Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966) Poster

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Great Title, But Unmemorable Film
ccthemovieman-113 December 2005
This crime movie was only "fair," not worth owning if you are a collector, but worth checking out if you are a James Coburn fan. The title is a lot better than the story.

This is another of those mid-60s films that was Hollywood-in-transition, meaning it was just a year or so away from abolishing any moral codes. Here, we see casual sex accepted as okay and the bank robbers portrayed as the good guys, even though they are anything but good.

The female lead, Camilla Sparv, was a strange-looking lady who never really made it as a star. One can see why. It's also interesting to hear the language of the period with the police being called "the fuzz," etc.

James Coburn is fun to watch, but the rest of the cast is unmemorable, except that it marked the film debut of Harrison Ford, who plays a messenger boy in one quick scene. Other than that, the film provides few noteworthy memories which is probably one reason why there are so few reviews of this here.
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DEAD HEAP On a Time Machine!....
KissEnglishPasto28 July 2016

The ONLY TONY KISS CASTILLO on FaceBook!-----------------------

In retrospect, I'll bet that when I bought this on DVD a few years ago, it had been re-released because of Harrison Ford's uncredited screen debut as a Bellboy (Although he was 23 when DEAD HEAT was filmed, he does look like a 19 year old "boy"!) Ahhhh, There's the Rub! The FORD debut is precisely the reason I decided to purchase it! Well, also because I had seen it twice during its theatrical release at the age of 18 and enjoyed it immensely.

Recently, I began compiling a list."Movies that stand the test of time!", and I can assure you, most whole-heartedly, DEAD HEAT won't be on it!!! This film is extremely dated, both in thematic and in stylistic terms. Even the dialog is peppered with terms you probably haven't heard in ages, like "The FUZZ", for example! (For those of you under 50, "The Police")

Although, as usual, James Coburn's screen persona is delightful to watch, there are quite a few occurrences depicted here that stretch suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. Perhaps not so much way back in 1966, but certainly now, nearly half a century later! Coburn's character, Eli Kotch, seems to be 100% impervious to Murphy's Law. Everything goes exactly his way, every single time! In Spanish we say, "Mucha Pelicula!", ."Just TOO much Movie"! Despite some real heavyweight talent in the cast, like Aldo Ray, Robert Webber and Rose Marie, the mostly lackluster dialog makes for rather non-memorable performances all around. DEAD HEAT does have a number of interesting moments sprinkled through its 100+ minute duration, but for a 2015 viewing, I would hesitate to recommend it other than to viewers pining for a little mid-60's Nostalgia!

6****** ..... ENJOY! / DISFRUTELA!

Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are most welcome!
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Does the Nowhere Man get away with it?
richards-57 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
This film seems to have vanished completely, but if you can find it, it's intriguing. The plot is serviceable, but not dazzlingly original - what is striking is its concept of the central character (James Coburn) as a kind of Nowhere Man, someone who exists only in terms of other people's (mistaken) assumptions about him. We never really find out anything concrete about Eli Kotch, the character in question, beyond the fact that he's an unscrupulous crook - even the name is highly suspect, as Coburn isn't Jewish. Hence, he's able to adopt half-a-dozen disguises in the course of the story (without changing his face once) and is convincing every time. One unfavourable review noted that the film is 107 minutes and 20 seconds long and that the 20 seconds were quite good. Actually, this is truer than the catty critic knew - the twist in the film's tail is dynamite and you really do have to wait until the last moments to get to it. On the merry-go-round of life, Eli Kotch's sins catch up with him and he never even knows it. It's a dead heat all right - on one level, he seems to get away with his crimes, but on another level, he's as big a loser as he deserves to be.
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Making It Work For You
bkoganbing13 March 2010
This film is all in the how. Dead Heat On A Merry Go Round casts James Coburn as one ruthless and amoral ex-convict who has no plans to go straight by any means. In fact he's got a score lined up on the outside that some like James Westerfield thinks he's absolutely nuts to even try. Coburn's so anxious to get out he successfully uses and seduces his prison psychiatrist Marian McCargo to get an early release.

In earlier times the lead in a film like Dead Heat On A Merry Go Round would have been played by a charming rogue type like Tyrone Power, Robert Montgomery, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., even Errol Flynn whose real life persona as a seducer would have worked in the lead. One of the elements I found interesting was that James Coburn who has played some really deadly killers on the big and small screen only broke hearts in this film. But he's just as deadly with them as with heads.

Coburn's scheme is to rob the bank at Los Angeles International Airport while the Russian premier was arriving for a state visit. I believe the premier would have been Alexei Kosygin at the time of Dead Heat On A Merry Go Round. Of course that's going to bring law enforcement on all levels out in force at the airport. But that's the whole idea, Coburn's going to make all the extra security precautions work for him.

