The Seven-Ups is an average 1970s police drama with an above-average car chase sequence thrown into the mix. It marked Roy Scheider's first crack at carrying a movie on his own, and Scheider fans should enjoy his performance here. Twilight Time's Blu-ray (limited to 3,000 units) has more bonus materials than their usual releases, and the A/V quality here is impressive for a movie of this age. Recommended.
After the success of the Oscar-winning The French Connection in 1971, 20th Century Fox was anxious to revisit the gritty crime-drama genre. This resulted not only in 1975's The French Connection II, but in the earlier – and slightly more entertaining – The Seven-Ups, which was directed by The French Connection's producer, Philip D'Antoni; based on a real-life story by one of The French Connection's technical consultants – real-life former NYPD detective Sonny Grosso; and even stars The French Connection's co-star, Roy Scheider, in his first crack at lead actor. One would think all that would add up to another hit film, but The Seven-Ups feels rather standard, although it does feature one heck of a fun car chase.
Scheider stars as New York City cop Buddy Manucci, who is part of a crack squad of fellow officers who bend the rules a bit in order to nail thugs whose conviction in court will be seven years or more. Hence, their nickname, "The Seven-Ups". But it turns out that Buddy's team isn't the only ones going after the city's bad guys. There have been a series of kidnappings of mob loan sharks, who are being shaked down for ransom money. Little does Buddy know (although he will soon find out) that the man behind the kidnappings is his top informant and good friend, Vito (Tony Lo Bianco). Buddy's interest in the kidnappings turns to anger and the quest for revenge when one of his fellow squad buddies is gunned down by Vito's two hired henchmen (played fiendishly by Richard Lynch and Bill Hickman).
The highlight of the movie, by far, is a car chase that comes around the midpoint of the film and probably takes up about 15 minutes of screen time. The sequence was designed by stuntman Bill Hickman (who conveniently plays the driver of the bad guys' car), who also choreographed the great car sequences in both The French Connection and Bullitt. This chase involves the henchmen in a Pontiac Grand Ville being chased by Scheider's character in a Pontiac Ventura Sprint. The pursuit goes through Manhattan, across the George Washington Bridge, and onto the Palisades Interstate Parkway in New Jersey...and it's great fun to watch if you're into such things. Of course, it doesn't hurt that in 1973, stuntmen were still using real cars on real roads with no CGI enhancements. The chase looks and feels "real" and it alone is enough to make this title recommended.
Where The Seven-Ups disappoints is simply in terms of a more defined/complex screenplay. The story is pretty simple here, and despite that great sequence I described above, there's not a whole lot more worth tuning in for. Because the car chase happens at the movie's midpoint, the climax – which involves both a shootout and Buddy finally confronting Vito about what he's done – can't be anything but a letdown considering what came before it. The film also suffers from a characterization problem. We learn very little about any of these characters outside the plot they are involved in. If Buddy has a home, a family, or any interests outside of being a detective, we never learn about them...in fact, I don't think the movie ever even shows where he lives.
But thanks to that impressive car chase, a pretty well-photographed film (by cinematographer Urs Furrer), and the charisma of Scheider (although not nearly as good here as he would be a couple years later in a small movie about a shark), The Seven-Ups is worth picking up. The film, plus the impressive transfer and nice selection of bonus materials on the Blu-ray, all add up to a title that comes recommended, if not as enthusiastically as I had hoped (this review was my first exposure to the movie).
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Seven-Ups mixes it up on Blu-ray with this Twilight Time release (provided to the distributor by 20th Century Fox) that is limited to 3,000 copies. The 50GB disc comes packaged inside a clear Elite keepcase along with a six-page booklet with an essay about the film by Julie Kirgo. There are no front-loaded trailers on the Blu-ray, whose main menu features the same artwork that graces the box cover with menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is region-free.
The Seven-Ups was shot on 35mm film using the Arriflex 35BL and is presented here in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There were some early reports when this title was announced that the movie was getting a full 4K restoration for this release. However, nothing currently on the Twilight Time website (www.screenarchives.com) or anything on the box cover or the enclosed booklet says anything about it. So while I can't confirm that this is a 4K restoration (after all, the Blu-ray only plays back in 1080p), I can confirm that the image here looks wonderful.
