Hot Stuff (1979)

Hot Stuff

This was a film that I spent a number of years hunting down and managed to grab an ex-rental on VHS back in the early 90’s. The idea behind Hot Stuff sounds amazing, a bunch of Burt Reynolds’ co-stars make an action comedy about the fuzz setting up a fencing operation to catch crooks, based on actual events and nothing too serious.

Dom DeLuise, Burt’s co-star from several films including the Cannonball series, The End and Smokey & The Bandit II wrote, directed and starred in the project. The film also has Jerry Reed, Burt’s co-star from the Smokey & The Bandit series, Gator and an episode of B.L. Stryker. Ozzie Davies is there too, Burt’s co-star from B.L. Stryker, Evening Shade and Cop & ½. Pat McCormick from the Smokey & the Bandit series pops up. Bill McCutcheon from W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings has a fairly large role here. Suzanne Pleshette, who was in Riverboat, but only after Burt left the series, plays Reed’s love interest. And of course, Alfie Wise from is here …every Burt Reynolds movie and TV show! Hot Stuff is the best Burt Reynolds movie he has nothing to do with and should be applauded for not dragging him in for even a shameless Smokey and the Bandit III style cameo.

I’m not sure that Hot Stuff got a particularly wide release in the UK as the film didn’t have a prominent star leading the show and was difficult for me to find at the time. This was a time when the leading actor or director really sold the film and Dom, whilst known to most, might not have generated much enthusiasm. It was, however, an emerging genre fork that was really gaining traction and the action comedy would take off in the 80’s, but we hadn’t gotten to the 80’s yet.

The movie sees everything going over the top. The comedy is dialled up considerably and every crook is a cartoon character. DeLuise crafts a film that works on its own merits, whilst far from perfect it’s an enjoyable mix of silly cop nonsense and variety show. The rapid fire nature of the wacky characters is particularly unrealistic, however, it impressively does not run out of steam and is of a sketch based tradition, you ask yourself “what could possibly come next.”

The casting of DeLuise in the lead is probably the most difficult to settle with here. DeLuise is both a fearful cop in the wrong place at the wrong time yet no nonsense authority figure when needed charging into action. During the shootouts he looks and feels uncomfortable, but it’s fun to see him have a go at the action and brandish a machine gun. Jerry Reed looks right at home occupying a more traditional hero cop cut, stetson, sun glasses and all. I do wonder if it was an in joke to have his character drive a blue Pontiac Trans Am and talk about the payments he has to make following it’s destruction (a nod to Reed’s “Lord, Mr. Ford” song perhaps?) To distract from the uneven action, the scenes are full of gags and much levity whilst also having fairly proficient stuntwork. A foot chase apes The French Connection and Dom looks to handle it as 90% serious and 10% farce.

Jerry Reed and Suzanne Pleshette have a somewhat typical rocky road to a romantic relationship and the film wisely plays this down. Luis Ávalos completes the gang of cops as the accountant, DeLuise gives each of the characters their fair share of gags, arcs and likeability. Whilst DeLuise is the leading character, it’s really the comic troupe that makes the film work.

The film looks bright and vibrant with a steady mix of studio sets and handful of scenes filmed on location. There isn’t a lot of variety in the sets, with the majority set in the store or the police station. Most of the action, aside from the climactic fight/party sequence, take place on vacant lots or building sites. The unrelenting sun adds an extra layer of discomfort to Deluise as he runs from explosions screaming. Car chases happen on occasion, however, whilst they feel confined to a singular location but also the interior of the cars as these are shot at a different time and tightly framed to hide it. 

There really is no conflict in the group of heroes throughout and even when it comes to the big reveal of the operation to the crooks at the end, it’s all taken very nicely. The crooks get their comeuppance and yet it all ends with smiles and handshakes. It’s quite a stretch to think this film’s locality covers some of the same criminal elements as Scarface (1983).

I liked Hot Stuff and it was worth tracking down. It’s a light, somewhat family friendly comedy with mild peril that does little to annoy. It’s absolutely worth seeing for the moments of DeLuise puffing a small cigarette and getting the munchies, a comedy gold moment. 

There is only one poster for Hot Stuff and a number of variations on it for various releases. It’s quite typical of the marketing material in the late 70’s and matches the tone of the movie perfectly. The UK VHS video cover has a real nostalgic feel to the day I finally found it. I remember examining it and noting the title on the spine with the white inside the alpha characters, a simple cut and paste job from the poster on the front.

Hot Stuff is out there on both VHS and DVD. Both are easily found, however, might have a higher price tag on them. I cannot find a listing for my DVD and I’m thinking it might be a very high quality bootleg from Ebay some years ago.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *