Dead Heat (1988) Film Review 4/5

From the early 1980’s Saturday Night Live, only two names really stand out.

One of them you know intimately for his amazingly-successful movie career, a mediocre hit single with Rick James, the way he gave a transsexual prostitute ‘a ride’ (no doubt with his penis) because he’s a good Samaritan, and the fact that he’s probably left his wife and kids for his boyfriend Johnny Gill from New Edition. Since we don’t give a shit about the latest abysmal “family comedy” from a comedian who stopped being worth a damn in 1990 (outside of one Steve Martin movie), we’re obviously talking about the other guy.

The other also had a hit single, but once leaving the friendly confines of SNL, his career fizzled, relegating him to punch line status and occasional bit-player or comedy villain for Chuck Norris. However, other than his self-respect, this gentleman has something Eddie Murphy does not. That’s right; this guy’s made a world-class buddy-cop movie with zombies.

That’s right; we’re talking about Joe Piscopo, aka Detective Doug Bigelow. It seems that Doug and his partner Roger Mortis (Treat Williams, AKA the poor man’s Tom Berenger) have found out the secret behind a couple of daring daylight robberies where the thieves had the damnedest habit of just not wanting to stay dead, no matter how many times you filled them with small pieces of lead flying at high velocity.

Oh well, they’re just junkies right? PCP makes a man do crazy things, just ask Rodney King. They do find drugs, after some amazingly-fast CSI work by Randi James (Lindsey Frost), but this drug is pretty rare, and it traces back to a corporation formerly owned by one Arthur P. Loudermilk (Vincent Price, better than ever in one of his final roles). After a talk with a bit of sweet meat Rebecca Smythers (Clare Kirkconnell), Doug decides to do some exploring.

Unfortunately, a gigantic man-mountain ends up accidentally killing Roger by smothering him to death in a vacuum chamber. I hate it when that happens. But all is not lost, as Treat Williams does get top billing. With the help of a corpse-reviving device, all is well again. Well, for the next 13 hours.

Now it’s up to Doug and Roger to stop Dr. Ernest McNab (Darren McGavin, holy shit!), discover just what in the hell is going on with the dead/not dead Arthur Loudermilk, and do it all in under 12 hours before Roger melts like a flesh-colored ice-cream cone. Needless to say, there will be much shenanigans along the way, including a hilariously gory butcher shop scene (starring both Keye Luke and Prof. Toru Tanaka), and a multitude of Joe Piscopo one-liners.

If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you’re probably not the kind of person I want to waste my time with. There’s the best Sinatra impersonator in the history of SNL, Imitation Berenger, The Man Who Sold the Mogwai, a professional wrestler, Vincent Price, Kolchak The Night Stalker, and a flying liver attack in a Chinese butcher shop.

The whole time I was watching this movie, part of a brilliant Anchor Bay Fright Pack I mentioned in Suggested Viewing vol. 3, I had one nagging question; whatever happened to Joe Piscopo? I mean, he’s brilliant in this movie, he’s always been a funny comedian, but it seems like after he got cancer, he just disappeared. It’s a damn shame, really.

Joe, if you’re out there? We miss you, buddy. Come back to movies soon. I can’t wait for “Dead Heat 2: Deader and More Hot.”

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