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In 1965, Rudy, a Midwestern high-school kid, moves to Albuquerque; lonely and friendless, he's attracted to Kit, slightly older, with a car, his own apartment, and spending money. Kit loves Elvis and loves the ladies; plus, he's a complete phony: his tan is fake, he wears lifts, he lies to girls, and he pretends to care about Rudy. Kit also shares a dark secret with two other devoted followers, Jimmy and Martha. He meets his match in Kirsten, a spoiled rich girl who gives as good as she gets. When she and a younger cousin disappear, Rudy must choose between loneliness and the law. Written by
Off-beat black comedy like no other. (minor spoilers)
I have always assumed that movies like Dead Beat, Cry Baby, But I'm a Cheerleader, Psycho Beach Party, etc. were part of the teen pulp genre mocking much of the exaggerations of the 1950s rebel without a cause or teenage confidential kind of films. And, usually, the story entails not only probing satire, but also murder. In the case of Dead Beat, it is taken to a point that suddenly, this already-bizarre black comedy becomes even more eerie. There are much fewer moments of true hilarious stupidity like you might find in something like Psycho Beach Party, and so potential viewers should already expect Dead Beat to be much weirder and far more off-beat, especially considering the story and some very eerily annoying characters. Then again, it's based on the story of Charles Shmid (see the film trivia).
Set in a small town in the New Mexico desert, Rudy (Balthazar Getty) is new in town after his mother's transfer (for asthmatic reasons). Life is pretty boring there until he befriends the town Casanova, Kit (Bruce Ramsay who eerily resembles Richard Grieco) who seems to have it all: his own place, a hefty allowance, leisurely employment, and any girl he wants. But basically everything about Kit is a facade, and you can never be too sure if you can believe the things he says and does. The shaky charade entertains us for the first half of the movie as Rudy narrates Kit's assorted adventures with the neighborhood girls. And then things become seriously strange when Kirsten Beidermier (Natasha Gregson Wagner) enters the picture. Kit picks up with her, I suppose momentarily he falls in love with her, and little by little, she begins to destroy the perfection of Kit's facade, and that of course, leads to big trouble for all.
Dead Beat is an offbeat black comedy for sure, but one that fans of the revivalist pulp genre, and all it's cult favorites therein, may enjoy.
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