Badge 373 - Badge 373(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2019]During the 1970’s one of the key and highly popular variety of action movies/ thrillers were the 'tough cop stretching & break the rules' capers- with key films in this decade been the first two Dirty Harry film, The French Connection, and Serpico. Here from Powerhouse is a recent Blu ray release of one of the lesser-known 70’s film from this genre, Badge 373 finds Robert Duvall, as a suspended NYC cop trying to solve the murder of his partner. And while the film can be a bit plodding and slow in places, rife with both sexism and racism - it does have a certain amount of gritty and sleazy charm, and one or two neat enough action set-ups making it worth checking out for fans of 1970’s genre pictures.
Badge 373 appeared in 1973, and was the 13th and final film directed by film librarian, turned director Howard W. Koch- who was really more known for his work as producer been connect with the likes of The Manchurian Candidate, The Odd Couple, and Airplane 2, as well as US TV shows. Badge 373 is a well enough scoped and directed film- often nicely highlight the rundown and murky side of NYC in the 1970’s- much of the film is set at night, and Koch certainly mangers to capture the big city at night well, with it’s brooding shadows, stark car headlights, and sleazy twinkling neon.Roger Batty
Following on the popularity of the first Dirty Harry, and The French Connection with there based on real life cops lead character's, Badge 373 was roughly based around Eddie Egan- a no-nonsense NYC Police detective, who during his career was responsible for apparently 8’000 arrests. In the film, Duvall plays the lead role of Eddie Ryan- a chain-smoking, racist, and sexist’s cop- who during an undercover drug raid lets one of the key perpetrators fall off a building. The film begins with the Ryan character been suspending, and going to work as a barman- fairly soon his ex-partner turns up dead- so he decides to try & uncover who did it. As with this genre Ryan pulls, stretches and at times smashes the rules- we get rough handed encounters with coked-up prostitutes, underhanded street beatings, and a standout car smashing and property wreaking bus 'n' car chase. The Ryan character lives on the fold-out bed of his waitress girlfriend of five months, he has a broken marriage behind him- and while he’s clearly hardworking & sort of moral, he’s not a terribly likable character- liberal spurting racist digs, and sexist homophobic banter, as he constantly smokes- and I think this might be why the film didn’t rise to the popularity of other 1970’s films in the genre.
The other issue with the film is plodding, at times rather painful slow pacing of the film- as for most of the picture, we follow Duvall from one-night location after another, or driving in his car. We do get slight breaks in the night time city setting here and there, most notable of these are when he and his girlfriend's head off to a woodland cabin for a short time. On the positive side, Duvall has always been a good & watchable actor, so his presence keeps you with the film, even though the character he’s playing isn’t too pleasant. The soundtrack is good, if fairly standard for the genre with a blend big and dramatic horn lead main theme, Latin percussion lined funk and jazz workouts, and one or two dips into more brooding & angular mood making. We get a few action set-ups- be it night time shoots outs including neat gunplay on shipping crane action, and the already mentioned bus car chase. On the whole Badge 373 is a passable enough addition to the 70’s tough-cop genre- I just wish maybe the lead character was a bit more charismatic/likable, and there was a little bit more action.
The new print here looks good- with the highlight of it being the clear, balanced and even night time shots- which I’d imagine may well have been an issue on VHS and DVD releases on the film. On the extras side we get two around half-an-hour featurettes- first is an interview actor and former NYPD detective Randy Jurgensen- this sees him discussing his work connected with this film, and The French Connection as well as what Eddie Egan was like in real life. Next, we get Lethal Enforcers – this finds film critic/genre expert Glenn Kenny talking about the beginnings, and growth of the tough cop genre- this is a really excellent extra as it gives you a good overview of the whole genre, and important/ key films - and not just the film to hand.
This release of Badge 373 follows on from Powerhouse previous releases of similar lesser know films in this genre like The Stone Killer and The New Centurions- so it’s great to see the company dig deeper into the tough cop genre- and if you are a fan of 70’s gritty cop fare this really is worth picking up.