Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious by, well not much this time out.

By international law, all TV shows must have at least one Yuletide episode. Even if that means a little Charlie Brown tree in the corner of Jack Costello's apartment. Yes, Christmas has come to Miami and what better way to express the joy of the nativity than to have Dumas dance around said tree singing a mock-Yiddish song. Hooboy, this slay-ride is off to a rough start.

Fortunately Christmas is also synonymous with La Brujaria! Come on now, how do you think Santa visits all the houses on the face of the earth in one night in an open-air land craft that flies through the atmosphere by wild venison with glowing noses? See what I'm saying? Black magic! You can't argue with logic.

A creepy, stalker boyfriend, Sid (Julian Reed), is trying to get things going again with his woman. She has decided she doesn't want to be with him and in order to persuade her to come back to his loving arms, he slaps her across the face. Suddenly she has extreme stomach pains and visions of black-hooded monks, and a graven image with red, glowing eyes. Of course the most sensible thing to do at this point is to stab yourself in the stomach repeatedly. Which she does.

This naturally lands Sid in court where he tells his sob story of a love-sick lad who just happened to be there when his estranged girlfriend stabbed herself with his knife. Of course no jury is going to buy this nonsense, but fortunately for him, Dumas happens to be on the scene making courtroom sketches. Fortunately for the viewer, Dumas is far more believable as a courtroom sketch artist than a cartoonist. At the same time Costello is visited by an upperclass twit of the year, Laureen Tracy (Victoria Bass), a wealthy socialite whose daughter has gone missing. She simply wants her daughter, Kathy (Sandra Itzin), found and returned home so she can see her dying father who has caught some sort of ailment in Haiti that makes him appear to be impersonating Red Skelton. On her way out Dumas bumps into her and discovers that the bitch is strapped! Dumas finds Sid's story intriguing and tries to engage Costello's enthusiasm for it. Of course neither one of them believe that black magic is real until Maria sees a TV show about "la brujaria", flips out and runs out of the room. Yep, shit just got real.

After months of searching, they finally found two actors who could
make Philip Michael Thomas' performance seem sophisticated.

Hmmmm... could there be something more sinister going on here? Could these cases be connected? Well, ye-ah. That is probably the most time-honored detective plot set-up in the history of the genre. Scores of '70s and '80s television shows would have floundered helplessly in a sea of useless plot points, unable to get the ball rolling without that particular plot convenience. It's like a three-chord blues hook. Just because everyone's done it, doesn't mean it's no good. Or was that Scarlett Johansson I was thinking of?

Also connected somehow is a televangelist named Reverend Coleman (Helmut Griem, cast for the German audience) who pontificates with some priceless soliloquies and seems to know an awful lot about pagan blood rituals. Says Coleman at the top of his show: "Is he a saint that can work miracles or is he an eccentric socialist? Who is this Christ?" A fine question that we never find out the answer to.

Then there is a surf instructor named Zorac (it's Frank Zagarino, did you expect a normal name?) who has a different line of pontification for the ladies, such as "You've got to caress the wind with your sail. Then dominate the waves with your board." Gotta say, if my ghost-white ass ever makes it to a beach again, I'll have to try that one. There is also Sally (Amy Russ), a snot-nosed rich girl who looks down on Jack and his profession because she works as a tour guide at SeaWorld. Rounding out the cast is Dionne Warwick as a smoky-voiced voodoo queen, Mama Limbo, who may or may not be working for the forces of evil, but because it's Dionne Warwick, we are pretty sure she isn't going to be the bad guy.

For some reason, Castellari and the writers (Sandro Moretti and Giuseppe Pedersoli - aka Bud Jr.) felt the need to do a turn in a more traditional detective story, with hints of horror. It must have sounded great on paper: Two fisted private-eye tracks down missing daughter and unravels a twisted plot by a cult of satanists to sacrifice young women to the pagan god Dumballah. Maybe they shouldn't have been worshiping something that is a few letters off from "dumbell" and they wouldn't have been so easily caught. I prefer to sacrifice maidens to the voodoo god Smartassah and have never had a problem. Unfortunately what this all means is that we get a very talky, humorless entry in which there is almost nothing that Spencer fans would have wanted to tune in for.

