Tuesday, March 13, 2018

This Bud's for You: BIG MAN: BOOMERANG (1988)

When last we saw The Professor, he was running around the South of France, brawling, racing and saving a gambling-prone movie star from a greedy actor and his stuntmen thugs. So the series has started firing on all cylinders and turned into what we want from a Bud Spencer series? Ehh, no. We are, however, headed straight into comic book territory, which isn't really the worst thing in the world.

Because the military is the military, they are very excited to be demonstrating a new devastating prototype sonic ray gun for a senator. The gun, which looks only slightly more probable than the one in LASERBLAST (1978), is a high-tech weapon can incapacitate a tank without a hint of damage on its lowest setting. Of course, nobody cares about that, they want to be able to completely vaporize tanks, through solid buildings, on its highest setting! To prove to the senator that the tank was actually destroyed behind the building, they walk over and take a look. Unfortunately the audience just has to take their word for it. Cheap bastards.

What would a movie about an experimental weapon be if it didn't "fall into the wrong hands"? Yep, just as our super sleuth Jack Clementi (Bud Spencer) is trying to settle down to read some comics, the call comes in from Winterbottom (Geoffrey Copleston) at Lloyd's of London. Someone has stolen the Ultra Sound Rifle, or "USR" (is that the best code name they could come up with?), and if it doesn't get retrieved Lloyd's would be on the hook for a crapload of money! Oh, and the fate of the free world could be in peril, too. This annoys Jack to no end, leading him to growl "I want to know who invented the telephone". Maybe that will be the basis of the plot for the next episode.

Once at the headquarters of the tech-company Sfynx, who invented "the weapon" (as it is from here on out referred to), Jack watches some amazingly well-shot security camera footage of the robbery and becomes convinced that it was an inside job. In order to help flush out the turncoat, he decides that the best plan of action is to keep his cards close to his chest. Just kidding! Nope, his great idea is to just cast aspersions on everyone in the room. Naturally this accomplishes nothing except pissing everyone off and causing several to storm out of the room. Sheesh, with skills like that, Jack would be perfect for a job in the White House.

Following up his hunch that it was an inside job, Jack visits his old friend Commissario Caruso (Raymond Pellegrin) who, as usual, is not in the least bit friendly. Jack naturally wants all the government files on every employee at Sfynx, so he can suss out a suspect. Caruso, after throwing a tantrum, tells Jack how modern and progressive the police are nowadays, saying "we don't classify anyone anymore, not even whores and faggots!" Baby steps friend, baby steps.

Meanwhile Jack's driver Simon (Denis Karvil) comes looking for him and promptly gets his ass handed to him in Jack's hotel room by a pint-sized intruder who was clearly looking for something. While Simon didn't manage to do much other than take an externally-induced nap on the carpet, he did manage to grab the assailant's jacket which contains a clue. Jack immediately realizes that since the jacket contains a hard-boiled egg and two ounces of Parmesan cheese, which is apparently the Italian jockey diet, it must belong to a jockey! It also helps that the jacket is a jockey racing windbreaker, but never mind about that, the real clue is the egg and cheese. This takes Jack out to a racehorse stable looking for the jacket's owner, which is pretty amusing as he looks like Budzilla raiding the Lilliputians. Of course as soon as Jack and Simon find their man, he is conveniently zapped into an oversize rag-doll by the weapon's ray. The duo can do nothing more than shrug their shoulders and walk away. Probably a good idea as we soon find out that the cops are looking for an easy collar.

This all leads to a chase on a mountain road in which Simon must dive into the ocean to retrieve a notebook from one of the dead hoods in the crashed car. I am assuming they must drive around with a complete set of scuba gear in the trunk. Never know when that can come in handy. We also get another meltdown from Caruso, who is convinced (again) that Jack murdered the two witnesses that he stumbled across, without even the most flimsiest of circumstantial evidence. Seems like the Italian state police are basically the equivalent of Southern American cops of the Jim Crowe era. "You had lunch with them! Murderer!" Remind me never to make friends with an Italian police detective.

Ultimately we discover that the plot is being carried out by a disgraced military colonel, code named "Zebra" (John Steiner) and his group of bloodthirsty mercs. His master plan is to use the weapon to kill the Italian president and presumably take over the world. Not on the Big Man's watch! As much as I love genre veteran John Steiner, even with a firearm, he is about as threatening as a nervous chihuahua next to Bud Spencer. Of course this gives Bud a chance to (finally) throw down some hurt on Zebra and his mercs in the basement of a rural villa. Hey, it ain't much, but I'll take it. Oh, and it also gives us the title of the episode as Jack manages to program "the weapon" to fire back at the villa if the trigger is pressed, like a... boomerang. Yep, that's where the title comes from. Clever, right? Yeah, not really.

Like all of the BIG MAN episodes, except for DIVA, this obscurely titled outing is not un-fun, but sticks closer to traditional American TV mystery shows like say, a more vertically mobile version of IRONSIDE (1967-1975). I don't know if the idea was to slightly branch out, taking Spencer in a slightly different direction, but they definitely seem to want to avoid the usual trappings that you would expect from a Bud Spencer vehicle. In his early career he played plenty of straight roles, but by 1972 with ALL THE WAY BOYS (Terence Hill and Bud Spencer's first non-Western), he was solidly committed to various shades of the rough and tumble persona that he perfected over the next several decades.

From 1973 to 1980, Spencer made a series of four FLATFOOT films with Steno at the helm, and while these films feature far more comedy and action than BIG MAN, they seem to be the loose basis for the TV series. The films wisely give Spencer a sidekick in Deputy Inspector Caputo, who is played by the diminutive and prolific Italian actor Enzo Cannavale, who also teamed with Spencer in Pasquale Festa Campanile's medieval action-comedy SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (1976). Here we are given French taxi driver Simon Lecoq (Denis Karvil) as a sidekick who is frequently absent and whose main function seems to be getting himself taken hostage so that Jack has someone to rescue. Yes, Simon is essentially BIG MAN's Princess Peach. While I'm not usually a guy to advocate some comic relief, or worse a comic sidekick, I sure could use one here. Again, it's not bad by any means, but it is a curious moment in Bud's voluminous career.

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