Saturday, March 10, 2018

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

We’re hitting the halfway mark with the third episode of BIG MAN and things are finally kicking into gear. DIVA dives right into the action as it opens outside a casino in France. To show the owners are rather unsavory types, the opening scene has two thugs demanding owed money from a guy while slicing his face with a switchblade...in front of his date! Have you ever seen such cruelty? Inside we see actress Susy Cummings (Bond girl Ursula Undress...er, Andress) racking up some losses to the tune of 2 million francs. When her line of credit runs out, she demands her actor boyfriend Tony (Michel Albertini) get Meller (Jean Boissery), the owner who reminds her of her debt and says she should cash in her valuable jewelry collection. While leaving the manager’s office, Tony says he will get him those jewels. Jeez, jewels and debt? I think somebody is about to be defrauding an insurance policy.

Insurance investigator Jack Clementi (Bud Spencer) gets introduced watching a TV report about Cummings as she hypes TO CATCH A KILLER, her return to the screen after a two-year hiatus. Clementi is positively smitten with her, remarking of her films, “I must have seen them all three times.” Jeez, sounds like Tom and Bud Spencer! Amazingly, Clementi’s assistant/driver Simon (Denis Karvil) co-owns a boat right next to Susy’s yacht. Man, driving Clementi around town must pay really well. Of course, this is all to move the plot forward as Simon is on the boat later that night and witnesses the stealing of the jewelry and death of the boat’s steward. And guess who just happens to own the insurance policy on these jewels to the tune of 25 million francs? Yup, ol’ Lloyd’s of London and Jack Clementi is immediately on the case. Mr. Winterbottom (Geoffrey Copleston) of Lloyd’s stresses this is a pressing matter because payment may be expediated due to Miss Cumming’s celebrity status. Damn celebs get all the breaks.

Clementi gets a break in the case right away when Inspector Lucas (Bernard Woringer) has Simon do a mock up of the robber he saw. Turns out Clementi’s obsessive movie watching pays off as he recognizes the man as a stuntman used in a lot of Susy and Tony’s films. See, I’m not wasting my time watching movies! I’m actually preparing to help solve any future crimes involving b-movie types. Clementi makes it to Marcel the stuntman’s home where he is entertaining a prostitute. (This bit offers the first nudity of the series and probably resulted in lots of Italian parents having “the talk” with their kids soon after.) Unfortunately, before Clementi can get any info out of him, the lights go out and the stuntman does his final fall via a bullet in the forehead. Not only is Jack pissed he lost his first lead, the prostitute is pissed she didn’t get paid by her client! A true pro, I tell ya.


Of course, Clementi has more sources up his sleeve and a hunch has him calling a fence named Martin. Sure enough he has some of the jewelry, but when Clementi shows up at his place the next day the guy has been killed. Even worse news is the cops arrive just after Clementi and he is taken in for suspicion of murder, but not before he lifts an incriminating receipt. Once at the police station, Clementi is bailed out by Mr. Brossard (Paul Guers), a wealthy man about town and friend of Susy. Now if decades of movie watching have taught me anything, it is that the person who bails anyone out during an investigation is a suspect. I’m sure movie buff Jack took note. Once freed, Clementi confronts Susy with the receipt that she pawned her necklace. She admits she did it and says Tony was behind the whole plan. Wow, we’re hitting the 50 minute mark and everything is all wrapping up? Uh, hellllllll no. This is an Italian TV series starring Bud Spencer so we have at least three more plots to get to. Indeed, Tony is confronted by a blackmailing reporter who accidentally recorded him telling Susy of the plans. This leads to Clementi teaming up with the reporter and then Tony is murdered, the remaining jewels are stolen, and Susy is kidnapped. Much like an Italian meal, this has lots of courses for everyone.


Damn, looks like I beat Tom to the first good episode of the bunch. Since we had dope pushers and Etruscan artifacts, vain actors and jewelry could be far behind. And while the plot might not set your world on fire, we finally get Bud Spencer resembling the punch punchin’ and smirk smirkin’ lead we’ve seen in the opening titles. Bud gets into quite a few scraps in this one. Hell, even Simon throws down a bit. The action highlight is where Bud heads to a bar to follow a lead and he and another guy just absolutely destroy the place. Is it worthy of prime Jackie Chan? No. But after being teased with the valueable statues in THE FALSE ETRUSCAN, it is good to see some good old furniture and glass windows get smashed to pieces. The production also has a nice “the brakes have gone out!” car bit toward the end. The driving down the winding French mountainside is rather precarious looking and definitely a highlight. In addition to that, we got not one, not two, but three jokes from Bud’s character in this. Be still my heart! Interestingly, this particular episode keeps all of the action in France (versus the Italy settings of the first two episodes). This results in some nice location work in Marseilles and making Clementi a bigger fish-out-of-water character. Another interesting thing is that Clementi doesn’t really have to do much detective work. No joke, the script has Clementi learning the whole plot from the reporter and the big mystery is revealed when Clementi looks into the wallet of a guy he beats up and spots a decades-old photo of some French Foreign Legion pals. Damn, he sure is lucky that thug was the sentimental type. Well, I’ll give him credit for recognizing some random stuntman from a police composite. That is a true investigative skill worthy of admiration. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to do some more detective work in front of my television.

Ursula Andress gets her first royalty check:



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