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Retro Shock-o-Rama presents
Black Heat (1976)

"I saw the whole thing. It was terrible."
- Stephanie (Tanya Boyd)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: May 14, 2003

Stars: Timothy Brown, Russ Tamblyn, J. C. Wells, Geoffrey Land, Regina Carrol, Tanya Boyd, Al Richardson
Director: Al Adamson

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence/gore, sexual content, language and drug use
Run Time: 01h:34m:01s
Release Date: March 04, 2003
UPC: 612385320590
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C C-C-C- C

DVD Review

You've got to have a deep and unslakable thirst for blaxpoitation pictures to spend some time with Black Heat, which isn't really a bad movie—it's just pretty boring. It's easy to see Quentin Tarantino going bonkers for something like this, but a little bit of huge '70s Afros and lapels broader than your shoulders go a long way—it's more interesting as a cultural artifact than as a movie, because if this showed up on TV, you'd probably be channel surfing after just a couple of minutes.

Basically, it's an action buddy cop movie. Timothy Brown plays Kicks Carter, a black cop teamed with Tony (Geoffrey Land), a white cop, on the L.A.P.D., and there's talk of a group of shady L.A. businessmen trading state-of-the-art weapons for some high quality Central American narcotics. That plot wafts in and out, as Kicks and Tony are dating Stephanie and Terry, respectively—the former works for a local news affiliate, and the latter mostly just wants to make sure that her man doesn't get in trouble. No such luck, of course—the women live in the same apartment complex, and a series of crimes tied to other residents have occurred over the last months.

Confused yet? Wait, there's more. Another girl in the group has a nasty gambling habit, which leads her to penury, prostitution, and being the victim of a gang rape after a poker game goes awry, in a particularly brutal scene. Russ Tamblyn is on hand as Ziggy, who seems to be just a general badass, and is mobbed up in some undefined respect.

You may be clamoring for the Cliffs Notes after a few reels of this one—I know I was, and with a plot that's rough to follow, after a while you may just give up. The film still has some small rewards, though, principally in the '70s funk soundtrack; and there's something oddly but only slightly fascinating about bad and wooden acting. It's full of great period dialogue, though, like "You're way out of line, honky pig," and "You jive turkey, you're just trying to get in my pants." It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I admit to having a certain respect for a movie with a title card in the opening credits that reads, in part: "Promotional Considerations: California Donuts."

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: This was a low-budget picture to begin with, and it's been savaged by the years—lots of scratches and faded colors, even many missing frames. This wasn't, I'm confident, a cinematographic tour de force to begin with, but even having said that, it looks pretty bad here.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The balance is frequently very askew on the soundtrack, with the music pumped up to make the dialogue inaudible. The script doesn't exactly sparkle to begin with, and not being able to hear much of it will only add to your sense of being lost. And insult to injury: no subtitles, which would have allowed you to read along instead.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mean Mother, Hell's Bloody Devils, Possession of Nurse Sherri, The Naughty Stewardesses, Cinderella 2000
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Sam Sherman
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. insert booklet with notes on the film's production
  2. alternate opening credit sequence
Extras Review: This disc features one of the more peculiar commentary tracks you're likely ever to hear—it's by Sam Sherman, whose name doesn't appear in the credits, but was, apparently, one of the producers of the movie. He's candid about the tail wagging the dog, about this being about business first, and making movies only later—the film was distributed under at least three different titles. (That's Girls' Hotel and The Murder Gang, along with Black Heat, for those of you keeping score at home.) Sherman sounds like a nice fellow, and looks back fondly on the film, but he likes parading his ignorance (he mentions that Timothy Brown went on to appear in Robert Altman's Nashville, which Sherman hasn't yet seen), and it's the first commentary track I've heard with its own APB attached. Sherman would like to track down the two leading men, Brown and Land, so if you know of their whereabouts, please contact the DVD distributor.

One of the two cut scenes is billed as the "lost sex scene," but good news, fans: they both feature plenty of nudity. We're also favored with an alternate title sequence (in the Girls' Hotel incarnation), and an alternate trailer, promoting this as The Murder Gang.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

It must have been mindless fun to pull into a drive-in back in the day and see Black Heat, but its charm and appeal haven't aged especially well. For die-hard fans of the genre only.


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