To be fair, we do get a brief scene in which Costello and Zorac go toe-to-toe, but the solitary point of action is at Sid's trial. When he is found guilty, some twenty chickens that were silently smuggled into the courtroom are released in a flurry of feathers so that Sid can make his escape which promptly leads to a slightly botched car accident and Sid's theft of a motorcycle. Note the way Sid manages to punch baliffs out of his way like Kenshiro in FIST OF THE NORTH STAR (1986), and a car hit that looks way to hard and seems to catch the stuntman by surprise:

I'm not sure what this scene teaches us about Floriday. Either it is that you can only be found guilty of murder in Florida if you do not use a firearm or, the reason Zimmerman was found not guilty was because they didn't want to have to clean up after the birds. The other things we learn in this episode is that Maria is a stripper (what?!) and the only accent Dumas can do that is worse than his French one, is a British one.

The most egregious missed opportunity comes at the end in which the leader of the evil cult throws up his hands and shouts "there's nothing you can do against the forces of darkness!" This is the perfect cue for Costello to step forward and take the wind out of his sails by bringing his fist down on the lunatic's head. Nope, Jack simply shoots him. Honestly it was a bit shocking to see Bud Spencer kill a bad guy, much less shoot him with something as mundane as a handgun.

While, for me it was not a total chore to sit through (I thought that most of "Cannonball" was much worse), it definitely makes me look forward to the change up that will come with season two.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Four episodes into the EXTRALARGE series and it appears Tom is winning out in the “Guest Starring” sweepstakes.  While I get guys like Juan Fernandez, Sir Thomas of San Jose has been served up Christopher Atkins, Andrew Stevens and Lou F’N Ferrigno! This just ain’t right.  That right there is enough B-movie acting talent for three early ‘90s direct-to-video flicks.  My luck appears to be changing though as I pop in “Cannonball” and get greeted with “Special Guest Star Erik Estrada” on my screen.  Good day, Mr. CHiPs! “This episode is guaranteed to be awesome,” said my Bud-beleaguered brain. Haha, what do I know?

Jack “Extralarge” Costello has found himself amongst a lot of undesirables in his cases so far.  He’s dealt with thieves, dirty politicians, a child killer, terrorists, crooked boxing promoters, kung fu killers and even a wisecracking kid.  Not to mention having to deal with his accent-wavering buddy Dumas. But now it is time to place Costello in the seediest world imaginable where drugs, gambling and murder run rampant.  No, he isn’t taking on Hollywood.  It is something much more sinister, a world where few enter and even fewer survive.  A place that Obi-Wan would say is a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.”  We could only be talking about – hut, hut – college football!  My God, this Jack Costello has a death wish!

The plot kicks off with the college football team the Lions practicing for their upcoming big game.  The coach seems perturbed that their star player “Long” John Hatter (Fritz Dominique) isn’t anywhere to be seen.  His buddy Cannonball (Stephen Lankau) – a character written so deep they never even give him a real name – assures coach that everything will be fine when the big game arrives.  So where is “Long” John? I’ll let the jocks explain.

Cannonball: “Where do you think he is?”
Random jock: “Probably in some cheap hotel…”
Both in unison: “…with an even cheaper hooker!”
Cannonball: “Alright!” (they high five)

Ah, you gotta love them Italians and their realistic American dialogue.  Actually, that is probably dead on for some ’92 jocks and, sure enough, that is where “Long” John is as he apparently lives up to his name with a pretty white girl.  Two sketchy looking dudes (sketchy because they are always clad in jean jacks in the film and are not Native American) arrive at the hotel and get the room number under the guise of looking for their sister (“She checked in with a black guy.”) before shooting the clerk dead.  They burst into Hatter’s hotel room and fill him full of lead.  The woman he was with was in on it and splits before the two assassins stick a needle of heroin in his arm.

Meanwhile, across town in a shipping yard, Costello, Dumas and Sam are getting ready to bust a container full of cocaine. Unfortunately, they find out the illegal cargo is a gaggle of showgirls (!?!), who scoop Dumas up and, I assume, molest him.  Didn't know there was a huge market for bootleg showgirls. Luckily for Jack, the day isn’t a bust (haha) because Sam gets the call about the double homicide at the hotel.  They arrive just as the body is being wheeled out and Mrs. Hatter (Avery Summers) declares that her Johnny wouldn’t do drugs and be wrapped up with criminals.  She hires Jack to find out “the truth” and gives him a box of John’s things, which includes a mysterious key.  Costello begins using his charm against his old adversary, District Attorney Winnie Vance (Nancy Duerr).  She begrudgingly gives him access to the autopsy report, but feels it is a cut and dry case.  Besides, she has bigger fish to fry as national restaurateur Gonzales (Erik Estrada), who she tried to pin drug charges on, is getting off the hook right as we speak.

