Artisan // 1991 // 200 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // May 24th, 2003
About as much fun as watching the Snoop Sisters get sunstroke
Who in their right friggin' mind likes the heat? Now, we're not talking about a warm and toasty fire where one can wiggle their tootsies and roast up a healthy heart-clogging batch of S'mores. Nor are we discussing the pleasant palate burn one achieves from a plate of steamy Mexi-melt fajitas or a drool-inducing bowl of NOLA gumbo. No, we are talking about the foul, humidor Hell of Satan's armpits, the skin slicking and crotch pooling putridness of the tropics. Moving your matt of monkey fur past the permafrost is a guaranteed trip to prickling and chaffing land. So is it any wonder that, when defined geographically, these miscreant moist map points are given appropriately hateful names like "of Cancer" and "of Capricorn" (the most hated of all the zodiac, even more so than Sagittarius, that bastard). Let's face it, no amount of scantily clad DDD bimbos or thong song dong Speedos can make 105 degrees with 100% air liquidity seem acceptable. Humans were meant to re, not de hydrate. A person should want to avoid, not champion, the malignant melanoma. For most members of a civilized society, it is impolite to maintain a terrarium in your nether regions. Still, like lemmings to the frying pan, these warped wanters of excessive warmth travel to the tourist traps of this angry planet in search of sand, surf, and puffy, poisoned epidermis. And if you ever wondered what it would be like to live the life of a washed up government agent turned beach bum private dick who indeed loves global temperance in all its scorchiness, who likes perspiring profusely as he shirtlessly tries to solve minor crimes, then Sweating Bullets, the CBS Late Night Drama from 1991-1993, is your ticket to Trader Vic's. And thanks to those lovable reconfigure jockeys at Artisan, you too can experience the first four episodes of the newly named Tropical Heat? Why the moniker modification? Who cares, it's too damn hot to care.
There is an ex-DEA agent named Slab Beefwell...sorry, Nick Slaughter who lives in that most memorable of the Florida Keys, Key Mariah (just a short ship launch from sister Keys Pariah and diarrhea). He runs a profitable private investigation agency, which means he makes enough Puca beads to keep his greasy ponytail in whale tallow. His business partner is a burn-don't-tan redhead named Sylvie Gerard, whose love of padded shouldered outfits is second only to her lust for cash. They form an uneasy conglomerate: she gets 25% of all his detective fees and he gets a whiny, nagging shrew to butt in and disrupt his sexual escapes. So basically it's win-win on both accounts. Along with ex-rock star Ian Stewart, who had a huge hit in 1981 with the Blitz kid classic "Too Fey to Be Gay," they hang out and catch rays (as well as flies) at the local coconut shack, oddly enough called the Tropical Heat. And when danger and intrigue come calling, these daredevil notions simply pass the Planter's punchers by for someone with more competence and reliability. About the only disembodied ideals that pursue these sun-dried derelicts are poverty and odiforousness.
On the DVDs offered here, we get four generous helpings of Caribbean jerk, without the heady spices or tasty goodness. Instead, the following lame storylines are explored:
TROPICAL HEAT, VOLUME 1: EPISODES 1 & 2
"Episode 1: This Year's Model" (Actually Episode 15 from Season
Elvis Costello shows up and inadvertently breaks in to "Radio Radio" when he was originally supposed to only perform "Less than Zero..."oh wait...Anyway, a Kathy Ireland wannabe (problem is...IQ is too high) hires Slaughter and Gerard to muscle a tabloid tattletale who wants to publish photos of her eating frosting from a can...and not vomiting it back up (ARGH!). But our lazy land loafers are too late to boggle the blackmailer. Enquiring minds have already cancelled his lifetime subscription. Soon, all fingers point to the photo poser as the possible trigger tigress. But she has an ironclad alibi. She's a supermodel. She's too butt-sniffingly dumb to aim a pistol and pop the cap at the same time. So it's up to the Tiki trio to figure out who else could have composed this homicidal headline before the suspicious photographer and his equally dubious assistants run out of baby oil for the swimsuit issue.
