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Friday 11 January 2013

Burl reviews Dead Heat! (1988)

Ha ha, let me be the first to say welcome! It’s Burl, here with a movie review for you, and today’s review is of a picture called Dead Heat! This was a movie that got a lot of coverage in the genre magazines when it was made, and then seemed to take forever to come out! And when it finally did, everyone realized that it wasn’t actually very good! Ha ha!
Yes, it was a part of the Mismatched Buddy-Cop subgenre of the 1980s – written, in fact, by the brother of the fellow who kicked it all off with his Lethal Weapon script! So in theory the picture has the right pedigree for this genre, and on top of that a fine wrinkle on the buddy cop formula! There had already been Black Cop/White Cop (Lethal Weapon, Number One With A Bullet, many more); and Human Cop/Alien Cop (Alien Nation, The Hidden); and of course Human Cop/Gnome Cop (A Gnome Gnamed Gnorm); and Dead Heat gives us Live Cop/Dead Cop!
“Treat” Williams plays a slick city cop called Roger Mortis, and his intolerable lout of a partner, whose name I forget, is played by none other than Joe Piscopo from Wise Guys! Certainly this muscled comedian puts a truly Piscopian spin on his character, resulting in one of the most grating and unpleasant cops ever seen on screen! Ha ha, he’s the one you wish would be dead, but in this movie that would only mean he’d become even more annoying! (The proof of this comes at the end of the picture, when Piscopo does die!)
But it’s “Treat” Williams who dies and is resurrected for twelve hours of investigation before he will disintegrate into goo! Together “Treat” and Joe uncover the mystery behind the series of jewel robberies by burglars who don’t fall down when they get shot! This leads them into a Chinese butcher shop run by a machine gun-toting Keye Luke (of Gremlins and Gremlins 2 fame), where all the foodstuffs come to life and attack the cops (who each get a sound beaking from angry duck heads); and then to a resurrection clinic for the rich run by super-elitist Vincent Price! Ha ha, and along the way, just about everyone bites the biscuit!
There are really two main virtues to this picture: the trick effects, which are generally quite good (there’s a three-faced mega-oaf that’s particularly effective!) and the supporting cast! Besides the great Price and Luke, we get Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin, and Robert “Matinee” Picardo, and of course Professor Toru Tanaka! Unfortunately we almost get the magnificent Dick Miller, well known from his role in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood, but, as was the case for poor Dick in Pulp Fiction, his scenes hit the cutting room floor!
Apparently quite a lot of stuff was cut out of this movie, and I suppose it moves along at a pretty good pace, but it really seems to be missing some crucial animating spark! The script, frankly, is terrible, and many things make no sense at all! There’s plenty of gunfire and zombiefights (so much so that they become rather boring), and one or two bon mots, but Piscopo is so irritating, and the absence of a compensating Dick Miller so keenly felt, that I can’t in good conscience recommend the picture! I’m going to give Dead Heat one and a half Peking Duck heads!

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