Costello decides the best way to handle the investigation is to split up to cover more ground.  Either that or he is getting as tired of Dumas as the viewers are. “Extralarge” decides to start investigating Dr. Shuby (Matthias Habich), the Lions’ team doctor, while he sends Dumas and Maria (Vivian Ruiz) all over Miami trying to find the locker that the key fits into. Surprisingly, the duo actually finds the locker – while inadvertently missing assassination attempts by the Jean Jacket Bros. – and they discover a duffel bag containing $250,000 in it.  Jack slowly (and I mean sloooooowly) starts to piece the whole thing together.  It seems the kids on the team were taking a new super steroid by the doc that made the endurance of the players grow stronger over the course of the game and “Long” John and Cannonball were using this insider knowledge to win big in the illicit world of gambling.  Can you guess who the local gambling kingpin is who isn’t too happy that he was losing to a crooked scheme?  That’s right, it is Gonzales.  I knew that Lamborghini wasn’t paid for with honest, hard-earned money like a Wall Street exec gets.  Naturally, Jack and Dumas decide it is time to go undercover and snag this dude which means Dumas doing all the talking. Nooooooooooooooo!

Alright, let’s see, so I got Erik Estrada.  Now what else do I get?  To quote Ted Knight from CADDYSHACK (1980): “You’ll get nothing and like it!”  Did you notice anything missing in the above paragraphs?  You know, like, action? Sadly, I knew this day was coming – the day when we hit the episode that is the end result of having spent all the money on car chases in the previous episodes. Unfortunately, “Cannonball” is the installment where they decided to focus on the detective elements in the show’s title.  This means lots of Jack Costello walking and talking.  Or, I should say, walking and semi-talking as 50% of the time I’m struggling to hear what is coming out of his mouth.  That is okay for Jessica Fletcher, but not for Bud Spencer.  After the opening shootout in the shipping yard, there is literally no action (save Jack’s car blowing up) until the 80 minutes mark where we get a big shootout at Gonzales’ mansion.  While it may rack up the highest body count in lovely slo-mo for the series so far, it is too much too late. When I hear a title like “Cannonball” and see Erik Estrada, I dream of a massive car chase down the streets of Miami.  The biggest action Estrada gets outside of the shootout is glaring his teeth.  Hell, maybe even throw Estrada on a motorcycle.  Sadly, we get nothing like that. While the “Yo-Yo” episode is full of self referential moments, we can’t even muster a single CHiPs reference.  Bud, I am disappointed.  Hell, Spencer spends 90% of this episode wearing sunglasses for some reason, so maybe even he doesn’t want to be seen in this action-less entry.  On the plus side, this is the first episode so far to feature nudity.  On the downside, it involves a girl getting it on with Philip Michael Thomas doing his full on Pepé Le Pew accent.  I’ll offer you this screencap to save you the pain.  As Lou Ferrigno would say, “That'll be $20.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

This Bud's for You: DETECTIVE EXTRALARGE: YO-YO (1992)

In this episode we discover that Jack Costello is a former professional boxer. I wonder if his pantented head-pounding was the reason he was forced to choose another career? We find Costello in his favorite habitat, The Blue Monkey, blowing his sax and getting some whiskey-soaked wisdom from a friend who is having some issues with his British ex-wife, saying "like all Brits, she thinks she can take a leak on the Queen's toilet!" What he fails to see is that while this may be true, she can't touch the Queen's nuts! Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night. What? Does nobody watch the news anymore?

Interrupting this bit of Brit bashing is an old friend and ex-boxer, Burt (Andrew Stevens, who managed to squeeze this in between jobs with Joseph Merhi and Jim Wynorski). Burt is in trouble. Not like the kind of trouble he is usually in. Trouble so big only Detective Extralarge can handle the case. Apparently he has been working for an up-from-the-streets businessman and boxing promoter Mr. Goodwin (Lou Ferrigno, no doubt thrilled at the opportunity to move up from a Donald G. Jackson production). Mr. Goodwin wears a white suit year 'round and worse than that, he rigs the fights. Burt was was supposed to take a dive and instead of playing jabroni, he won the match, took the prize money and ran like hell. Problem is, he's a boxer, not a runner and now Mr. Goodwin's ethnically diverse henchmen are snapping at his trunks.