"Episode 2: Death's a Beach" (actually, the pilot for the
...but, unfortunately, you don't die. You're forced to watch 47 minutes of this sea foam. When that wonderful judge of character Gerard rents/steals a yacht for a client who happens to be a recently paroled jailbird who owes a drug lord $7 million green stamps, it's not long before the boat goes MIA and the tourist turns floater. Looking for a lunkhead who will track down the trade winds for her, she stumbles upon the Slaughter PI firm and immediately smells trouble. Seems Nick failed to bathe after the previous night's ass whipping at the pythons of a lipstick lesbian. They reluctantly team up to trace the tug's last legs. And Gerard also has her eyeliner on a potential mega-buck prize. Turns out that the ex-prisoner of Cellblock "D'uh" buried the bloated box of benjamins like so much pirate booty. All the simpering sleuths have to do is dig it up...and avoid the Truman Capote impersonator crime lord at the same time.
TROPICAL HEAT, VOLUME 2: EPISODES 3 & 4
"Episode 3: Fowl Play" (actually, episode 2 from season 1)
Otherwise known as PETA goes to paradise as a militant bird broacher hires Slaughter Detecting Limited to find some smugglers of rare Amazonian poultry. What they end up finding is a parrot that's been taught bawdy cockney songs and a creepy pet shop owner who covets his own lizards. A corpse turns up, characters sweat like Dom DeLuise near a steam table, and our buff beach buffoon learns the mating dance of the endangered California condor. With the help of the ASPCA, Amnesty International, the WWF, WWE, and several blackballed members of the League of Women Voters, the saltwater Sherlock and his waste of woman Watson discover that Key Mariah is the number one haven for individuals interested in the illegal import/export of exotic winged creatures, like fairies, pixies, and angels.
"Episode 4: She" (actually, episode 19 from season 2)
The Monkees arrive on Haunted Island to play a concert, only to discover that the Lavender Hill mafia gang have stolen the Wild Hickory Nut Necklace from Rob Roy Fingerhead...oh wait. The dopey dame that got Slaughter pink slipped by Uncle Sam turns up to ask for help in dealing with her ex-fiancé, ex-partner, current dope fiend and woodoo wacko. Seems the "she" of the title is shacking up with a wealthy sugar daddy who doesn't mind sharing his love muffin with other pastry lovers. Taking a page from the Anna Nicole Smith guide to dating, our "she" wants to make sure that nothing stands in the way of her and her possible court contested inheritance. When our shirtless Sam Spade tracks down the Santeria savant, he looks more like a member of Hanson gone to seed. The next time our surfing stiff sees this St. John's wart, it's as a carved up confection on the local morgue autopsy table. Again, all the evidence points to the damsel in financial distress. Or maybe it's that gimpy gazillionaire guy of hers...?
When you think about raw action filmmaking, what best exemplifies the full-blown adrenaline rush? An out-of-control car chase where disaster and explosion are toyed with every two to three seconds? A slow-motion gun battle ballet where the morally confused killer and less than law abiding cop exchange turgid glances and round after round of titanium hailstones? Maybe it's a scene or two of intense suspense, the kind that leaves your heart in your throat and your intestines in a tizzy. Or maybe you fancy the foot race to fisticuffs formula. You know the one -- our hero makes his getaway only to be hounded by the heartless bad guy and his henchmen as they make their way through the alleys and wet back streets of some seedy locale. Eventually, fatigue or discarded refrigerator boxes mar the getaway and the weary speed walking warriors face off under a dim street lamp for a little mano-y-mano mug mashing. Punches are thrown, lunches are lost and, in the end, several men enter, but the guy or gal with their name highest on the credit list always seems to leave semi-unscathed. All this testosterone-fueled frenzy creates intrigue and excitement. Well, thanks to the oddly named CBS late night series Crime Time After Prime Time (do you really want to be known as the network that champions felonies after Falcon Crest?) and one of its more (puzzlingly) popular shows, Sweating Bullets, AKA Tropical Heat, AKA Baywatch with Bumbling Detectives, AKA Magnum PU, AKA Non-Descript Equity Oafs in Tourist Town, you can add another gem to the tiara of terror that makes up the complete action package. That's right, because it's just not a thrilling erotic mystery without endless pages of expositional dialogue.
