Theater screens of the 70’s were awash in blue as the “tough guy cop” film put a chokehold on Hollywood. DIRTY HARRY Callahan took on punks in a series of action flicks, SERPICO took down corruption in New York, and L.A. detective Joseph Wambaugh’s novels were adapted into big (and small) screen features. Producer Philip D’Antoni helped usher in this modern take on film noir with 1968’s BULLITT starring Steve McQueen, followed by the Oscar-winning THE FRENCH CONNECTION , with Gene Hackman as brutal cop Popeye Doyle.
D’Antoni decided to direct his next effort, 1973’s THE SEVEN-UPS. CONNECTION costar Roy Scheider gets his first top-billed role as Buddy Manucci, head of an elite “dirty tricks” squad that takes down perps whose felonies will land them seven years and up in jail (hence the title; it has nothing to do with the lemon-lime soda!). Manucci’s childhood pal Vito Lucia (Tony LoBianco) is an informer giving Buddy tips on criminal activities in The Big Apple. Mobster Max Kallish is a target, until he’s kidnapped and ransomed for $100g’s. When a second gangland figure is snatched, Buddy senses something’s going down in the streets. What he doesn’t sense is his friend Vito’s the mastermind behind the mob kidnappings, playing both ends against the middle.
This sets the stage for action, double-crosses, and one of D’Antoni’s signature car chases through the streets of New York that almost (but not quite) matches THE FRENCH CONNECTION in intensity. Staged by ace stunt driver Bill Hickman (who also plays one of Vito’s thuggish partners-in-crime), it takes us on a ten minute joyride through Manhattan, across the George Washington Bridge, down New Jersey’s Palisades International Parkway, and ends on Tacoima State Parkway with Buddy’s car smashing into the rear of a semi, tearing the top off and almost decapitating him ala Jayne Mansfield!
Scheider was Gene Hackman’s costar in FRENCH CONNECTION, and takes the lead here as Buddy. Two years later, he’d star in the shark shocker JAWS, followed by hits like MARATHON MAN, ALL THAT JAZZ (a personal favorite), BLUE THUNDER, 2010, and 52 PICK-UP. LoBianco is probably best known for the cult chiller THE HONEYMOON KILLERS. Richard Lynch plays Moon, Vito’s other goon, and was the villain in scores of 70’s and 80’s films. Other in the cast were Larry Haines, Ken Kercheval (of TV’s DALLAS), Victor Arnold, and real-life NYC homicide detective Jerry Leon.
Sonny Grosso, another real NY cop, wrote the story based on true life incidents. Grosso was the basis for Scheider’s character in FRENCH CONNECTION. Jazzman Don Ellis once again provides the score, and DP Urs Furrer (SHAFT) captures the grittiness of early 70’s New York. As for Philip D’Antoni, he moved to the small screen after THE SEVEN-UPS, producing the series MOVIN’ ON, about a pair of cross-country truckers (Claude Aikins, Frank Converse) and their exploits on the road. D’Antoni never directed again, and that’s a shame, because THE SEVEN-UPS is a well-paced thriller. It may not be as fondly remembered as BULLITT or THE FRENCH CONNECTION, but the movie doesn’t disappoint in the action department, and is worth a look for genre fans.