After getting Costello interested in his plight, Burt disappears and the thugs get Extralarge in their sights with a karate killer (Jen Sung in his second role following 1990s NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER 3) who learns that kung fu is no match for Bud fu. As if that wasn't bad enough, Jack comes home to a pissed off Maria who suspects him of cheating on her, even though they aren't in a relationship, and Burt's kid Ricky (Anthony Finazzo), who smokes cigarettes, talks back and likes to be called Yo-Yo... because he has one. He also took the opportunity, while waiting for Jack, to rip-off Dumas' stash of caviar and pate. I guess it beats the hell out of whatever Costello has in his cupboards, which I'm assuming is an entire pantry of beans.

Ricky's been staying with a cranky old ex-boxer named Groggy, which means our nameless kung fu assassin thinks the best way to find Burt's son, who he will use to find Burt, is to take out the old man. Of course the cops are annoyed that Costello is causing problems (by knowing what's going on, I guess) and the D.A. is annoyed that she got called out for a murder when she has work to do! Only in Florida does homicide not come under the District Attorney's job description. Fortunately, the coroner is the sharpest knife in the bag when it comes to dead bodies: "The murderer killed him with the same technique employed in the martial arts. We'll know for sure after the autopsy." He's damn good. Damn good. Damn, he's good.

After one of Goodwin's boxers is shot-up in a drive-by while spilling the beans (ouch, yeah that hurt me too) to Costello, the cops are suddenly interested. Old boxer? Waste of time. Young boxer? Put ever man on the job! Now Jack needs to get to follow the lines and sniff out a coke smuggling ring with Mr. Goodwin right in the middle.

It's not that I don't like kids, I do. At least for the half an hour that they are fun to be around until they become a pain in the ass. Kids in movies? Unless it's a properly made movie starring kids like THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987), I'm not a fan of precocious hi-jinx and the obligatory sap that comes along with them. As far as I'm concerned INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) might have been a halfway decent movie if the Indy had unloaded that Short Round. Kids in Bud Spencer movies? That I can live with.

Bud Spencer had some solid hits on the Continent and in Japan with THE SHERIFF AND THE SATELLITE KID (1979) and it's sequel WHY PICK ON ME? (1980), which sported a compact sidekick (no, not Weng Weng, a kid!). Also, the FLATFOOT sequels sported ethnic kids for Bud to grudgingly pal around with. To be fair, Terence Hill frequently played a manchild in their movies anyway, so it's not much of a stretch. With that winning formula, it makes sense to add a kid to EXTRALARGE, though it certainly does slow things down a bit. Though it still doesn't get in the way of the antics with his Latina landlord Maria, who is desperately trying to have an affair with Jack. This also offers up some opportunity for a few "wtf?" moments, such as the one in which Ricky talks the shoe-shine boy (named "Black", because he is) into trading Mr. Goodwin's shoes for a yo-yo. Designer, patent leather for a cheap, plastic toy? Deal!

Also featured in this entry are a lot of self-aware references which you may or may not be a fan of. In today's climate where no film is "good" unless it spends most of its running time pointing at it self, screaming "look at me!" this would probably go over gangbusters. In one scene Ricky brings his fist down on a thug's head repeatedly and then quips "I saw all of Bud Spencer's films." To compound the damage, when Costello and Dumas find themselves surrounded by bad guys and Costello asks Dumas if he can handle himself, and Dumas says "of course I can, I always watch... 'Miami Vice'." Ouch!