Tropical Heat is a show that suffers from elephantiasis of the thesaurus. When the characters aren't leaking vital minerals and nutrients through their skin like barbecued wallabies, they are speaking, on average, more words per minute than policy debaters and Busta Rhymes, combined. There are just reams and reams of excessive factual conversations in this after-hours crime drama, the kind of verbiage volume one would expect from Tom Stoppard or Norman Mailer. A typical exchange in Tropical Heat goes something like this:
Gerard: What's the matter with you Slaughter, don't you have any scruples?
Slaughter: Funny you should mention the word "scruples," because I was playing the board game of the same name the other night with two women, both of whom had gall bladder surgery on the same day two years apart, and they both told me that the person we are looking for is a killer named Miles Brandywine who was named after a drink his mother had in college. He lives here in the sunny climes of Key Mariah, the second least populous island in the Florida chain, and he supposedly owns the world's largest pickled herring collection -- God I love those tasty marinated fish -- and if we can simply remember the Latin declension for the verb "to suck," we can then add the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop and divide by the weight of brain cells you are losing everyday as a result of overexposure to the sun and we will have the address of Bronx Butterball, the crime lord who is responsible for supplying two thirds of the northern half of the southwest with illegal Aquavit?
Gerard: So what you are telling me is that the same man who is responsible for the maxi-skirt and the mini-pad, this Miles Brandywine, is also the same person who told Al the Squealer about Louey the Loser, which is why we found that louse's lower intestines in our Mai Tais the other night? He's the one who made crank calls to all the members of the Friar's Club and blabbed about the secret formula to Dr. Pepper? This is the same sack of longshoremen who muddled up the entire Bronkowitz Bar Mitzvah by showing up two hours late and ordering a glass of cold gravy with a hair in it? He's the same guy who lives here in the sunny climes of Key Mariah, the least populous of the inlands in the Florida Chain, and supposedly owns the world's largest pickled herring collection -- which makes me nauseous -- and if we can simply remember the Latin declension for the verb "to suck," we can then add the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop and divide by the weight of brain cells you are losing everyday as a result of overexposure to the sun and we will have Bronx Butterball's address? The crime lord who is responsible for supplying two thirds of the northern half of the southwest with illegal Aquavit?
Slaughter: I want to have sex with you.
Like a Tahitian Zap Brannigan with Hershey squirts of the mouth, our criminally misnamed Nick Slaughter balances his protestations between lengthy explanations and lame droopy double entendres. He only has two functional modes: he's either quoting the encyclopedia or looking to release his seed. To Master Slaugh, everything is a sexual come-on. Here is a guy who could turn the wording combination "rancid Brussels sprouts" into a salacious invitation for horizontal sand sharking simply because he never passes up an attempt to work his wiener into a wanton woman's woo-woo. Tellingly, he is as successful in his sexual conquests as he is at solving crimes. Slaughter is the kind of PI who has fate step in every once in a while and hand him a solutional gimme; the lead suspects blurts out the hideout's location; he happened to go to trade school with the DEA investigator on the case; his car gets towed by the killer's inbred cousin; hyperactive spider monkeys fling their poo precariously close to the main clue in a case. Able to make only the baser connections in deductive reasoning (sunscreen -- good, restraining order -- huh?) he needs the landing strip shoulders of Sylvie Gerard to coalesce his vapors. Like Gracie to his George, like Asta to his Thin Man, Gerard is a glorified annoying re-sounding board, able to bemuse and bemoan her position in business and in life at a rate of several syllables a second. Together, they make up the two most devoid of sexual chemistry pairing in television history, even more so than the aptly named Wally and the Beaver.
But Tropical Heat doesn't stop with its main cast. It goes all the way down the wasteland line to the ancillary players to parlay its putridness. As a rock star gone Vanilla Ice, John David Bland (won't touch that one -- too easy) is like Eric Idle's less talented brother Irving, bird headed and squawking in his faux British bravado about his pelvic proclivities, he constantly boasts about the number of young soul rebels he has actually interacted with. Basically, he seems completely unnecessary to every plot...that is, until a main character asks him a question. Then he's Shell's #1 response retard, knowing everything from the mixing rate of sodium albumtetrocline to the current time and tide tables for offshore spelunking to the average air speed of a Portuguese albatross. In a show that is filled to the French cut brief with pointless clarifications, he is the bumbling backup system, an emergency English elucidation machine. Equally unsettling (and uninteresting) is Lt. Carillo, a highly unlikely member of local law enforcement whose speaking voice is consistently (and curiously) dubbed into a flat, soundproof studio Hispanic/Canadian tenor. He could be standing in the eye of a hurricane or voyaging to the bottom of the sea, and he still sounds like he's reading his lines from a stall at the local Ontario Denny's men's room. The lumbering lieutenant is that most famous of contrivances, an authority figure who gives Slaughter those classic cop threats, legal bon mots like "you better have the evidence, or I know one beach boy who will be joining Mike Love on hush-a-bye mountain." Just like the equally useless UK yutz, the awful Officer Offal adds that unnecessary touch of red tide to this already ripe with fish kill crime show.
