By Mike White
I knew that I was in for a treat when the credits came up boasting a new, fabricated, video title. This stayed on screen much too long before there was a graceless cut back to the original credit sequence. Originally known as THE MURDER GANG, US VICE and/or GIRL'S HOTEL, this mid-seventies Al Adamson feature changed names and running lengths depending on the market it which it played. While BLACK HEAT is now being marketed as a "classic blaxploitation picture," the film's only similarity to better known black action films is that its main character and his girlfriend are African-American. Otherwise, it's straight-up exploitation, baby.
The film stars Timothy Brown as Kicks Carter; a brother with about as much soul as Mr. Bentley from "The Jeffersons." Kicks and his partner Tony (Geoffrey Land) are investigating a string of crimes tied to the bevy of bodacious babes staying at the Queen's Court, an all-female apartment complex. What these ladies have to do with a string of five "inside jobs" over the last two years is tenuous at best. The main thrust of the film's narrative has a bad black bald dude from Detroit, Guido (J.C. Wells), trying to secure a cache of "enough weapons to arm the African Nations" in exchange for some high quality blow. His contact is a terrifically cheesy, sporting a fake moustache and even more unbelievable accent. Unfortunately, this fellow is on screen all-too-briefly.
Trying to synopsize the porous plot is a painful process. The weight of the film falls too heavily on the supporting cast, making the viewer care little about the aimless Kicks and his marked-for-death partner. I was more interested in Terry (Jana Bellan), a resident of the Queen's Court with a gambling habit that takes her on a harrowing journey through a desperate underworld. In the hands of perhaps any other director, Black Heat could have been the story of Terry or even Valerie (Regina Carrol), a tough piano player who holds a torch for her imprisoned husband while tickling the ivories at the club run by the film's other antagonists, Ziggy (Russ Tamblyn-an Adamson regular) and Fay (Darlene Anders-waiting to be cast as a butch warden in a W.I.P. film). Or, hell, the movie even could have focused its attention on Stephanie (Tanya Boyd), the snoopy reporter who does more investigative work in ten minutes than her boyfriend Kicks does in the entire movie.
Instead, the audience is stuck waiting out the moment for Kick's partner Tony (Geoffrey Land) to inevitably get bumped off, allowing Kicks to swear vengeance and get the story moving. Tony's death comes early in the film but Kicks soon disappears from the action, only appearing when the two disparate storylines involving the women of the Queen's Court and the drug/weapons deal to finally collide. It's at the anti-climax that we get to witness Kick's police style, or rather, his lack thereof. Kicks has the bad lack of subtlety and subterfuge. He frequently calls ahead to the film's criminals and lets them know he's coming-giving them time to escape or arm themselves to the teeth with machine guns while Kicks pops away with a pea shooter. Despite himself, Kicks manages to dispatch Guido and Ziggy and even drives off into the sunset, doing little to repair the damage that had been done to the spirits of the women in film.
A completely forgettable film, BLACK HEAT is only notable for its performance by a young Tanya Boyd and that Chris Elliot used footage from the film for the opening credit sequence of his "Action Family" short.