On the plus side, this outing features an H.B. Halicki-esque car chase in which cars are smashed with wild abandon and a boxing van endures a bonecrushing flip leaving the driver unscathed (see clip below). Not good enough? We get a speedboat chase that ends with the boat flying out of the water into the middle of a busy highway ala LIVE AND LET DIE (1974). Pretty awesome stuff for a European TV series. Also, I have to admit, I kinda dig Ferrigno. Like a lot of '70s kids, "The Incredible Hulk" was one of my favorite shows and I have fond memories of him being a complete dick and getting totally dissed by a girl in the bar at a collector's show in Illinois. That was the same show that Corey Haim got burned by a drug dealer and was introduced as "Corey Ham". But that is a story for another time.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Okay, so far Jack Costello has tackled corrupt politicians and a serial killer in Miami.  But who hasn’t dealt with those kinds of folks when visiting the Sunshine State?  It is time to go global as “Extralarge” and his buddy Dumas take on foreign terrorists on American soil.  Of course, you’d never know that with the way this entry starts off. Were you the guy watching “Miami Vice” and always saying, “Damn, I wish I could see Philip Michael Thomas in drag.”  If so, your prayers have been answered as this episode opens with Thomas sporting a wig while decked out in heels, a skirt and a silk blouse. Yep, Costello has recruited him to help nab a park rapist, who not only looks suspiciously like Woody Allen, but he strikes in broad daylight.

While Jack carts his capture off to the precinct, Dumas heads back to the office in full drag. Dumas heads inside and Maria Martinez (Vivian Ruiz), Jack’s landlady and wannabe paramour, tells him that a prospective client is waiting for Jack in his office.  The client in question turns out to be Hella von Herman (Ursula Karven), who Dumas finds very attractive.  In California speak: Hella is hella hot. Hey, don’t boo me.  Anyway, she wants to hire Jack to the tune of $1,000 to pick up her father Klaus von Herman, a nuclear physicist, at the airport and escort him safely to his hotel.  Sensing an easy way to a big payday, Dumas opts to do the job himself and leaves Jack a note to meet him at the hotel later. Of course, Dumas is a dumbass and doesn’t notice the two sets of guys – two CIA guys and two terrorist looking guys – tailing him when he meets up with the Professor at the airport.

Dumas completes his task and Costello arrives at the hotel just seconds after the terrorist looking duo fills Klaus full of holes.  Comforting the dying man, Costello doesn’t see him slip a small container into his extra large pocket before two guys quickly throw the wounded man into a car to take him “to the hospital.”  Yeah, dude is dead meat. That evening it is confirmed as the professor is found floating facedown in the water.  Lou Bedford fills Jack in on the particulars – seems the South African born professor was working for the Libyans on a gas to help seal the ozone layer.  But an accident in the lab created a deadly nerve gas and his benefactors have a keen interest in that as well.  Jack returns home where Mrs. Martinez offers to take his bloodstained jacket to the cleaners.  Upstairs in his apartment, he finds the place torn apart and thumps two guys before meeting Rashid (Juan Fernandez), the terrorist leader who lets him know they are looking for something and they’ll cross paths again.

Meanwhile, Hella has contacted Jack and wants to meet with him.  They choose a Jai-Alai court (damn, this production is a slut as they certainly got around Miami) where she tells Jack the same info he learned from Lou, but also mentions she was her father’s assistant.  Oh, she also mentions that the terrorists “are unscrupulous.”  Well, that settles it – we can’t have dudes without scruples running around Miami.  They live up to their unscrupulous nature when they try to run Hella and Dumas over outside the arena.  A car chase ensues where Jack ends up capturing one of the bad guys and turning him over to Lt. Bedford.  Our private dicks decide the best course of action is for Hella to hide out at Dumas’ place.  Apparently they don’t remember what happened to Lela Rochon two episodes ago when she hid out at his place and once again Dumas and the female lead are kidnapped.  How does everyone keep finding out where his houseboat is?  Jack saves Dumas at a dog race track, but the terrorists keep the girl to finalize her father’s formula.  Their dastardly plan is to synthesize the nerve gas and release it into the crowd at St. Marks church, where one of their operatives is posing as a priest while setting up a huge fundraiser to draw a crowd.  Only problem is they don’t have the formula since it is currently at the dry cleaners in Jack’s extra large coat.  So now Jack is in their crosshairs.  Or, as the CIA guy on the case says, “Mr. Costello, you’ve turned into a moving target” followed by a piano sting.

