Written by: Carroll Jenkins on July 6th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, October 6th, 1972
Director: Paul Morrissey
Writers: John Hallowell, Paul Morrissey
Cast: Joe Dallesandro, Sylvia Miles, Andrea Feldman, Pat Ast, Ray Vestal, Lester Persky, Eric Emerson, Harold Childe, John Hallowell, Gary Koznocha, Pat Parlemon, Bonnie Walder
DVD released: October 11th, 2005
Approximate running time: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Image Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Synopsis: A former child actor on the skids moves into a rundown hotel where the guests are decidedly strange. Hoping to advance his career he becomes a kept man to a faded star and moves into her huge mansion. When he wants to leave, she doesn’t like it.
“Andy Warhol” was essentially a brand name for movies by Paul Morrissey. In his early shorts, Morrissey just pointed the camera at a subject (a woman walking, a guy rolling a joint, a couple shooting up). There was no plot, dialog, script or even direction – it was point and shoot. Well, the guy rolling the joint does stab himself in the arm with a craft knife. Cut!
The basic framework for Heat is Sunset Blvd. “Warhol Superstar” Joe Dallesandro walks through the William Holden role in a coma except once when he gets mad – you can see it in his eyes. Joe is the catalyst of the film, but not the main focus. This film rides on the supporting performances. Sylvia Miles received multiple Oscar nominations throughout her career and gives a telling and personal performance of a former [minor] star who’s looks and fame are fading, relegating her to game show purgatory. She was about 48 and Gloria Swanson about 51 when filming their respective roles. Sylvia bares it all multiple times, and her abundant assets are very well preserved.
Pat Ast dominates her every scene, just as she bullies her tenants. She gets all the best lines in the film, though they would not be so memorable without her relished delivery. “No splashing in the poool”. There was apparently actual scripted dialog for this one, but much of it is obviously improvised as well. Unlike most Morrissey films, there are no female impersonators, but Pat essentially plays that part. Her other prominent role was an excellent performance in the otherwise shoddy “Reform School Girls”.
The other main performance is the most controversial on several counts. Andrea Feldman plays Sylvia’s daughter. This character has serious emotional and personal problems: she lives with her lesbian lover who burns her with cigarette butts, she gives her baby sleeping pills to placate him, and she only sees her mother when she needs money. She also whines shrilly throughout the film, laughing hysterically on several occasions. Is this acting, or is this the real Andrea? Considering that she committed suicide prior to the films release, the latter may be the case. Nevertheless, it is a truly unforgettable performance.
Heat is presented in remastered full-frame OAR. The first shot does not look too promising, but it is shot in extreme zoom. Once the camera pulls back, everything looks quite fine. Sound is very clear, no subtitles or closed captions. Extras include the 3 aforementioned shorts, and a stills gallery with commentary by Morrissey. Deleted Scenes, with optional commentary, present alternate takes of several sequences which demonstrate the high level of improvisation in the film.
Many Warhol / Morrissey fans don’t appreciate Heat because it is too professional and not ‘underground’ enough. It’s actually a very accomplished film with excellent performances, witty dialog, and good pacing. This is still an outlandish film in the John Waters mold, so it’s not for everyone. For those with a taste for bizarre and absurd humor, Heat is highly recommended.