When Detective Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and Detective Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo) of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) are called to the scene of a jewel heist in progress, they become engaged in a shootout, against two brazen, if slightly dense, masked thieves. Along with a whole mess of other police officers, Mortis and Bigelow open fire on the robbers who, in their reluctance to get into cover, take multiple hits to the torso, but refuse to stay down. “Maybe they’re just flesh wounds” Doug quips as he reloads.
The masked marauders aim haphazardly with their automatic weaponry, killing countless officers, until they are violently subdued by both Mortis and Bigelow thanks to the ingenuity of a stray grenade and the lieutenant’s notchback sedan. “You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain…disgusting?!” An autopsy later reveals that the two (now unmasked and mutilated) thieves had already visited the morgue before, prior to their attempted jewel heist…and the coroner doesn’t make it a habit of signing a death certificate for someone who just doesn’t feel well!
Trace quantities of Sulfathiazole were found in their skin tissue; a drug Dante Pharmaceuticals purchased 50 kilos of recently, and have stored at their headquarters. Police detectives Mortis and Bigelow decide it’s time to speak with the management and enquire, as politely as possible, if the facility is resurrecting the dead. Spoiler alert: They are!
How have I not seen Dead Heat before? Directed in 1988 by Mark Goldblatt, Dead Heat takes the tried and tested American buddy cop action comedy and adds elements of horror, resulting in what I can only describe as Lethal Weapon (1987) with zombified roast duck and Saturday Night Live’s Joe Piscopo! Coincidently Dead Heat writer Terry Black is the brother of Shane Black; writer for Lethal Weapon.
Dead Heat also features one of the most unique plot elements to grace the buddy cop sub-genre. During the investigation of Dante Pharmaceuticals Roger Mortis (Get it?!) is murdered and subsequently resurrected. Unfortunately there are side-effects to reanimation, for example you can’t prevent the decay of human flesh, leaving Mortis with very limited time to solve the case of his own murder before he decomposes.
Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo make for an entertaining, if stereotypical duo. The banter between the two is complemented by the direction of Mark Goldblatt, who retains every smirk. Vincent Price also plays an important, albeit limited role in what would become one of the last few feature length films he was cast in before his passing in 1993. His presence…his voice…is remarkable.
Dead Heat is a quirky hybrid; a cult comedy/horror, with impressive special make-up effects from Steve Johnson and a great sense of direction/pace from the director of The Punisher (1989). Highly entertaining and undeservedly overlooked. You can’t keep a good cop dead!
Dead Heat is available to buy from Amazon in the USA; plus if you decide to make a purchase after following any of the links provided you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you.