It seems like director Enzo Castellari took the “moving” part of this entry’s title literally as this is the most action packed episode so far.  It feels like ten minutes can’t go by without a shootout or a car chase.  And it is all captured well with some of that beautiful slo-mo that Castellari is known for on display (unfortunately, this also hurts as you can clearly see the Professor being shot ain’t the old actor playing him).  There are also some genuinely surprising moments where our heroes are in peril, like when Costello is gunned down inside the dry cleaners.  With so many plot twists and turns, this could be a stand alone movie with just a little more exposition in character department.  Hell, this feels like a latter day Cannon flick at times.  Especially when the washed up American actor guest starring this week is ‘80s baddie Juan Fernandez, fresh off CROCODILE DUNDEE II (1988) and KINJITE: FORBIDDEN SUBJECTS (1989).

The film does have a downside though and it can be spelled out in three short words – Phillip Michael Thomas.  I don’t know what happened on this one, but the dude is totally out of control in this episode.  He is so over-the-top that not only do we get him in drag, but there is a scene later where he breaks into a Nazi goosestep.  WTF?  He seems to think this episode is an audition reel and does about 45 different accents as well.  In one of the more surreal bits in the show, he stops to buy some apples being sold by a Michael Jackson impersonator (Darrin Sutton, still moonwalkin’ today) and we get the following bizarre exchange.

Dumas: “Hey, Michael, how much to gangbang one of your apples?”
Michael Jackson: “A dollar a pound.”

Whew!  I think all those years of being the second banana on “Miami Vice” may have finally exploded in this episode. Thankfully, the film moves fast enough that you won’t be left stewing in “what was he thinking” thoughts.  That happens afterward, when you are writing a blog review.  Maybe even the filmmakers grew tired of his antics as there is a scene where Jack pulls some tape off of Dumas’ mouth, only to put it back on due to his incessant babbling.  There are also some questionable “comedy” bits based on the laziest comedy stereotypes imaginable.  For example, when Dumas comes home in drag, you get a gay couple ogling him. Or how about Mrs. Martinez saying Jack’s jacket is at “honorable Chinese dry queen-ah” while slanting her eyes?  Would I be a hypocrite if I did a clichéd Italian guy voice going, “Issa funny becausea issa true.” How you like that Luigi…uh, I mean, Enzo?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


After being assured by the title song that "he's hot!" and has "technique!", we find Jack "Extralarge" Costello chasing a hysterical car thief through a parking garage... dressed as a clown. This perp really doesn't want to be caught and maybe if he stopped squealing for two seconds, he wouldn't be. Whether it's because of the fact that he doesn't want to do jail-time, or that he doesn't want to be nailed by a 6'4" 380 lb guy in a clown suit, is not made clear. Maybe he saw some of Bud Spencer's movies and doesn't want that mighty fist to come down on his fragile noggin. When the perp declares that he is "sick" because he has a whole mess of phobias, Costello quips "Shuddup, or I'll give you punch-aphobia too." Yep, "technique".

Miami cop Andy Blake (Christopher Atkins) is on a routine patrol when he accidentally hits a homeless guy with his squad car leading him to a trashed house with the bloody corpse of a young girl. As if that wasn't bad enough, (presumably) the killer has written "stop me" in blood on the wall. This is all too much for Officer Blake and he starts to lose it after unloading his sidearm on a black car that is speeding from the scene. Fortunately for him, ex-cop and super-slueth Costello shows up after the entire police force has cordoned off the area. Says the police chief "the scene is not complete unless Extralarge is on the job". Damn right. Only Costello can solve the case because apparently in these simple times, this sort of thing is unheard of. How do I know? Because the police files on the case are marked "Miami Killer" as if there were only one.

This must have been a late edition. Very late.

Blake is not taking his discovery well, not so much because he is a sensitive man in policeman's uniform, but because he too has lost a child to the Miami Killer. So consumed with his grief (apparently the Miami police don't allow any bereavement leave) is Blake, that he carries around his daughter's ballet slipper and occasionally pulls it out to rub it against his face. Surprisingly, nobody seems to think this is in any way creepy as all hell. Additionally Blake runs amok pulling his gun on random people he suspects might be the killer. Fortunately Costello just happens to appear out of thin air, like a genie from a bottle, to smooth out the misunderstanding.