Aside from a moment or two in the very opening credits, the print appears to be virtually free of any dirt, debris, or glitches that are common with a film of this age. While grain is evident in every shot, it's never obtrusive, even in some of The Seven-Ups darkest sequences. Details are strong, without giving the impression that they've been over-sharpened or suffer from the over-application of DNR. Skin tones are mostly consistent throughout. There is some occasional shimmering during camera pans (particularly across cityscapes), but those were the only flaws I picked up on.
In short, this is likely one of the better transfers of an older title we'll see all year from a studio. It's impressive enough that it made me wonder why 20th Century Fox (who provided the transfer to Twilight Time) didn't think enough of their movie to give it a full-blown studio release. Regardless, if you're a serious movie collector and/or a Roy Scheider fan, you'll want to pick this title up before the 3,000 copies available vanish.
Aside from two isolated music tracks and a director's commentary (all detailed below in our Supplements section), the only audio offered here is an English 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mono track. Since the movie was released with a mono track back in 1973, this is a fairly representative presentation of how the film sounded in theaters. Although mono, the playback is actually in 2.0, with the same audio coming out of both the right and left speakers. This is also true of the bonus tracks offered on this disc.
As mono tracks go, this one sounds great, without the hint of any glitches, muddiness, or dropouts. Yes, it does sound a little "flat" at times, but that's to be expected from a mono track of a movie that's 45 years old. So while it won't "wow" you, the audio here is more than serviceable for this release.
Subtitles are available in English SDH.
Audio Commentary – Richard Harland Smith of Turner Classic Movies hosts this commentary of the movie, which is loaded with historical facts and trivia about the film. While Smith is obviously using notes to give his presentation (resulting in some dialogue that seems scripted rather than natural) this is a great track that is certainly worth a listen.
Isolated Music Track of the Don Ellis Film Score – Don Ellis's score sounds more like it was designed for a thriller or horror movie than for a film such as this one, but here's your chance to hear his work sans dialogue or other ambient noises. Like the featured audio track, it's presented in 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio.
Isolated Music Track of the Unused Johnny Mandel Score – Mandel, who scored such movies as M*A*S*H and The Verdict wrote a score for this movie, but it was rejected. Here, viewers get a chance to hear what they missed, although it's unclear whether the tracks are placed in the moments of the movie where they would have been used. It's a more typical score for a cop movie than the one done by Ellis, which may be why it was turned down.
Introduction by Director-Producer Philip D'Antoni (HD 0:10) – An extremely short thank you from The Seven-Up's director.
The Seven-Ups Connection (HD 21:32) – Wondering why Philip D'Antoni gave such a short intro to the movie on the bonus feature above? It's because he doesn't think much of his movie...it's something he did, released, and promptly forgot about. Still, the director-producer gives 20-plus minutes worth of interview footage here discussing his film career.
A Tony Lo Bianco Type (HD 18:07) – The actor discusses his role in the movie and the actors he worked with.
Real to Real (HD 24:48) – Technical Adviser Randy Jurgensen (a former NYPD detective) talks about how real-live police events inspired the story of The Seven-Ups.
Cut to the Chase (HD 13:51) – A look at the big car chase sequence in the movie.
Anatomy of a Chase: Behind the Scenes of the Filming of The Seven-Ups (SD 8:18) – This is an archival featurette from 1973 that takes a look at the making of the movie, focusing primarily on the film's big car chase.
Randy Jurgensen's Scrapbook (HD 2:58) – A slideshow of behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot, narrated by Jurgensen.
Super 8 Version (HD 16:19) – Rough-looking Super 8 footage of select scenes from the movie shown in the full-frame format.
Lobby Cards, Stills, and Media Gallery (HD 2:10) – A slide show of various promotional images for the movie.
Original Theatrical Trailer (SD 2:18) – The original trailer for The Seven-Ups.
Teaser Trailer (SD 1:10) – The original teaser trailer for The Seven-Ups.
Although The Seven-Ups has some similarities to The French Connection (including participants behind and in front of the camera), it can't quite match the magic of that Oscar-winning movie, instead offering up a rather standard police drama whose biggest highlight is a fantastic car chase sequence. Still, a strong lead performance by Roy Scheider, an impressive transfer, and a nice selection of bonus materials make this Twilight Time release one that is Recommended.