Route Kicksty Kicks
aka The Murder Gang
USA 1976 Directed by Al Adamson
IIP/Severin Blu Ray Zone A/B/C
Warning: Spoilers I guess... c’mon, it’s Adamson.
Okay, so the next title up for me to watch in Severin’s pretty thorough Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection is one of his attempts to ‘cut it’ in the popular Blaxploitation market, albeit it’s kinda late in the cycle. Black Heat gives us lead actor Timothy Brown as... drumroll please... Kicks Carter! There’s a character name for you. Along with his partner Tony, he makes up a two man army of streetwise cops as they keep their ear to the ground (okay, not literally) and get the ‘dope on the streets’ and, you know, all that stuff.
Now, this really isn’t one of Adamson’s best pictures by a long chalk (but hey it’s more watchable than movies like the truly diabolical Brain Of Blood, reviewed here and Nurses For Sale, reviewed here) and the plot on this one almost, but not quite, made sense.
So... bad guys make a deal to trade weapons in the desert (because, Al Adamson, of course he’s shooting in the desert as much as possible) for high grade drugs for the main bad guys that ‘bad guy number one’ is working for... namely psycho Ziggy played by Russ Tamblyn and his boss lady, who owns a nightclub. A nightclub where various ladies employed there have been connected to a series of crimes. With me so far? Okay, so the deal is set but Ziggy needs to blackmail Tony’s girlfriend Terry, played by Jana Bellan, to get them the movements of a security guy from the firm she’s working in, so they know when he’s carrying some money in a suitcase strapped to his wrist. This is after they get rid of suspicious cop Tony and our main man Kicks has to go it, more or less, alone... apart from some other guy who’s next to useless and his sexy news journalist lady Stephanie, played by Tanya Boyd, along for the ride.
Okay, after some shenanigans where it’s revealed that Kicks’ good guy informant, who has a lot more of a vibrant personality than him anyway, is supplying arms (keeping Kicks informed so he can nab them all in the desert) while the bad guys get the money by killing the security guy and cutting his hand off for the case. More shenanigans ensue and there’s a big showdown at the nightclub where Tamblyn gets killed... and then another showdown in the desert where Kicks’ informant gets blown away and the last of the villains takes off with the weapons in a private plane, only to be blown up when a rogue shot from Kicks starts a fire near all that ammunition... in a shot of ‘something’ exploding hastily cut in next to footage of the plane, which looks suspiciously like the same footage from The Fakers (reviewed here)... which I suspect was also tracked in footage back then.
What else? Well... Adamson turns up as a gambling customer in one scene. There’s nudity and rape and it’s mostly unpleasantly handled because... well... I think it’s supposed to be edgy. Actually, the scene where Adamson’s wife, Regina Carrol as Valerie... a friend of Kicks, Tony, Terry and Stephanie... gets interrogated by Tamblyn and co with a brutal beating, has some good make-up so it actually does look like she’s having a rough time there. Carrol wasn’t such a bad actress and she comes through in scenes like this. That being said, Adamson’s also given her a long scene where she’s at a piano singing a song for the nightclub customers which... well, it’s not a great tune and it goes on for too long so, it does kind of stop any impetus the movie was trying to build on stone dead at that point. Also, I can’t work out what her character is doing in the movie in the first place. She seems to be way surplus to requirements and, the one time at the end when I thought the bad guys were going to use her as a hostage and thus give a dramatic purpose to her inclusion... they didn’t. In fact, all the way through the picture, the bad guys just seemed to be really stupid... not even realising the cops were onto them before they were already, more or less, knocking down their door.
And there’s not much that’s remarkable in this movie, to be fair. The action scenes are okayish but almost all of them take place in either the desert or on rooftops and, I’m only just realising that when his characters are in an urban environment in these kinds of movies, Adamson generally tends to shoot a chase or two on the rooftops because, well I suppose it’s easier to deal with no crowds and I suspect you can film these low key without paying any licenses. That’s just my best guess though.
Actually, there is one scene which stands out, not because it’s particularly well executed but because it has an unusual outcome. It’s when Kicks is trying to hostage negotiate a guy down from a building and into a getaway car without getting the woman that the guy's taken taken, who is wired up as a human bomb, blown up. Well, that’s a complete failure because, once the psycho packs his hostage into the car he gets in beside her ready to drive off, his wires have got caught in the car door and when he shuts it the car goes up with them in it anyway (I think this may be the sequence that Adamson recut into the end of Doctor Dracula, reviewed here). Which is kind of unusual but I think it matches the slightly bleak attitude Adamson gave to some of his projects.
And there’s not much more for me to say on this one. I didn’t mind it but Black Heat is probably the worst example of the genre I’ve seen (so far, I think he made some more of these kinds of movies) and it’s not something I’d recommend to anyone, to be honest. A bit lukewarm rather than the temperature expectations implied in its title, I would say.