The whole last half of the film is the caper itself and it's one intricately plotted affair. Here's one big hint as far as the film goes. Remember some of James Coburn's early roles. As part of the plan he has to adopt the accent of a foreigner, a nationality he had played successfully on the screen before. He pulls it off beautifully.

I would also note the performance of Carmilla Sparv, the beautiful woman he actually marries and who he uses unwittingly to help case the airport before robbing it and of Robert Webber the very nervous State Department official who is truly relieved that its only a robbery taking place and not some incident involving a visiting head of a foreign government.

If you like intricately plotted caper films you will absolutely adore Dead Heat On A Merry Go Round.
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Slick crime caper...a good showcase for Coburn, but muddled up with asides and incidents
moonspinner554 July 2011
Handsomely-produced, location-rich crime-drama with a light touch concerns a recently-paroled crook who gets right down to business upon his release: using a variety of aliases across the US while masterminding a complicated heist on the bank at Los Angeles International Airport. In the flashy leading role, James Coburn never resorts to mugging or other outrageous tactics; he's dry as a martini, but not above a little wily interplay with the ladies. Director Bernard Girard's own screenplay is complicated enough without the asides to the surveillance team surrounding the visiting Russian Premier, and a romantic subplot involving Camilla Sparv (which ties in to the finale) is as obtuse as the film's unwieldy title. Still--for Coburn buffs especially--there are several strong sequences building up to the tightly wrought finish, and the well-chosen supporting cast is solid. ** from ****
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Crime Really Does Pay?
zardoz-1314 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
James Coburn plays the ultimate con artist in writer & director Bernard Girand's complex but rewarding heist thriller "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" that slickly defied the standard thinking of its day. Aside from its surprise ending, "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" is chiefly remembered today as "Star Wars" leading man Harrison Ford's film debut movie as a lowly bellhop in one scene. As amoral heist thrillers go, "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" qualifies as one of the best ever made and the suspense will keep you poised on the edge of your seat or sofa right up until fade-out.

*****Please read no farther if you haven't seen this wonderful movie.

Since its formulation in 1930 and its enforcement in 1934, the self-censorship office of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) ruled what filmmakers could insert in their films. The MPPDA stipulated that crime must not pay and criminals could not get away with their crimes. Essentially, these rules stayed in place until the 1960s when filmmakers had to resort to more risqué material to lure adults away from television. "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" emerged possibly as the earliest film to show that crime could pay and pay well.

Coburn plays a chameleon of a crook called Eli Kotch. Kotch uses his considerable charms on a prison psychologist to get out of stir. Later, he masterminds several small jobs around the country to obtain $30-thousand dollars in order to finance the major set-piece of the movie: a daring, daylight bank heist at Los Angeles International Airport. The cheeky thing about Coburn's character is plans to pull the heist while virtually every policeman in Los Angeles is at the airport. Interestingly enough, the State Department, is working on security precautions for the Soviet Premier when he arrives in America at LAX, and Milo Stewart (Robert Webber of "$") is pulling hairs to make sure that nothing goes awry during the Russian's visit. Meanwhile, Kotch marries an innocent bystander, Inger Knudson (pretty Camilla Sparv of "Downhill Racer") as a front so he can go to L.A. without attracting attention.

Girand doesn't waste a moment in this taut, efficient thriller that requires patience from its audience as the writer & director painstakingly orchestrates this melodrama. The surprise ending is terrific. Watch this one.
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Film from the swinging '60s
blanche-214 May 2007
"Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" is a fun film, especially if you remember the '60s. It looks just like a movie from the '60s too - beautiful women, casual sex, calling the cops "the fuzz," and as everyone else has mentioned, Harrison Ford as a messenger. Blink and you miss him.

James Coburn plays a man of many names and professions who needs to raise $90,000 to buy building plans of a bank next to the airport so that he can commit a robbery. He gets it by seducing women, making copies of their keys, and then robbing them. Once he has the plans, he and his cronies decide to rob the bank the day the Soviet premier is due at the airport.

This film really held my interest, and it had some very tense moments toward the end of the film. James Coburn does a wonderful job in the lead, and there's nice acting in a supporting role by Robert Webber as the self-important head of the security force at the airport. Camilla Sparv, as one of Coburn's women, received some big publicity in the '60s, but her U.S. career never went anywhere.

