Lieutenant Tonelli (Richard S. Castellano) raced up the steps as fast as he could for a round man like himself. Out of breath he took charge of the crime scene. What now? You could see it washed over his face, he’d seen it all, it was a constant in his life. Crime of New York City coming at him twenty four seven. “What’s it this time?” he shouts. The duty cop replies, “It’s another bomb threat from those Puerto Rican National Liberation Front lot.” “You gotta be kidding! Not them again!” He takes a deep breathe, exhales, and shakes his head whilst rubbing his temples. “I gotta feeling it’s gonna be another goddamn New York day!” He wasn’t wrong. Lt Tonelli would soon be caught up with the carnage about to hit his New York streets.
Not far away, running late, was Sean Boyd (James Brolin). He had just finished his work shift driving trucks. Hurrying through the busy streets to get back to his little girl, his sweetheart, Kathy (Abby Bluestone). It was his daughter’s birthday and her mum had let her spend it with Dad. She preferred him. They all knew it. He was always fun. Sean picks up hot dogs on his way. Sean banters with the vendor who replies, “You can’t kill New York and you certainly can’t kill the hotdog!“. Sean smiled as he bags the food, breakfast sorted. He was ready to surprise her with tickets for the ballet and a trip to Ronnie MacDonald after. She was on a diet and she would let him know but this was daddy time. First, she had to go to school, he walked with her halfway through the busy park. They split before they would meet later. As soon as he turns his back… She is snatched with a YELL!
Tagline – In the heart of every victim is a hero and he’ll tear apart a city to prove it.
Gus Soltic the Mole Man (Cliff Gorman) was a troubled young man. Maybe autistic? He was alone and bitter. His whole world, his neighbourhood, had changed. The urban landscape laid in ruins. Left to rot. Crime had risen, buildings and shops vacant and murder, rape, and crime, filled every day. He was lost, damaged, and consumed with hatred. He wanted money to compensate his misgivings. Many hours he planned how. To kidnap the teenage daughter of a wealthy businessman. To demand a million dollars ransom or he would do unimaginable things. His prey ran through the park routinely. Every school day at the same time. He’d wait. She’d come to him. Then he would grab her in pure daylight. Pull her straight into his car. So quick that no one would even notice as the busy bustling Central Park carried on doing its thing. His plan was perfect. It went off like clockwork. The only problem? Gus didn’t realise he’d kidnapped the wrong girl… This was Sean’s little girl, and he was gonna tear the city apart like a bulldozer.
Sean Boyd looked like Serpico. They had both gone down similar paths. Both New York City cops that had blew the whistle on the rampant corruption deep within the force. Sean had lost his job as a result. He was now a delivery truck driver. Still his NYPD blood pumped through his veins and it exploded him into action. The second he heard his girl scream he was running on a war path and Gus hadn’t written that option into his perfect executed plans. Panicked, he drives, ploughing through cars, pedestrians and traffic signs. This was a busy park. The carnage and disarray threw people running in all directions. Sean was focused. Eyes on his daughter. He never tired. The adrenaline fired him to the max. Each time Gus got the better of him, Sean would surprise him. Whether it was help from a concerned and overeager cab driver Allesandro (Mandy Patinkin). Screaming “Son of a bitch wants to play chicken hey?” as his jumps the curb in fast pursuit. Too fast. Crash! The cabbie is out of the picture and Sean is back on foot tearing down the 42nd Street, Manhattan. The chase is frantic. He’s twisted his ankle, it could be broken. Never stops running. Gus and Kathy in sight all the time… Then they are gone…
The path of destruction went back for many blocks. Steam rose from car radiators, broken fenders blocked roads as irate drivers blasted their horns and threw out profanities in frustration. The streets were filled with anger. The cops had to stop it. Frantically, Sean had been beaten down and arrested. He was the chief suspect for this City wide carnage. Roughly, he was dragged to the busy public hospital to have his leg looked at. Sean was obviously mad. No one would listen to him. Lt Tonelli turns up. Could he clean up this mess? “You’ll a frigging one man riot Boyd! Hit and run, assaulting a transit officer, grand theft auto. For crying out loud Boyd don’t you know that stuff is against the law.” Sean Boyd replies in earnest, “It was a ten thirteen, I was pursuing a felon.” “I know, I know but Boyd you forgot one thing? You ain’t a cop no more.” Lt Tonelli demands Sean be taken down the precinct, file a report whilst getting him off the street before he gets killed or others while trying.
Tagline – HE IS FIGHTING BACK…NOW, THE HUNTED IS THE HUNTER!
Nothing holds Sean back. He recalls that the kidnapper, possibly, dropped something around 42nd street. It was the last place on the chase before he lost them. He was vaguely sure one of the porno girls picked it up out a peepshow. Slim, short dark hair. He tied to picture her. It could be something? But first he had to escape the precinct and a sadistic Sergeant (Dan Hedaya) with nothing but pure hatred for this snitching ex-cop.
