by: Dr. Boogie
In order to make a successful buddy cop movie, you need a good script and two likeable characters. In order to make a good buddy cop/zombie/B-movie, a buddy zom-B-movie, you need good gore effects and Treat Williams. If Dolph Lundgren is available, give him a call, but if not, go with another minor celebrity like Joe Piscopo. The script isn't that important. Once you've cobbled together all these dissimilar elements, you'll have a movie that may or may not embarrass you so badly that you'll rethink your career in film. If you remain, however, you'll have a product not unlike our feature film, Dead Heat.
Apart from holding the dubious title of being one of the last films to feature the late Vincent Price, Dead Heat is also one of the earliest examples of the kind of thinking that made shows like Cop Rock a reality. Sometimes, you blend genres and get greatness. Other times... well, you'll see.
The film opens with a pair of robbers donning leather cowls and preparing to rob a jewelry store. They are pumped, and who can blame them? They're about to pull off a daylight robbery while looking as conspicuous as they possibly could without shooting their guns into the air and screaming, "we're robbing a jewelry store!!!"
Anyway, the heist seems to be going fairly well. No one has been killed yet, and the crooks are loading up their pillowcase covers with their ill-gotten gain. Unfortunately for them, neither robber notices when one of the employees pushes a very visible silent alarm button. Enter our heroes:
Meet Roger Mortis (Treat Williams). He drives a very fancy classic car, despite the fact that he and his partner are supposed to be "undercover", and no one asks how Roger can afford such a car on a policeman's salary. With him is his partner Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo). Doug introduces himself by beginning an 80-minute string of corny, flippant one-liners to really drive home the point that he's the comic relief. They get a call about the robbery and race to the scene.
Outside the store, things get out of hand right away when one excessively bold police officer says freeze to the crooks, but then shoots anyway. He nails one of them, but the other shoots him back, touching off a Hollywood Shootout-style scenario, further complicated by the fact that only a few cops actually take cover during the firefight. The cops wonder why they can't kill those guys, but Roger's got and idea: he borrows the Lieutenant's car and does a quick lap in front of the jewelry store. Meanwhile, one of the crooks pulls out a grenade, but Doug manages to shoot him in the wrist before he can toss it.
Alright, one left. Roger circles back with the lieutenant's car and...
It's a job well done. Another staple of the buddy cop genre is to have the heroes get chewed out by the chief for not playing by the book.
In fact, I was surprised that I didn't once hear the phrase "by the book" at any point during the chief's tirade.
Anyway, the heat (the DEAD HEAT) is on for Roger and Doug to put a stop to this string of "cash and dash" robberies apparently being perpetrated by a gang of criminals. They took down two of them, but they have no leads to point them in the direction of a gang leader, or any of the other members, for that matter. Luckily, no sooner do they admit this problem than they receive a call from Coroner Rebecca Smythers, who's made a shocking discovery!
At the morgue, Doug takes a break from comedy to provide blunt foreshadowing, this time asking Roger about having a "deathday party" on the day you knew you were going to die.
Brushing aside the strange question, Roger asks the coroner what it is that's so interesting about these particular dead robbers, apart from the fact that it took a grenade and a car to bring them down. During her examination, she noticed that the two of them each have a telltale torso-length scar, indicating that they've both had autopsies performed on them. Not only that, but she's the one who performed the autopsies. Well, there must be some kind of mistake.
That's what Dr. MacNab insists. Despite the fact that Rebecca has reports and photographic evidence confirming that she performed autopsies on the two suspects, MacNab says with no uncertainty that she made a mistake. How do you "accidentally" photograph someone's dead body, spend hours performing an autopsy, and then file a written report? No one asks this question of MacNab, and neither does he explain the huge, stitched scars on the torsos of the two cadavers. No, he remarks condescendingly, she'll be a great coroner in five years or so.
Roger and Rebecca adjourn to her office to discuss the case a little more and marvel at her fake fish tank. The conversation briefly drifts back to the two bodies, with Rebecca explaining that in addition to finding proof that they already had their autopsies, she also discovered a significant amount of a chemical called sulfathiazole (which Microsoft Word has apparently heard of), and a company called Dante Pharmaceuticals just bought a pantload of the stuff. Fantastic! Now, all they have to do is find a suspect. Someone who has access to bodies stored at the county morgue. Hmm...
Anyway, with a lead in hand, Roger and Doug head over to have a chat with the management at Dante Pharmaceuticals.
At the front desk, they find a guard staring intently at an old issue of Penthouse, completely oblivious to the fact that he's in plain view of at least a dozen people. He doesn't even look embarrassed when Doug snatches the magazine from him, just annoyed. Anyway, they ask to see the manager, and so he calls in the female lead.
Instead of a manager, Roger and Doug meet with Randi James, the head of PR for the company. I guess that's pretty close. Roger asks about sulfathiazole, and Randi apparently misunderstands the question and gives them a tour instead. Roger pretends to be interested, Doug says stupid shit and acts like a pig, and they don't seem to be any closer to finding out more about the mysterious robberies. The last two stops on the tour, however, do catch their attention.
Randi explains that they have an airtight room which they use to asphyxiate lab animals. Neither detective is overly curious about why they have a man-sized killing chamber to deal with lab animals instead of, say, electrocution, lethal injection, or a host of other more manageable ways to euthanize them.
Finally, there's the featureless metallic door with the "no admittance" sign, which Randi explains houses a number of toxic chemicals, and is therefore not somewhere you would want to lead a tour group. Doug, being the sharper of the two detectives, isn't convinced, and concocts a brilliant plan to sneak in: he says he has to used the bathroom, runs around the corner, and then pops back out when the other two have gone. The door has an electronic cardkey lock, but fortunately, Doug finds that the clip from his visitors badge is enough to short out the card reader and grant him access. Unfortunately, jamming the clip into the card reader doesn't alert security or give Doug a fatal shock. Oh well.
Inside, Doug discovers a strange machine. What could it possibly be? A giant shrinkwrapper, perhaps? But why is there a body lying inside it? These are all questions I'm sure Doug would be asking if he weren't constantly trying to come up with smarmy one-liners. The question of whether it's a dead body or not is quickly resolved when the body, that of a fat biker with a smashed-in face, gets up and starts wrestling with Doug.
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