Great twist ending. Baby boomers will get a kick out of this one.
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One can do a lot with an obscure movie.
lee_eisenberg28 May 2006
"Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" is probably mostly of interest to us nowadays due to Harrison Ford's bit part as a bellhop. Apparently, after the movie bombed, a producer told Ford: "Kid, you ain't got it." Of course, Ford went on to star in the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" trilogies, so he clearly had lots of "it".

Anyway, the movie casts James Coburn as ex-con Eli Kotch, plotting a heist in LAX while the Russian prime minister is visiting. Coburn seems to be mirroring his Derek Flint character, right down to being surrounded by hot babes (specifically Camilla Sparv and Nina Wayne). The good ol' Cold War, when the US and USSR could play all sorts of tricks on each other, and there were plenty of beauties to go around.

Overall, "DHOAMGR" isn't a great movie, but it's worth seeing. You may notice that playing Mrs. Kirby is Rose Marie, better known as Sally on "The Dick Van Dyke Show".

Nina Wayne. Hubba hubba...
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Slow, Disjointed, and Disappointing
dougdoepke21 January 2013
Seeing this heist film made me yearn for the no-nonsense efficiency of Kubrick's classic The Killing (1956). I can't recall any other heist film that generated absolutely no tension or suspense the way this one does. Instead the screenplay is cluttered with parts that fit together about as well as a bombed-out house. Writer Girard treats connecting threads as a needless distraction, which I guess we're supposed to take as the mark of European sophistication, 1960's style. Instead, we're treated to the wolfish Coburn's irresistible way with women, something about a Soviet premier on a visit, nameless guys who sort of appear and reappear leaving few tracks, and something about getting money from a bank after it's closed. The idea is to toss them all into the air and see how they come down.

Now, it might be argued that the movie is not really a heist film at all. That it's really not a genre film despite superficial appearances. Rather, the robbery and its planning are merely events leading up to some kind ironic point in the end about Eli outsmarting himself. Or some such more general point than merely a heist film. Okay. But the same general problem remains—the movie's just too slow and disjointed to hold interest regardless how it's defined.

