. First, there’s some terrific running, even by the lanky Gould (seriously, how many great 70s films was he in? Damn!). Then there’s the freakin FANTASTIC music by Brooklyn-born Billy Goldenberg (who composed music for just about every TV Detective series in the early 70s, and his last two credits on are for Duel documentaries — let’s see if Bradley on Film is paying attention) that I actually remembered humming to myself endlessly after seeing this awesome flick in the early 80s (and the past 24 hours!). And the score merges beautifully with what might be the best-directed scene in any Peter Hyams movie.

Sure, it’s only his second film, and New York native Hyams went on to direct such VLB faves as Outland and…well, OK, Outland is the only other movie I really like of Hyams’ (Dad liked it too)… but damn, what a great great great scene, as the camera pans back quickly with the bad guys in the forefront and our hero vice dicks following at full speed in full 70s hanging-out garb (Gould’s varsity jacket with ripped-knee jeans is a fashion must). When they hit a local supermarket, there are patrons flying and ducking everywhere, shots fired in all directions, Gould loading his gun and a new piece of ever-present gum seemingly at the same time, then everything stops and the tension starts. Seriously, one of the best scenes of the 70s. Trust me on this one.

More impressions from this magnificent little gem: Gould is simply terrific as he proves his worth as a 70s legend; the chase scene at the end seems like a ripoff of the earlier supermarket scene but the car crash is freakin awesome and more than makes up for it, plus you get to hear the music cue again; LOVE the what-the-hell-really-happened ending, always a favorite movie cliche of mine; the gritty cinematography adds a hell of a lot of character; and finally, god bless WHT. (And my Dad for ordering it, and for instilling in me an unrelenting love of movies.)

Policing from the crapper

P.S. Don’t believe me? Check out the recent DVD reviews of Busting, including this fabulous one from……Yowza!


6 Replies to “Cool as Vice”

  1. Good to see ya back ya lazy bestid. Can’t recall if I have ever seen this. You should have included the trailer — always a must! The copy on the poster is a big of a head scratcher. Sounds like the stuff from the 50s when the studios were trying to fight off the new kid on the block, television.

  2. Great post, Turafish. Definitely have not seen this one and, frankly, would only watch it on your say-so, since I loathe Gould, am not a big fan of Blake’s, and dislike Hyams. But the supporting cast sounds good, and even TGRM routinely praises Goldenberg’s DUEL score.

  3. Much as I love Professor John, I don’t think I’d even put the words “Hyams” and “crowning achievement” in the same sentence. If I had to go grudingly with “finest hour,” I would ascribe that not to CAPRICORN ONE (Gould again!), but–surprisingly, given the baggage it had to carry–to 2010.

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