Lt Tonelli will soon join the dots together when a call comes in from a wealthy household complaining that a psychotic man keeps phoning demanding money for their kidnapped daughter. If the ransom is not received at the given time she will be cut up into little pieces. The teenage girl was still at home? Was this madman implying that he would take her? Lt Tonelli bugs the phones and tries to negotiate. Could the Lieutenant puzzle together the identity of the abductor, his whereabouts, the motives and also help this young girl before anything tragic happened. And hopefully stop another runaway freight train smash rampaging through his city bringing even more paperwork for him to write out! It was gonna be a hectic day…
A Few Things…
- Night of the Juggler was written in the mid seventies by author William P McGivern. He had worked for a few years as a police reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin which may give to the realism of this stories. Juggler is later in his career that had seen three fantastic film story lines he had penned being turned into film. Like Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) with Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan and The Big Heat (1953) starring Glen Ford and Gloria Grahame and also the Edmond O’Brien cop goes real naughty, Shield For Murder (1954).
- Director Sidney J Furie, who had directed one of my favourite spy dramas starring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File (1965), had started work on Juggler. During the intense chase action scene it is said that James Brolin managed to break his leg. You can see in the film that he ends up limping a lot. This brought on tensions during the production leading to Furie being replaced by director Robert Butler. Both directors have numerous accolades in film and television. To me, there didn’t feel like any break in the quality of the action to where the cross over may of been.
- Sean Boyd’s visit to the peep show is frenzied and riotous. It’s funny and seriously bonkos! I believe, from what I read, the peepshow booth itself was actually a set piece they had knocked up. The whole sex club walk through foyer is a truly brilliant and a wonderfully chaotic scene.
- During his frantic tearing through the streets he gets a helping hand from a beautiful Latina in the fine form of Julie Carmen who plays Maria. She’s a much more classy version to Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) from The Warriors (1979). Night of the Juggler has a vibe of Walter Hill’s street gang classic, what with it being filmed in the same era. Juggler was her debut film. Julie Carmen will be known to many dribbling young lads as the super sexy vampiress Regine Dandrige in Fright Night Part 2 (1988). Oh my days she was so darn hot! Julie also starred alongside Sam Neill in John Carpenter’s horror In the Mouth of Madness (1994).
- James Brolin made a great low budget cult movie in The Car (1977) and a couple of my fav science fiction movies in Westworld (1973) and Capricorn One (1977). Richard S. Castellano played Clemenza in the daddy of gangster movies, The Godfather (1972). Cliff Gorman was the gangster rapping Italian Sonny Valerio in the great Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999). Mandy Patinkin, in a small but fun part, is a familiar face on TV from being in hit shows like Dead Like Me, Criminal Minds and the recent Homeland. Which leaves Dan Hedaya who’s known for The Usual Suspects (1995), Mulholland Drive (TV1999/2001) and the Coen Brothers brilliant debut Blood Simple (1984).
I may of mapped out the beginning but don’t worry there’s so much more. This movie is frantic, exciting and right in your face. It’s a pure fire adrenaline rush of a film. I noticed a review with the title “A Time Capsule of Sleazy NYC” that suits it down to a tee. Being filmed in mid 1978 it really shows NYC in all it’s wild grittiness. When you witness the chase scene you can only imagine it was caught on the fly, in a guerrilla style of film-making. I just couldn’t imagine, in anyway, that the department of New York City would of sanctioned the carnage of the chase though the main streets. However in the closing credits there’s a big thank you to the police, water board and the parks and recreations board “for their exceptional cooperation.” I was surprised, hehe.
The mind-blowing problem with Night of the Juggler is when you go try and find it. For some reason it never got a released on DVD let alone Blu-ray! I have no idea why? Please let me know if you have knowledge to this or better still, if you know of an impending future release. So as I type the only way to watch it is in VHS quality rips that have been uploaded to Youtube. The quality is very grainy and in a few scenes, so dark you can’t quite work out what going on. However, luckily these are only a few times. The main bulk of the action, in the daylight, is there for all to see. So, on a plus side it’s amazing that you can get a fantastic chance to watch this movie but it’s unfortunate that it’s the best you can get, at this time. Like the film I reviewed called Enemy Territory (1987) you can add it to the, “crying out for a proper release“, list. If you want to see it, you have to embrace the old ways and take yourself back to the time when you wouldn’t of even battered an eyelid to the quality. Night of the Juggler is here to stream. However feel free to try a few of the uploads, there’s lots of them, as one might be better than an other.
For me, it gets a solid wolfie rating of 8.5/10 and the hope of watching it again real soon in high-definition?
Hope you get to see it, feel free to pop back and let me know if you do. If you have seen it? What did you think?
Happy viewing…….. Mikey Wolf.