Crime Busters

Director: E.B. Clucher (Enzo Barboni)       
Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, David Huddleston

There's a certain part in our minds, deep deep down, that can appreciate the most sophomoric humor possible. All that needs to be triggered is that this kind of humor be presented in just the correct way. At least, that's what I think; after watching Crime Busters, it's the only explanation I have for enjoying this movie so much. This movie is almost two hours of the most juvenile, slapstick humor ever put on film, playing like it was written during someone's lunch hour. Protesting about anything in this movie is in vain. So help me, I couldn't stop laughing throughout this movie - it weirdly brilliant, combining amateurish and unsubtle things all together to become ingenious. And I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking this way, because this formula with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer was repeated almost endlessly.

For those not familiar with the comedy team of Hill and Spencer, a short explanation. The two Italian actors were originally in serious movies; their first team-up together, the 1969 God Forgives...I Don't, was a gritty spaghetti western. But then they were placed in the slapstick spaghetti western They Call Me Trinity (widely available on public domain video labels), and something clicked. The movie was a big It's hammer time! success, calling in a sequel, and more Hill/Spencer teamings where although the locations and names would change, the formula would stay the same: The lean Hill would play a forever smiling, quick-witted and conniving fellow who would bump into the fat, bearded Spencer, a grouchy loner who just wanted to eat and be alone, and have nothing to do with this annoying fellow. Circumstances (and Hill's persistence) would team them together, and during their shenanigans, would get into several slap-and-kick fights with various groups of people, climaxing in one big fight where the two of them would get into a large scale (yet still goofy in nature) hand-to-hand combat with a larger group of villains.

Perhaps the feel and type of humor of these movies can be illustrated with Crime Busters' opening scene. At the docks of Miami, drifter Wilbur (Spencer), wearing a jacket with "JUMBO" written on the back, is driven into the area, standing on the cargo area of a forklift. Getting off, he goes to the dock's office trailer, and asks the foreman if there's a chance of him getting work. No, boss' orders, says the man. The foreman's three associates then pull up in a car, and Wilbur asks them if he can get a job. "Yeah, just kick back 30%," he's told. But, he states, if I give 30%, there'll be nothing left. I gotta eat. "Already you're fat! Keep slim!" is the response.

Wilbur protests at this, eloquently stating his position: "You're right....but if I can't eat, I can't go to the toilet. And if I can't go to the toilet, you know, it makes me, uh, nervous....unhappy. That ain't so good...." He places his foot on one of the front tires, and After several minutes without a new fight sequence, Hill and Spencer no longer hide their dissatisfaction naturally, his immense bulk causes the tire to deflate. Angry at this, the men start swinging at him, but he soon has them on the ground with some forceful punches, but mostly with slaps on the face, which sound as loud as two billiard balls brought together with great force. The victor, he picks up a nearby sledgehammer and states, "Now....why didn't you tell me there was a car to junk?" Sledgehammer in hand, he then starts to completely smash up their car. You see what I mean: Pure comic genius.

For a long time, it seems like there will be no plot in this movie. Matt (Hill), a runaway sailor, enters the area not long after Wilbur leaves, and finds himself giving the rude men another beating, and disabling their second car. Then when the men catch up with Matt and Wilbur, the duo manage to turn the tables, and force the men to smash up their third car. When Wilbur subsequently brushes off Matt, Matt pulls a prank and gets three men from the insane asylum to try and take Wilbur to the funny farm (needless to say, they don't get very far.) Now it's time for the five minutes of plot: Wilbur subsequently joins with Matt, reluctantly, and the two plan to rob a supermarket. During their execution of the plan, they bungle things so badly (a very funny sequence), that they find themselves joining the police department! The rest of the movie is mostly an excuse to show vignettes of them patrolling the city, getting into fist fights with the occasional gang of no-gooders, finally leading to the incredible climactic fight in a bowling alley with 18 opponents, using only their hands, feet, and anything in reach to fight off the villains.

Even after watching a number of their films, I am still at a loss as to fully explain the appeal of Hill and Spencer movies. My impression is that you'll either love them or hate them, though if you love them, you too will find it hard to explain why. I am certain that a lot of the appeal comes from the actors themselves. Hill's smiling, energetic behavior, and carefree attitude is very catchy, and you'll be impressed by his acrobatic skills. But Spencer is the one who steals the show; his fed-up looks, slow burns, Your typical American street gang, and their wheels mutterings under his breath, and low-key sarcastic exclamations are hilarious. What's amazing is that he and Hill are dubbed. Though the dubbing doesn't always match the lips, and the characters at times talk oddly (people use the word "turd", instead of a more familiar synonym,) the dubbing quality overall is quite good, mainly because the dubbing team chose perfect voice actors for the duo. Their voices seem just perfect for the look and attitude of the characters. Spencer's gruff voice seems so appropriate, that I was shocked, when watching the movie Five Man Army, to hear Spencer's actual voice, which was very Italian and higher-pitched. It just didn't seem right; that's how well done the dubbing is here. Whoever did Spencer's voice seems to have had a lot of fun, instead of just treating it as another dubbing job.

The movie is essentially an exercise in slapstick humor. For example, when Wilbur smashes his fist down on someone head, we hear the sound of a gong. When the two pretend Wilbur is deaf, they perform impromptu mock sign language, involving pulling a lot of funny faces. At the police academy, Wilbur asks for a XXX large uniform. Yes, but somehow it's very funny. There are also a lot of bizarre moments that make you wonder just what Italians find funny. After a shoot-out, one cop says, "Fifteen minutes after we got the call, they were lying on the table in the morgue. And by afternoon, their rotten brains were floating in formaldehyde in the criminal museum!" When Matt and Wilbur later break up a fight between feuding brothers, the brothers ask the pair how much they could get for their father's corpse at the morgue. Also, the view of America through Italian eyes is unintentionally hilarious at times. For one thing, it seems Italians think the typical American street gang is leaded by a Caucasian named "Geronimo" who wears face paint and is in full Native American dress, that the leader and his gang drive around in a 1930s hot rod, all the while wearing top hats and bowler hats.

The movie, running 115 minutes, is too long for its own good. I, for one, could have done without the minor subplot concerning the Chinese immigrants, which not only is somewhat leaden and sappy, but has some stereotypes that are somewhat offensive. The fact that there are quite a few other vignettes in the movie that, though funny at times, really do While Hill practices for his Playgirl shoot, Spencer fights off horny fans nothing for the plot makes the movie cry out for an editor. (The movie was shortened by 17 minutes for its American theatrical release, and it was surely one of the few times a foreign film was improved by being editing by its American distributor.) But, so help me, I liked this movie, warts and all. I really can't explain anything more about why I enjoyed this infantile movie so much; you just have to trust me on it. Maybe I'll review another Hill and Spencer movie in the future, Odds And Evens, just so I can describe how Spencer uses a frying pan in an exercise of sophisticated humor that, had Oscar Wilde had the chance to see, would have had him seething in envy.

I received this message from Roel Haanen:

"Greetings from The Netherlands. First of all: I enjoy your site very much.
"Reason I’m writing this e-mail is to point out a small error in your review of Crime Busters. You wrote:
Spencer's gruff voice seems so appropriate, that I was shocked, when watching the movie Five Man Army, to hear Spencer's actual voice, which was very Italian and higher-pitched.
"That was probably Glauco Onorato’s voice you heard. You see, Bud Spencer’s own voice is seldom heard in the movies, even in the Italian versions of his pictures he was dubbed a lot of the time (mostly by Onorato), reportedly because of his accent. In real life his voice was really low and heavy sounding. Check out some interview clips on YouTube.
"I do agree with you that the English dubbing of Spencer is great in most movies. If you hear Spencer speaking in a Jersey accent, like Crime Busters, it’s probably voice-actor Edward Mannix you’re hearing.
"Keep up the good work!"

Thanks for the correction, Roel!

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See also: Mr. Billion, Renegade, Watch Out, We're Mad