Despite all, there are several redeeming features. There's ditzy Nina Wayne (Frieda) looking and sounding like her sexy sister Carol doing one of her hilarious bits on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Then there's the LA airport looking like a giant spider that's decide to squat on the city. And for old movie fans, it's an easy gig for Aldo Ray who gets marquee billing and about three lines of dialog. And finally, there's the neat twist ending—too bad this flash of inspiration is so slow in coming. In my book, it's one of the disappointing crime films of its time.
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Pretty dead long before the ride has come to a complete stop.
Poseidon-319 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
All the ingredients for a fun, slick caper film are here, but somehow it just never comes off as well as one might like. Coburn plays a parolee who never thinks for a minute about living a lawful life. He's not even out of the clink before he's planning to rob the Los Angeles Airport Bank, on a day when the Premier of Russia is due to arrive nonetheless. Coburn uses female after female to attain his goals, leaving each one befuddled and confused after he's done with them. One, however, Sparv, manages to hold his attention a bit longer than the rest, especially when she is so easily duped into continuing to do his bidding. He amasses a small team and sets out to pilfer all the ready cash out of the bank as US government agent Webber frantically attempts to secure the grounds for the Premier's safe arrival. Coburn uses all sorts of tactics such as accents and assumed identities in order to get what he wants, but in the end, even though he has it, he may have lost even more than he had ever dreamed of. Coburn is okay in the film. His ability to bed down every conceivable lady in sight will seem more realistic the more one finds his unique looks attractive. His accents in the film are truly rotten and come and go with ease. Sparv is exceedingly lovely to look at and isn't bad acting-wise. She and Coburn try to ignite some chemistry, but don't really succeed as a couple. Ray, as one of Coburn's associates, doesn't show up until over an hour in and isn't given much to do. Webber is appropriately harried and aggravated as Coburn's robbery plans thwart his ability to keep the airport secure. "Sword and sandal" actor Armstrong appears as one of his associates. Among Coburn's conquests are Wayne, amusingly dippy, McCargo, classy and attractive and, of all people, Marie, who is difficult to recognize right at first, but turns in a mildly amusing cameo. This type of film should be light as a feather and slick as can be, but this one has many dull spots and lack the zest it needs to really sing. Coburn's character isn't nearly as ingratiating as, say, Steve McQueen's in "The Thomas Crown Affair" and the film isn't remotely as stylish as that one either. It's a nicely photographed movie that depicts an era of clean, smartly-dressed people in attractive settings, but it just isn't captivating or charming enough to come out a winner. Look for young Ford in a small role as a hotel bellman.
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Clever title, not much more...
JasparLamarCrabb6 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Not really bad, but certainly not as provocative as its clever title would suggest. The appealing James Coburn is a grifter who jumps parole and plots a bank robbery at LAX on the day the Russian Premier is due to arrive. It takes a LONG time for that plot to become clear. It's episodic, sporadically suspenseful and occasionally funny. Coburn runs into the likes of sexy but bright Nina Wayne, wealthy Boston dowager Rose Marie and the gorgeous Camilla Sparv. Coburn & Sparv have a lot of chemistry, though it's unclear why they're even together. Bernard Girard's script is very malformed. The supporting cast includes a nearly silent Aldo Ray, Robert Webber as an uptight security man, and the always enjoyable Severn Darden as one of Coburn's sweaty cohorts. DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY GO ROUND is perhaps now more famous for featuring the then Columbia Studio contract player Harrison Ford (he has one line).
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James Coburn was Outstanding
whpratt110 September 2008
This film deals with a con-man named Eli Kotch, (James Coburn) who just gets out of prison and decides to lay out his ground work for a large bank robbery at the Los Angeles, California airport. Eli also knows that a Russian Prime Minister will be visiting Los Angeles and flying into the same airport which will distract the police force away from a bank holdup. Eli also meets up with a very sexy blonde named Inger Knudson, (Camilla Spary) who works for very rich people and cons her into doing all kinds of things, Eli even marries her with a fake ID. There is plenty of comedy and some tense moments in a police station. You will never be able to figure out how this picture will end. It will definitely surprise you. Enjoy.
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Glossy, empty, pretentious exercise in style
gridoon202229 October 2009
"Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round" is a lot like its title: looks and sounds good, but means nothing and ultimately is of no real value. It's a glossy production with a fine music score by Stu Phillips, but it's neither funny enough, nor suspenseful enough, nor clear enough, to work as a heist comedy-thriller. It's made in an deliberately obscure style that is far too pretentious for what is essentially just another bank robbery yarn. James Coburn is ideal for these cocky, cynical roles, but this particular character invokes little sympathy or interest. In fact, the only character with any life here is the quirky, flaky girl played by Nina Wayne; I wouldn't mind it at all if the film abandoned all the other characters and told us her story instead. As it is, "Dead Heat On A Merry-Go-Round" is deadly boring and doesn't spin fast enough. * out of 4.
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Quite enjoyable dared heist from Coburn!!!
elo-equipamentos25 April 2019
Between Flint and others interesting projects like this almost unknown one which gave to James Coburn a fast improvement of his career before to raise highest flights, this picture has a bit confusing screenplay to starts, too many travels to several places without a purpose easily clarified, little coups here and there, until to planning a big one, the airport heist, a bolder plain to take forward, he wisely grasp the opportunity allowed by visit of the URSS's primer minister with the stronger security around to easy up their plans, the heist itself was quite simple, the escape was resourceful and well-crafted, Coburn plays an overwhelming lover, three love affairs with some girls anchored in improper cunduct, he strikes their hearts among them the Nordic beauty Camilla Sparv using her for dual purposes only, but in the end has a great unexpected surprise, enjoyable to watch, l realized a bit bad humor from IMDB's user here without a suitable reasons, unless that I missing something!!


First watch: 2007 / How many: 2 / Source: DVD / Rating: 7
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DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND (Bernard Girard, 1966) **
Bunuel197627 September 2008
To call this would-be 'with it' caper comedy muddled is a gross understatement – indeed, Bernard Girard the director should have fired Bernard Girard the writer because an admittedly ingenious premise has only resulted in a relentlessly dull movie! Hero James Coburn, with a permanent grin on his face, is involved in so many schemes on his way to rob Los Angeles' LAX airport (which brought back memories of my stay in the city three years ago, extending to the similarity of hotel interiors): in fact, he dupes a variety of people during the course of the narrative – including lovely leading lady Camilla Sparv (already ex-Mrs. Robert Evans by the time the film was released and who won a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer, over Candice Bergen and Lynn Redgrave[!], even if her career seemed to wither soon after); consequently, it's all needlessly (indeed painfully) stretched to 107 minutes!

To add to the confusion (not to say dejection), we get a dreary subplot revolving around the visit of a Russian official to the United States and the elaborate (though not always successful) security measures American agencies – led by Robert Webber and assisted by an impossibly youthful Todd Armstrong (from the Ray Harryhausen opus JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS [1963]!) – have to undertake for this purpose. As with many films of its ilk from this 'anything goes' era, the title is a reference to nothing in particular – to be sure, it surfaces in the plot as the name of a book ostensibly written by Coburn (under one of the innumerable aliases he hides behind); again, typically, the criminals (also including Aldo Ray in an underwritten part) are allowed to get away with it…though there's a nice ironic final twist when the author – who has unaccountably gone 'missing' but, apparently, truly existed – is found to have left his vast fortune to bewildered 'bride' Sparv!

