Monday, February 24, 2014

This Bud's for You: EXTRA LARGE: DIAMONDS (1993)

We've been on a rough streak with some less than stellar outings that have not only missed the boat, but slept through the wake-up call. Stories that tried to make Jack Costello everything but a Bud Spencer character. Today that all changes. Suddenly I've discovered what the Winter of our discontent was made glorious by... "Diamonds"! Shirley Bassey was right. They are, in fact, all I need to please me.

A money laundering agent for the Cuban mafia, Edward Pestor (Roger Pretto), decides he wants out of the life that has made him wealthy and take his daughter to live in Europe. In order to achieve this goal, he takes a massive cashe of uncut diamonds that were supposed to be exchanged for dirty money and decides to keep them, sending them back to the syndicate one by one every year that he's alive. Needless to say, the syndicate thinks this is a pretty lousy deal.

Meanwhile Dumas feels he is unappreciated by Costello and decides to go into the P.I. biz on his own, renting the apartment across from Jack's and even hiring a hot secretary (Jill Whitlow of the 1986 classic NIGHT OF THE CREEPS). He even sets up several signs advertising this fact including a giant "Dumas and Dumas" sign that covers the front of the building.

While making his plans, Pestor puts all the diamonds in a case and keeps it in the bank with the instructions that if he is to die, the diamonds are to be given to charity (who will then presumably all be arrested for receiving stolen goods). His brilliant plan, which included him telling everyone in the syndicate his brilliant plan, goes wildly awry when a group of incompetent bank robbers (disguised as Bush, Gorbachev and Castro) pick the wrong day to hold up the bank. The shipment of cash has just gone out and the only thing in the safe is Pestor's case of diamonds. On the way out, they take Dumas as a hostage and discover his newly minted detective agency card.

Suddenly the robbers find out that their multi-million dollar pay day is a death sentence as both the cops and the mob want that case and the local fence (Buffy Dee of classics like MURPH THE SURF and NIGHTMARE BEACH) won't touch it with a ten-inch magnum.

Things get even more complicated when Pestor tries to hire Jack to find his case that has "sentimental value" and the robbers decide to put the case in Dumas' unwitting hands with a phony story that it's an inheritance for one Washington Brown. Naturally Dumas (or as the robbers accidentally call him "Dum-ass") finds a Washington Brown, leading to another genuinely funny subplot with an elderly janitor who flips his boss the bird on his way out.


I am honestly flabbergasted that this was made by the same people who were responsible for the previous drudgery. "Al" Capone hasn't shown a lick of flair in the direction department and Rosario Galli wrote the one of the worst things I've ever seen Bud Spencer appear in (aside from maybe the 1991 agonizing Christian propaganda kiddie flick SPEAKING OF THE DEVIL). Since there are four credited writers, aside from Galli, including Claudio Bonivento (normally a producer), Giuseppe Pedersoli (who doesn't seem to understand what makes his old man famous) and Bud Spencer himself, I can only come up with one conclusion. That Spencer burst into the writing room and bashed them all on the head with a fistful of Donald E. Westlake novels and locked Galli in the closet.

As evidence of this drastic turn, there are even jokes that are scripted to make use of Michael Winslow's talents! You'd think this would be a given, but not until now have they had that V-8 moment. In scene we have a bit in which he talks to his secretary via an intercom. The camera cuts to a wide shot to show the two a stone's throw away with Winslow disguising his voice to sound like an intercom. It is one of the many quick, funny gags that should have been the hallmark of this second series and hasn't been up till now. Matter of fact this is so far the only episode to allow Winslow to do much of anything and he actually is quite funny in the scenes that he's in. His little rivalry with Jack is an entertaining showcase for his none-too-subtle shtick and matching wardrobe.

In addition to the script hitting the nail on the head, someone seems to have injected some life into Capone as well. He shows some excellent, creative shot composition and shoots the action scenes at the correct angles so you can actually see the action! Sounds simple, but it's been a hard lesson for Al. Even the editing is excellently maneuvered. Larger scenes are broken up with cut-aways to funny little gags. For instance while the robbers are fleeing the cops in an armored car, we have a cut away to Costello coming home with a bag of groceries and casually squirting ketchup over is shoulder all of a "Dumas and Dumas" sign.

Not only that, but the lack of stars has been rectified here with a plethora of great character actors in addition to the aforementioned Jill Whitlow and Buffy Dee, we have Glenn Scherer (of Bill Rebane's 1975 RANA: THE LEGEND OF SHADOW LAKE), stuntman Dennis Deveaugh as a thug who doesn't like children, Ulrich Mühe (of pretty much every movie ever made in Germany), Alfie Wise (from damn near every Burt Reynolds movie of the '70s and '80s) and Luke Halpin (of 1977s SHOCKWAVES and star of the iconic 1964 show "Flipper"). Did I miss anyone? I'm sure I did, but don't hold it against me, there is only so much awesomeness that I can absorb in one sitting. I'm a man, flesh and blood!

Hopefully we've crested the hump and can look forward to the final two hotly anticipated final episodes being even half as much fun as this one. I mean, you can't go wrong with Ninjas and CHiPs, which incidentally is my new favorite bar snack.


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