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Boston cops search for a bomber who has been targeting politicians.
On a cold November day in Boston, Det. Eileen McHenry begins a new assignment at the 87th precinct, working undercover to foil a rapist who has been assaulting women in the park. The normally chaotic 87th is even more frenetic while the station house is being repainted by two wise-cracking municipal painters. As the nightshift personnel start to leave, Det. Meyer Meyer receives what he thinks is a crank phone call from a man stating that he wants $5,000 or he will kill Parks Commissioner Cooper. When Det. Bert Kling gets a similar call asking that the money be placed in a lunch pail behind a grave in a nearby cemetery, they begin to take the call seriously. Meanwhile, Det. Steve Carella is working undercover posing as a hobo to apprehend an arsonist who has been setting local vagrants on fire. While pretending to be in a drunken stupor, Carella is attacked by two assailants, teenagers Jimmy and Baby, who set his coat on fire. Although he tries to catch the arsonists, they flee as Carella frantically disentangles himself from the burning coat. The next morning, while Carella, who has burned his hands, is visited in the hospital by his loving, deaf-mute wife Teddy, Kling and Det. Arthur Brown stake out the cemetery where the lunch pail has been placed. When a man picks up the pail then dashes off, Kling and Brown pursue him on foot, then onto a subway car, where they observe him from a distance. When the man opens the lunch pail and finds only wooden blocks, Kling and Brown follow him as he leaves the train and enters a neighborhood pool hall. Hours later, as Cooper leaves St. Pius church, he is killed by a sniper's bullet. After hearing of the murder, Police Commissioner Nelson angrily calls the world-weary Lt. Byrnes, who heads the 87th, and orders him to keep on the investigation, even though Byrnes argues that St. Pius is in another precinct. A short time later, a small boy delivers to the desk sergeant an extortion note comprised of pasted together newspaper letters demanding that $50,000 be placed near a bench in the Boston Commons or Deputy Mayor Scanlon will be killed. The innocent boy reveals that the man who gave him the letter wears a hearing aid, prompting the detectives to dub him "The Deaf Man." After police learn that the pickup man at the cemetery is Anthony La Bresca, they place a wiretap on his phone, after which Brown overhears Tony's call from a man they identify as Pete Schroeder, who talks about their "caper" and arranges to meet Tony at Sam's. Although Meyer goes undercover to follow the men, he loses them, much to the consternation of Byrnes. The next day, in Boston Commons, some of the detectives on surveillance include Meyer and Carella, dressed as nuns, and McHenry and Kling, who have started a flirtation, posing as a couple making love in a sleeping bag. When a young man briskly walks to the lunch pail and picks it up, the detectives jump into action, but McHenry and Kling cannot unzip their sleeping bag, another detective accidentally shoots himself in the foot and the man nearly gets away. At the station, questioning of the recalcitrant witness eventually reveals that he, too, has merely done the Deaf Man's bidding and is not directly connected to the crime. After releasing the man, the detectives speculate that the Deaf Man, whom the witness revealed is bald, knew that the lunch box would again be empty and his real purpose is to kill Scanlon. Later, at a porn shop, Tony meets Pete to discuss an upcoming robbery in which they plan to cut out their other partner, "Dom." Unknown to them, Carella and Brown are also at the porn shop and have been listening to their plans. The detectives later apprehend Dom and convince him to reveal the time and place of the robbery in exchange for dropping other charges against him. That afternoon, Buck, a mechanic in the police garage, secretly places a bomb in the engine of the limousine that will be used by the police that night to drive Scanlon. At 9:45 p.m., the limousine explodes and crashes, killing Scanlon, his wife and his police guards. Some time later, Buck and his cohort Ahmad visit the home of the Deaf Man where he tells them about his plan to extort money from millionaire Henry Jefferson, a family man who will eagerly pay them $500,000 to protect his wife and two daughters. That night, Buck and Ahmad accompany the Deaf Man to an area near the mayor's house where they use city planning maps to determine where the electrical lines are located. They then cause a small explosion that causes a local power outage. In a van painted to resemble an electric company van, the trio drive to the mayor's residence where Buck, dressed in a policeman's uniform, tells the policemen on duty that the two other men are there to check on the wiring. Once inside, the Deaf Man hides a bomb, then leaves, along with Buck and Ahmad. After abandoning the van and moving into another car, the Deaf Man calls Jefferson to relate his demands, stating that he is the person who killed Scanlon. Jefferson initially refuses to consider it, but then looks at his family and decides to pay. The Deaf Man and Buck then stop off at the liquor store, where they order a celebratory case of champagne. Just then, Tony and Pete draw their guns to rob the liquor store, but when they see Buck, who is still in a policeman's uniform, they scream "police." Thinking that Tony and Pete are police, Buck also yells "police," just as Carella and Kling come out of their hiding places and yell the same thing. As the respective groups almost immediately start to fire their weapons, Buck, Tony and Pete are killed and the Deaf Man is wounded. A confused Kling goes to Buck, who dies immediately after saying "It's too late--a bomb." As Carella chases the Deaf Man through the streets toward the waterfront, the two young arsonists see the Deaf Man struggling to run and assume that he is a hobo. Despite Carella's screaming at them to stop, the boys ignite the Deaf Man, who jumps into the bay and does not resurface. After the abandoned van is searched, police discover maps of the mayor's residence and are able to find the bomb before it explodes. Later, as Carella, Kling, Meyer and others discuss the night's events, Meyer insists that they really are heroes and that it was not pure coincidence that led them to prevent the mayor's death, apprehend the arsonists and stop an extortion ring. As the police walk away from the waterfront, a hearing aid bobs to the surface and a hand reaches up to grab it.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||PG||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 24 May 1972|
|Release Date:||1972||Production Date:||
A Martin Ransohoff Production
|Color/B&W:||Color (DeLuxe)||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Filmways, Inc., Javelin|
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