Costello and Dumas ("Dooh-Dooh-Doohmaas") investigate the multitude of red herrings in a Miami that seems to be some sort of graffiti-covered, "Lord of the Flies" environment where children swarm over every patch of asphalt without any parental supervision! No wonder all these kids are being picked off. Could the killer be the old man who likes to offer little girls candy in the park? Maybe the creepy Catholic priest who keeps eyeing the children (yeah, so many jokes, all too easy)? How about the shifty-eyed school teacher who knows all of the kids shortcuts through the strawberry patch. Sort of a strawberry shortcut (my apologies to Mr. Freberg).

At one point Dumas interrogates their best witness: a six year old girl named Elsie. Elsie is a fountain of information in spite of the fact that Dumas has clearly as much talent in playing "good cop" as he is drawing cartoons. Trying to sweet-talk the witness, Dumas says "you dance so good, you could be the next Shirley Temple." Elsie giggles because a) that was seriously creepy and b) because she's six and has no freakin' idea who the hell Shirley Temple is!

In addition to Blake continuing to lose it in rather spectacular fashion, the father of the dead girl that Blake found turns out to be a drunken wife-beater who thinks he can stick Costello with his blade for being nosey. Big mistake. Come to think of it, it seems like the only person with his feet firmly on the ground is Detective Extralarge. Or at least you would think that, wouldn't you? Costello casually spends his leisure time blowing his sax at his favorite club, The Blue Monkey. I mean, the guy has killed almost a dozen girls already, there's no reason to spend every waking minute trying to solve the case. Just as an aside, I like to think that the owner of club is a big fan of hospital horror and giant bug movies.

Much like Scotland Yard in the Sherlock Holmes stories, the cops are just begging for our detective to solve the case. Not so much in word, but in deed. When bondoed bullet holes have been discovered on the priests black car, the police don't want to even bring him for questioning! The chief waxes philosophical, "Miami is full of cars full of holes, especially bullet holes." I'm pretty sure the only time that was said in real life was over a bong hit. Maybe this guy should run for mayor in Canada.

While surprisingly atmospheric in the final reel, it is also surprisingly free of action. No big car chases or punch-outs here. Castellari was definitely going more for a murder-thriller, coaxing a most entertainingly sweaty, bulging-eyed performance that you could possibly ask for out of Atkins. Though it's not really apparent if we are supposed to feel that Officer Blake is just overly concerned or is a possible suspect. Also, Spencer takes more of a back seat in this one, which kind of makes it a bit weak as a Bud Spencer vehicle. Even so, Castellari is almost incapable of turning in a boring outing on film or TV and even without the expected action fodder, it still keeps your attention with some well executed camera work and a plot that zips along at a pace faster than Spencer's stunt double can fall off of a truck.

And why do black people get pissed off at white filmmakers?

Monday, February 3, 2014


Our journey into the world of EXTRALARGE begins with a credit sequence featuring a Black Box-esque techno song playing over slow motion shots of dudes on jet skis that looks like it should be a Salem’s cigarette ad.  The female singer croons: “He came and beat the muther into the gutter/He popped him like he was a rag/And on his chest he wore a tag…Extralarge.” Okay, Jan Hammer this ain’t.  The episode opens with the audience’s introduction to Jack Costello (Bud Spencer) as he is hanging out at a water park.  When a drug deal (in plain sight, gotta love the Italians) with undercover female cops in bikinis goes south, Costello steps in to bop the two male drug dealers in the head and assist in their arrest.  Watching the action from afar is a mysterious guy (Philip Michael Thomas) with a sketch pad.  Now either he finds Costello the perfect subject or has a serious Bear fetish.  Either way, the burly detective is now his muse.

Arriving at the police station with the detainees, Costello meets up with his old pal Lt. Sam Bosley (Lou Bedford) who wishes Costello would return to the police force.  Costello, however, is having too much fun running his own private detective agency.  Actually, business is a bit slow as evidence by the crooked sign outside his building and the fact he has a running gig playing the saxophone at the Blue Monkey.  But Jack’s investigative instincts haven’t lessened in the down time though and he soon has the sketching stranger following him around handcuffed to the toilet in his apartment.  The man says he is a cartoonist named Jean Philippe Dumas and explains that he wants to capture Jack for a comic book.  Or, as he so simply puts it, “rediscover the mythical hero whose fascination still haunts the collective imagination.”  Uh, yeah. He pleads to follow Jack for just three days to get some research and amusingly dubs his muscular muse “Extralarge.” Are we sure he doesn’t have any ulterior motives?

