• Dead Heat

    Released By: 88 Films
    Released On: February 27, 2017
    Director: Mark Goldblatt
    Cast: Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Lindsay Frost, Darren McGavin, Vincent Price
    Year: 1988

    The Movie:

    *Note: This is a Region B Blu-ray

    A daring daylight robbery of a Melrose Avenue jewelry store is underway, when the two masked bandits are thwarted by an employee tripping the silent alarm. Rushing into the street, the well-armed criminals come face-to-face with dozens of well-armed law enforcement officers, prompting an insane shootout. Responding to the call are Detectives Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo), who are quick to notice that the bad guys are sustaining a lot of bloody bullet damage without hitting the pavement. With a little cooperative work, Bigelow and Mortis are able to put the robbers out of commission for good, but mystery awaits them in the Coroner's Office when their good friend (and Roger's ex) Rebecca tells them that she's seen the bodies come across her table before. While the two cops are initially doubtful regarding Becky's claim, the old autopsy scars on the bodies indicate that she may be onto something.

    Further testing of the bodies reveals an abundance of a mysterious chemical, available from one manufacturer in the city. And so, the boys head off to Dante Pharmaceutical, where they get an official tour and a shrugging off of suspicious accusations from the lovely Randi James (Lindsay Frost). Not one to swallow a line just because it comes from a pretty girl, Bigelow sasses his way off under the guise of finding a bathroom, gains access to a not-so-secure area, and finds his leather jacket and heavenly mullet under attack from a massive mutant corpse-like biker. Responding to his partner's predicament, Mortis finds himself locked in a decompression chamber reserved for the execution of test animals, and dies from loss of oxygen.

    While these events would be enough in any other reality to call in the cops and lock everyone up for engaging in scientific shenanigans, the universe of Dead Heat requires assistance in other ways. Heartbroken by the loss of her man, Rebecca quickly surmises that the equipment found in the crazy mutant biker room at Dante Pharma is in fact a Resurrection Machine, with the power to bring the dead back to life. The two waste no time in placing their departed friend on the high-tech gizmo, and blast him back to life with bolts of electricity and rudimentary processes that Rebecca explains in a perfectly logical manner. With Roger Mortis now threatened by Rigor Mortis (yuk yuk yuk), the two cops follow a trail of clues that lead them to a sadistic Asian butcher named Thule (Keye Luke) and an assortment of reanimated meat products, and back to the amazing Randi. Time is not on the side of the law; Mortis has only a set number of hours before he expires permanently, and Bigelow is only half the man he can be without his partner's backing; and there's a whole lot of badness to follow that ends in a conspiracy involving the very wealthy turning corpses into superhuman wrongdoers for their own nefarious needs.

    An odd attempt at comedy and horror, Dead Heat struggles to find a successful balance throughout most of the running time. Although it's difficult to point the finger at any one person, blame can safely be laid at the feet of Joe Piscopo, who is just not funny. Not intentionally, anyway, though his clothing, his hair, and his muscles do lead to a fair amount of chortling. Dead Heat seems to be going for a buddy cop motif in the style of Lethal Weapon; Treat Williams' Mortis is the straight man here, with Piscopo's zany antics...and again, mullet...echoing Martin Riggs; but again, Piscopo doesn't appear to have the comedic chops to pull it off. Two strong leads could have carried the fairly ridiculous plot through the first hour, but Dead Heat really only finds its footing in the last 30-or-so minutes, when the effects, storyline, and action amp up into a frenzy that drags the viewer along for the ride.

    That's not to say that the first hour of the film is without merit. Goldblatt does a decent job of bringing the energy to the Director's chair that he'd later bring to The Punisher (the Dolph Lundgren one), and both Treat Williams and Darren McGavin bring their A-game to the screen. But the real star of the film, overall, has to be Steve Johnson, who was left to his own devices to build the whacky effects that pepper the film. From the violence of the opening shootout to the house of meaty horrors in Thule's butcher shop, Johnson's practical effects are fun enough to watch even when taken out of the context of the film. With a little bit more plot, a tad more Vincent Price, and either less Piscopo...or better acting Piscopo...Dead Heat could have been a big winner. Instead, it makes it just out of the zone of mediocrity, which is still not a bad showing for a low-budget, comedy/horror mashup.


    Dead Heat comes to 88 Films Blu-ray (locked to Zone B) in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer that...well, it baffles. While print damage and debris are largely absent outside of the opening titles, and detail is decent for the most part, segments of this transfer look like they got a good dose of bleach in the contrast department, while other scenes come across as a tad too dim. Reading reviews for the previous Image Blu, I'm inclined to believe that this may be the same transfer. Nevertheless, Dead Heat isn't difficult to watch, despite the flaws, with an overall acceptable picture.

    Audio is handled via English LPCM 2.0 track with optional English subtitles. The track, like the video, is acceptable, but not much more. While range of the frequency spectrum isn't stunning here, with most effects coming across as flat, they certainly do come across as LOUD, causing me to reach for the remote quite a few times. Still, dialogue is easy to hear throughout, and the track lacks distortion and hiss.

    Unlike the previous Image blu, 88 Films has included some decent extras on the disc that those familiar with the Anchor Bay DVD will most likely recognize. First up is an audio commentary with Director Mark Goldblatt, Producers David Helpern and Michael Meltzer, and Writer Terry Black, and it's a real treat to listen to. The group talk about the low, low budget of the film (5.4 million), and go into detail about each of the cast members, the locations used, the sets, the effects, and even the inconsistency of Piscopo's sweat stains. Goldblatt admits that he lost money on the film overall, but it's a fun track to listen to, each of the participants clearly into talking about the film and sharing anecdotes from the set with nary an empty space.

    Next up is Dead And Alive! Interview with Steve Johnson (19:00), the man responsible for the special effects in the film. Johnson gives his thoughts on working in an era with no digital effects, and discusses the techniques used to create the magic in the film. Definitely a fun guy, he also talks about the pranks that they engaged in, shares some stories from the set, and talks briefly about his work on An American Werewolf in London.

    A Stills Gallery (4:37) contains a moving slideshow with Dead Heat theme music accompaniment, and is made up of Production Stills, Behind-The-Scenes shots, as well as poster and box art.

    Deleted Scenes (16:54) contains a number of rough-looking VHS transfers of cut material, some of which might be worth watching if it wasn't so beat up.

    A Vintage EPK (5:32), MIFED Promo (2:22...basically an extended trailer), TV Spot, and Trailer round out the extras.

    The Final Word:

    Dead Heat is a film that will appeal to a lot of folks who grew up watching 80's action and horror flicks, but overall, it's a film that's not really that good until it hits the final lap. The transfer is not going to blow you away, but the inclusion of supplemental material will be incentive to many to buy.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!