Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dead Beat (1994)

Dead Beat

Kit...Bruce Ramsay
Rudy...Balthazar Getty
Kirsten...Natasha Gregson Wagner
Donna...Meredith Salenger

Albuquerque, NM.  1965.  Kit is a young loner whose entire existence is pretty much a falsification.  He colors his hair so that it's the perfect shade of black.  He wears makeup to give the appearance of a perfect complexion.  He stuffs his boots with crushed beer cans to give him those extra couple inches that would make him the perfect height.  And he paints a beauty mark on his cheek, the perfect imperfection.  He even so much as admits this all to his new friend Rudy when he tells him that "The secret to true phony perfection is practice."

Kit has made an artform out of lying.  When asked why he walks so strangely (the result of the Schlitz lifts in his boots), he assures people that he was shot in both legs by Mexican fedarales while running drugs for the mafia.  He tells one girl that he has leukemia in order to get into her pants.  He tells a whole series of girls that he loves them.  In short, he tells everyone exactly what they want to hear, or exactly what he has to tell them in order to get what he wants.

Kit is, no doubt about it, trouble.  But when he meets the beautiful Kirsten Beidermeyer, he seems to have met his match.  With a whole slew of almost dadaist crimes under her belt, and a mental state that is anything but balanced, the two seem made for each other.  In fact, Kit even tells her his deepest, darkest secret:  Not long ago, he (along with his cohorts Jimmy and Martha) killed a girl, and buried her in the desert.

Five minutes into this movie, I was stunned with the realization that I already knew this story.  I hadn't seen it before, nor had I read anything more than the synopsis before I sat down to do so.  But I had read Jack Ketchum's The Lost.  And I had seen the film adaptation of same.  Little did I know that both were tales were inspired by the same true-life event.

Life Magazine, March 4 1966

In 1964, Charles Schmid (who did, in fact, have the peculiar affectations demonstrated by both Dead Beat's Kit and The Lost's Ray Pie) murdered his first victim.  Even after his teenage friends became aware of his crime, they were so enamored by Schmid that they kept their silence for some time afterwards.

There are a number of differences between Dead Beat and The Lost.  The Charles Schmid character is pretty much the same in both adaptations, but the secondary characters are often drastically different.  In The Lost, we open with the initial murder and it poisons the rest of the storyline. Here, the murders are pretty much inconsequential (and indeed barely revealed) until the last 20 minutes or so of the film.  All of the characters in The Lost were guilty of something, while Dead Beat is narrated by Rudy Dobbs, who is, in the grand scheme, an innocent.  The Lost was also much darker in tone throughout its entirety, while there was a dark humor and subtle sweetness on display throughout much of Dead Beat.  The Lost was something of a horror story, while Dead Beat was a twisted time-piece and love story with moments of horror just underneath.  The Lost had Misty Mundae and Dee Wallace-Stone.  Dead Beat had Blondie's Deborah Harry, and that disturbed chick from Roseanne.

So, which one do I prefer?  Dead Beat, in my opinion, was a better movie than The Lost (and, I suspect, something closer to the truth).  However, Ketchum's novel The Lost was better than either films.  Regardless, they all give alternate views of the same story, and all are worth the time to enjoy.

Rated R
93 Minutes
United States

"In the butt, you idiot!"

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