Sunday, May 30, 2010

THE SEVEN-UPS (1973) - pre-dating French Connection II in the "French Connection-sploitation" sweepstakes

whoever is driving the car apparently doesn't think much of Coppola's use of citrus symbolism in The Godfather

When a movie stars Roy Scheider and Tony LoBianco, and it's about a group of cops that work on the proverbial edge (i.e. search warrants are for chick officers), and it's directed by the producer of The French Connection, and it's loaded with NYC street grit, you know the film is grabbing the "French Connection-sploitation" ball and running with it, plowing over Billy Friedkin on the way to the end zone.

Ripping off The French Connection may seem like an easy task at first glance, but several issues become apparent right off the bat. For one, the dude that made this movie seems to think he assimilated Billy Friedkin's style by watching him direct. This approach rarely works, as it is the internal vision that makes a director successful, not their on set commands and shot list. Secondly, getting good sound when shooting location exteriors in NYC must be nigh impossible, considering the amount of looped dialogue in the film. It makes sense though; you're trying to record a conversation near the Hudson River, and on top of the sound of the water, there's a ferry sailing by, loud ass pelicans carrying on rude conversations, and fat fucks complaining about their sports teams ("whattsamatta u A-Rod!"). Not to mention, it's pretty hard to keep a scene going when a dead hooker floats to the nearby surface.

The villain here is played by Richard Lynch, who can easily be identified as such, being that his face is burnt. You know a guy with a burnt face is the bad guy, because, for one, he must've done something pretty awful for someone to want to burn his face like that, and, secondly, he must be pretty bitter about having a face that looks like an Eggo waffle left unattended in the toaster. Richard, despite being a superb actor, always seems to play the heavy in a film, and his face always seems to be burnt, ergo...don't fuck with the crispy headed dude.

The plot involves Roy Scheider and his group of Seven-Ups, a "top secret police organization" (or so the police chief announces to the press), as they become embroiled with Mr. Lynch's money making scheme; that is, kidnapping mobsters and selling them back to the mafia (I think "ransom" is the legal term). I would imagine there are safer ways to make money (like hunting for grizzly bear pelts), but I guess Mr. Lynch is a special breed of bad ass. I, for one, would never do anything to upset the Cosa Nostra (or, to stay on the safe side, the Cosi Fan Tutti for that matter).

What separates the film from being a mediocre made for TV entry in the "French Connection-sploitation" genre is a pseudo-horror score (maybe not the best fit, but pretty cool on its own), and a bad ass car chase scene through NYC traffic (basically a cross between the French Connection car chase and the Bullitt car chase). Unfortunately, I have to knock the scene down a peg, being that a bunch of kids are narrowly missed not once, but twice. I am a bit offended that such a golden opportunity was wasted; I would've stood up and cheered to see a kinder-collision and aftermath, complete with a severed kiddie arm still clutching a teddy bear, twitching on the open road.

I was also glad to see Joe Spinell in a minor role, although I believe he was in every single NYC movie shot in the seventies, probably by union rules (never fuck with a Spinell teamster, btw). Also, the always reliable Roy Scheider does his best with slim material and confused direction, but I doubt he currently views The Seven-Ups in the highest regard...oh wait, he's dead. Never mind.


  1. Silly review. Started off funny. But I for one, think it's shit that Scheider id dead!

  2. @anonymous
    well, his "id" lives on, but yes, his earthly body has passed (unless that was a typo, in which, yes, I do agree that him being dead is shitty. But, alas, he did many great roles beyond JAWS, and those films continue to live on (COHEN AND TATE is a good one that gets overlooked).

    Also, it may be silly, but comedy is serious business.

  3. Hey the movie deserved better, But did you notice while the Buddy in both movies was the same cop, they had different last names in each movie. He was Manucci in this one. But it did have a good spare style and a no BS approach which made it quaint compared to all the buddy action movies that came to dominate this genre

  4. Just re Lynch, his face always looked burnt because he actually WAS burnt in real life. Set himself on fire while under the influence of drugs in the sixties. Ugh. Great actor though.

  5. @anonymous2
    Yes, great actor. I didn't know about the drug thing. I'd think I'd have to ingest a ton of drugs just to build up the courage to set myself on fire.

  6. "Hey, I'm really sorry about your partner. I bet he was a really great guy, yeah?"
    "He was alright."
    For me, that sums up the way this movie is underplayed. Beautifully shot by Urs Furrer, and an effective, sparsely-used score by Don Ellis, great acting all round. This is a minor classic of early 70s cop cinema.