Wait...this guy makes a living as a cartoonist?

Meanwhile, a case is about to fall in Jack’s lap.  While Costello and Dumas were getting acquainted, a petty thief named Wendy Gibson (Lela Rochon) was busy infiltrating a highbrow party held by Senator Pillinger (Friedrich von Thun) and stealing whatever she could lay her hands on.  The bad news is she doesn’t know that the host just received some microfilm from a Navy man, who was then promptly murdered at the party.  So when she steals the Senator’s watch, she inadvertently ends up with a MacGuffin in her possession.  On the run from Pillinger’s thugs, she soon finds herself at the apartment building housing Costello’s office/home.  He initially refuses her plea for help, but Dumas – perhaps thinking with his little brain – feels she is worthy of his company.  From there Costello, Dumas and Bosley get wrapped up in a web of alternating crooked and dumb Feds as they try to protect Wendy.

American flag? Check! Empty jacuzzi? Check! White dude? Check!  
Yeah, this guy is totally the villain.

As a springboard for a series, “Black and White” acquits itself well in its economical set up of the characters and their relationships.  This makes all the more sense when you realize Italian exploitation veteran Enzo G. Castellari both wrote and directed this intro into the world of Extralarge.  A veteran director who has worked in nearly every genre, Castellari affords the first entry the feel of a theatrical feature (subsequent entries aren’t as big looking). Surprisingly, with both men having film careers in Italy dating back to the 1960s, neither Castellari nor Spencer had previously worked together.  I guess they decided to get it all out of their system in one swoop as the man who let Mark Gregory walk gingerly through the Bronx helmed all 6 films in this first season.  The choice appears to have been the right one as Castellari knows the right ingredients to make an action picture work.  So when you see a massive 4X4 decked out in Confederate flags roll into the frame, you just know that bad boy is going to get stolen and used in a car chase. This actually results in a rather impressive car flip and stunt from Spencer’s double that I can’t tell was planned or not. With the superfluous dialogue added by Rochon to seemingly cover the gaffe and the fall’s rather unspectacular nature, I have to wonder if this tumble by Spencer’s stunt double wasn’t planned.  You be the judge.

Of course, the big (literally) draw here is Bud Spencer and fans might be surprised how much the man has aged in the six years since MIAMI SUPERCOPS (1985). With that film being Spencer’s last big theatrical hit in Italy (and his last film with Terence Hill up to this point), it makes sense that the filmmakers returned to this locale for this series.  While he was never Jackie Chan spry, Spencer in this series is a bit more Orson Welles and a bit less Paul Smith.  After all, the man was 61 when he shot this.  The character is adjusted accordingly, resulting in less fisticuffs and more dialogue on Spencer’s end.  That might be hard for folks not accustomed to his thick accent (to be fair, they give him little dialogue). Fans of his fist-to-face routine won’t be disappointed though as the finale in an abandoned warehouse offers plenty of that (and some shootouts as well).

With this initial episode, it is also pretty easy to see why Thomas signed onto the role.  First, he got to stay in his adopted locale of Miami and earn some cash. Second, he gets an opportunity to sing a song (he had released two albums by the time this series was being filmed). Finally, he gets an opportunity to be goofy.  After six years of relative seriousness on “Miami Vice,” one can understand Thomas’s desire to show off his funnier side.  From his goofy French accent (which his characters loses, only to retort to Spencer “what about your accent?”) to his losing out with the ladies, the role is as far removed from Ricardo Tubbs as a waist size 32 is from Bud Spencer.  I’d be lying if the long-established buddy relationship with Hill isn’t missed, but Thomas and Spencer have a nice onscreen rapport.

It is curious as to why this show never aired in the US market. It was shot in English with lots of Florida locales, so it wasn’t solely shot for Italian TV audiences.  The series got exposure worldwide (naturally, the Germans ate it up like a plate of beans), but not a single US release on syndicated TV, VHS or DVD.  Even with the subsequent huge success Rochon had in theatrical features in the ‘90s, it still hasn’t seen the light of a legit American release.  She is fine in her role and it certainly isn’t an embarrassing film, so I hope her agents didn’t attempt to block its release.  As it stands, the first episode is an amiable time killer that certainly gets the series off on the right FLATFOOT (all “boos” for that joke should be directed to Tom as it is his and I just stole it).