Boiled down to its basics, Tropical Heat is a mystery show about being muggy, a sweltering celebration of the sebaceous gland in its entire organ cooling cleverness. Like Rula Lenska, David Hasselhoff, or Pia Zadora, this renamed revamped version of Canada's own clammy ammo beach boredom has become a massive hit internationally, where plotting and characterization are meaningless as long as there are plenty of well aerobicised asses and eggplants to look at. And there are lots of legumes to leer at here. Per square screen footage, Sweating Tropical Heat Stroke has multiple members of the Speedo generation shaking their baby and buffoon makers for the sake of some so called seashore ambience. But unlike other, more obvious T&A fodder (Baywatch, She Spies, The Golden Girls), Stifling Warmth only offers the essence of sex, never jumping fully formed into the chest or crotch of its main characters or their potential paramours. Oh sure, Slaughter is viewed in post transgression traction with a woman. But in order to undermine the potential sensuality of the scene, they make the concubine an experimenting lesbian whose beefy, if decidedly feminine "husband," shows up to read Mr. Slaughter the bisexual riot act. While it's fun to watch the rather tame bed bandit get his coconuts flaked by a well muscled man/woman, Caribbean Crap can't leave well enough alone, and has to reprise the joke later by having our resident rock rat show up with both ladies on his little girl arms. And it's this repetitive sameness that marks TH for what it really is -- the same old spiced rum drink dressed up in one of several similar brightly colored cocktail umbrellas.
Of the four episodes presented on these two DVDs, it's hard to give actual criticism. It's a lot like grading levels of cat spray odor or determining gradients of baboon ass redness. The worst, by far is the pilot, called "Death's a Beach." Since it revolves around getting our Really-Isn't David and Can't-Hold-the-Kotex-of Maddie together, it convolutes what are already pretty tortuous plotlines to have them thrust into an overnight sleepover in the swamp. It then adds insult to entertainment by providing the bickering soon-to-be-business partners that overly arch, supposedly witty sexual banter where everything and anything they mention is supposed to have a hidden erotic subtext. They could be discussing the Haige or albums by Wild Man Fisher and it would still be offered in a set of unclear entendres. Of the remaining trio of tripe, "This Year's Model" is too pedestrian to have much impact and "Fowl Play"'s got its animal rights activism all wrong (after all, wouldn't the environmentalist want to save both the parrot and the slimy weasels who bird-napped it?). That leaves only "She," which aside from being one of the greatest Boyce/Hart songs ever written, stands out as the only halfway tolerable Tropical Heat episode offered here. Since a viewer watching this collection would have spent three previous episodes of tedium hearing about the mystery women who queered things between Slaughter and the DEA, it's nice to have the non-entity fleshed out. And at least the story is saddled in a kind of recognizable reality, that is, bimbo hooking into billionaire hoping for the full meal ticket ride. Still, it wouldn't be an installment of Dripping Dopes without the mandatory oddball element. And when in doubt, nothing spells tropical jungle intrigue better than Haiti's answer to evangelism, voodoo. Add a top hat wearing witch doctor and a blind seer who constantly writes her name in the ground with a stick, and you've got at least two reasons to stay alert during the entire running time.
