Cop in Drag
Director - Bruno Corbucci
Cast - Tomas Milian, Bombolo
Country of Origin - Italy
Discs - 1
MSRP - $24.98
Distributor - Mya Communications
Reviewer - Bobby Morgan
The Film: 3/5
When an entertainer at Rome’s prestigious drag club Blue Gay is found in his dressing room dead from strangulation police inspector Nico Giraldi (Tomas Milian), who just became a father for the second time, is called in to investigate. Unsure of where to begin Nico decides to go undercover and get closer to the club’s star performer Colomba Lamar. For this he calls on reformed small-time thief Franco “Fluffy” Bertarelli (Bombolo) to pose as his “wife” while Nico’s real wife Angela (Olimpia Di Nardo) thinks he’s in New York on another assignment. The inspector’s pursuit of Nadia’s killer takes him into the heart of Rome’s transvestite scene and uncovers a conspiracy involving the CIA, KGB, a celebrated German film director who likes to take a walk on the wild side, and Nadia’s scientist father. The closer he gets to the truth the more attempts are made on his life. Can Inspector Giraldi find the killer in time before his wife finds out what’s really been going on, and can he do it without slapping Fluffy so much (that isn’t what you think it is)?
Tomas Milian, the seasoned Cuban-American actor who became a star in Italy in the 1960’s and has appeared in nearly every kind of genre film the country has to offer (as well as Tony Scott’s Revenge and Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning epic drug war drama Traffic), portrayed the macho supercop Nico Giraldi a grand total of eleven times for director Bruno Corbucci. Outside of writing the classic spaghetti westerns Django and The Great Silence for his brother Sergio the Nico Giraldi films are probably Corbucci’s greatest claim to fame. Cop in Drag is the first of these movies that I’ve ever seen and from what I’ve read its tone is more comedic than previous entries. On the surface it would seem like any “high concept” Hollywood action comedy that could get the green light on the strength of a one-sentence plot synopsis and a budget low enough to guarantee a quick profit in theaters and on video. It’s basically La Cage Aux Folles by way of Michael Bay’s Bad Boys. If an American movie studio gave this movie the go-ahead today the Internet would be flooded with grumbling fan boys shouting their disapproval in ALL CAPS.
Cop in Drag is a lot less violent and gritty than your average Italian poliziottesco. There is some occasional action - including a memorable chase scene where Nico pursues a mysterious car that just tried to run him down while dressed as a Roman soldier and driving a horse-drawn chariot - but Corbucci keeps the focus more on sitcom-level shenanigans and misunderstandings. Milian is as cool as ever as he navigates the absurdity with his dignity intact but never gets the chance to indulge his feminine side fashion-wise as the title of the movie would suggest. Then again the original Italian title translates to “Crime at Blue Gay” and that certainly didn’t imply that Giraldi would be getting into fist fights and gun battles while wearing something sheer and revealing, which is a blessing not even the Pope could bestow upon us. Milian and his frequent on-screen sidekick Bombolo make a pleasant enough comedy team even though their interactions mainly consist of Nico slapping Fluffy around, which quickly lapses from being amusing into seeming cruel. They do have one scene that got me laughing pretty hard for a fleeting moment: when Fluffy gets beaten up and hospitalized by the villains Nico questions him while he’s trapped in a face and body cast. The only way they can communicate is through “Eye Morse Code”. The set-up and the payoff of the gag had me thinking of the unexplainable interplay between Ron Burgundy and his dog Baxter in Anchorman.
Sensitive audiences might cringe at the casual use of homophobic slurs and the rampant sexism abound in the movie, but I was willing to chalk it up to being part of what is essentially a product of its time. Your eyes might explode during an unexpected moment when everything that was criminally wrong with the fashions of the 1980’s is embodied during a garish and overlong music video scene. At least the movie is dripping with excessive amounts of Italian machismo and it’s funny enough to be entertaining thanks in part to Milian and Bombolo’s oddball camaraderie.
Cop in Drag is presented by Mya in a decent 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer that looks to have been ported from a high-quality VHS copy. The visuals are soft and in the sharper scenes bursting with color.
Mya has not thought to include any extra features on the Cop in Drag DVD. I doubt any would have made much of a difference. The audio track is a serviceable Italian 2.0 mono that does well by the dialogue and the score by Fabio Frizzi, best known for scoring some of Lucio Fulci’s best horror films. English subtitles are provided for all of the Italian language scenes but are cloyingly absent from the few brief moments where characters speak German. While I’m positive nothing crucial to the plot was missed by that slight it still would have been nice to know what was being said.
Cop in Drag is dumber than a box of rocks but as both a time capsule and slice of late-in-the-game Italian exploitation it provides enough mindless fun to stave off the boredom. I would barely recommend against buying this because of the subpar a/v quality and lack of extras. However if you see someone giving this disc away for free it might just be worth the money.