Tropical Heat is actually the perfect late night, too-drowsy-to-pay-attention-to television. It offers an attractive in a kind of Shadoe Stevens style hunk to keep the ladies sensated and lots of tanned female flesh to make the men moan like mongooses. So what if the plots stink of six days in a leaky boat, it's really just escapist escapades in an exotic locale. It's just too bad that Artisan decided to release this series completely out of order and with some of the worst full screen transfers possible. Soft, sodden, and fuzzy like an unwaxed bikini line, the picture presented is barely acceptable. Sure, you can see everything that's going on, but for cutting edge digital technology, this is a truly terrible visual presentation. The audio is not much better, but at least in Dolby Digital Stereo, the occasional reggae riffs and samba beats sound decent. And if you're looking for bonus content to explain or elucidate the back story or creation of Tropical Sweating Heat Bullets, don't bother traveling to the DVD's menu. Instead, pick up a mouse and surf the World Wide Web. Those sans named Art have decided to try and one-up Paramount in the bare bones department and have released this title without any extras. Not that a long-winded literary dissection of the hidden Shakespearean undertones to Slaughter's oil-slicked hairstyle would make these DVD packages more tolerable. As they stand, they represent niche titling at its most obtuse. Who would have thought when the versatile disc was designed all those years ago that it would house such mediocre mucilage as Tropical Heat? What next? Full season sets of The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo?
While it's not a crime in most States (except in New Hampshire and parts of Guam), about the only thing Tropical Heat is truly guilty of is being humdrum. Otherwise this semi-engaging quasi-jiggle fest is not too hard on the head or retinas. Sure, its quotient of eye candy is more Brachs than Godiva, and it's hard to believe that so much criminal activity can take place in a setting so devoid of even the basics of sustainable life, like shirts and shoes. Still, Rob Stewart's Nick Slaughter is an intriguing, tender tough guy, mastering the Pat Reilly hairdo in all its wet-head-is-dead dimension defying. There is a natural charm about the way he wears a Hawaiian shirt and he can deliver his multiple pages of dialogue with non-stuttering aplomb. As his partner/potential paramour, Carolynn Dunn is stuck with a wardrobe only Joan Crawford could fill out properly, but still she makes an intriguing presence. The adventures that these decidedly dry entrepreneurs embark on may seem overly pat and quickly resolved, but in the end they only are what they are -- light diversions in an otherwise misery filled life. If a viewer can fantasize about palm trees and balmy beaches, sipping a cool cocktail and swaying to an island breeze, what harm is being caused? Tropical Heat may be rote television, but at least it has its backdrop going for it. Now just imagine how horrid a show called Artic Antics would be. Yeesh!
Like the icy blast of an air conditioner after a day in the searing South Florida sun, the closing credits on an episode of Tropical Heat indicates the coming of relief. It means the end of plotline discomfort and multiple shots of excessive body moisture. It means blessed repast from stiff acting and even more inflexible action formulas. As that sweet cool calmness washes over your clammy and damp neck and back, you realize that all is right with the world and that you can last one more day, just as long as you are not compelled to re-enter the vile world of roasting any time soon. So the next time someone blurts out that tired tidbit "hot enough for you," you can simply smile and say in response "I've had worse...I've been in Tropical Heat." Or if some nimrod, bald head baking like a fleshy pink potato in the noon day sun dares qualify the hellish conditions of overly temperate zones by proclaiming "it's a dry heat," you can remind Mr. Broasted Brain that an oven functions on the same principle and you don't see elderly retirees lining up to live inside one. No, there is nothing worse than hot weather. Unless it's a show about mostly unattractive non-famous actors running around like vacationing voids attempting to solve crimes and avoid getting pitted out in the hot weather and some Canuck schnook decided to call it Sweating Bullets. And then later rename it Tropical Heat for the foreign market. You can take all the salt pills you like, or swig Gatorade like it's a cherry lime rickey, but in the end, this Crap Time After Pap Time will leave you dehydrated, incoherent, and begging for a sip of brackish water. Tropical Heat is like a triathlon at the Equator. No sane person would be caught dead getting involved in it.
Tropical Heat, Volumes 1 & 2 are found guilty of gussying up the cop/detective show with a slice of pineapple and a little decorative umbrella and are sentenced to 40 years on a chain gang at Devil's Island. And just to add additional discomfort, cast and crew will be required to sleep under a tanning lamp all night long, so as to never be too far from the blistering ultraviolet light they so readily celebrated in these dull, dumb offerings.
Review content copyright © 2003 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Another Sweating Bullets Fan Site
* No, It's Not A Citizen Kane Fan Site...