This was my third effort from its little-known director in a relatively brief period of time – the first was intriguing but invincibly low-key, THE MIND SNATCHERS (1972), the second a Godawful (and barely-released) Western spoof called GONE WITH THE WEST (1975); the "Leonard Maltin Film Guide", then, awards DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND a very respectable *** – hence, it ranks as yet another disappointment! Incidentally, the star made innumerable films in this vein during the 1960s and 1970s – where his narcissistic and arrogant personality comes off as overbearing and, therefore, alienating: up next, in fact, is DUFFY (1968) which, despite rating an even lower *1/2, it's one I'd long been curious about in view of its rather interesting credentials
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A mid 60's (mild) 'caper' flick
UNOhwen14 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
First, I LOVE James Coburn.

That said, this is a film made (as several other people have noted) during Hollywood's mid-60's transition, so, on one hand it's got that early 60's, lush, buffed, faux-location quality (especially the early parts of the film), and a grittier, realistic real-location quality.

the film features a bevy of character actors, and for me - a delightful surprise - was seeing the late(great!) Carol Wayne's almost identical younger sister, Nina (who didn't make a lot of appearances) as a housekeeper named Frieda Schmid -(doing a remarkable Carol Wayne impersonation), who Coburn wines & dines in order to gain entrance to her boss' home.

The biggest problem with the picture is that it seems to be pulled in those two directions - the early 60's sex romp, and the later 60's grittiness. That plays out in several ways, chief amongst them is (as noted by another reviewer) the film code did not let the 'baddies' enjoy their purloined proceeds. After they do the caper, you sit - waiting for 'the man' to show up, and slap on the cuffs.

I'm not going to give away what happens, but I will say that you really DO have to wait until the last few seconds for the big 'twist.' I'm not going to say this is the worst picture of that ilk, it's middling, and definitely enjoyable.
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Off The Pace
seveb-2517923 September 2018
The 60s was the golden age of the heist genre and this is James Coburn's entry. It's like Michael Caine's "The Italian Job" without the mighty minis. Or Sinatra's "Ocean's 11" without the star studded comradery. Or Steve McQueen's "The Thomas Crown Affair" without the distinctive, tricksy style of direction and McQueen's personal touches (such as the dune buggy sequences) In other words it's lacking some magic spark. Coburn bangs more women than Bond in the first half, as he goes about getting the money together for the job. And a teenage Harrison Ford turns up in a small speaking role as a bell boy.
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Brings back 1960's memories
MrOllie1 September 2011
I saw this film at the cinema in the 1960's and years later, although I had never forgotten the title of the film, I could not remember anything else about it. I decided, therefore, to buy the DVD and pay a long time return visit to this film. In it James Coburn plays a con-man and is at times quite amusing, but I must say, however, that the movie is rather tame and slow and pretty much forgettable. Still it brought back memories of a time now gone, but a time I often wish would return. If you are wanting thrills and excitement, then this film is not for you. However, for those of you who enjoy watching 1960's films then this rather overlooked movie is worth a look.
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Kotch Me If You Can....
ferbs5419 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
In January 1966, with the release of the James Bond spoof "Our Man Flint," Nebraska-born James Coburn went from seven years of cinematic dues paying to genuine superstar status. Although he'd been a stalwart character actor in such classic films as "The Magnificent Seven," "The Great Escape" and "Major Dundee," his portrayal of supercool secret agent Derek Flint demonstrated how easily he could carry his own picture. The year turned out to be a great one for Coburn; in August, he appeared in the WW2 comedy "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?," and in December, he closed 1966 out nicely with the breezy heist film "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round." In this last film of that year's trio, Coburn portrays a character almost as cool and resourceful as Flint: Eli Kotch. Kotch IS his actual name, although, glib and inventive con man that he is, he also sports any number of pseudonyms, as needed. As smooth talking and charming a liar as has ever appeared on screen ("the slickest, swingin'est con man who ever took the world for a ride," as the film's poster described him), Eli, as it turns out, will indeed require all the mandacious prowess he can muster to pull off what he has planned in this film!

When we first encounter Kotch, he is in the process of sweet-talking the female psychiatrist at his L.A. prison into giving him a parole. Once on the outside, he breaks that parole immediately, and for the next 1/2 hour of screen time, the viewer wonders just what the heck he is up to, as he systematically cons and robs a succession of women in Denver and Boston while posing as a mortuary worker, a shoe salesman and an exterminator ((two of these women are played by Nina Wayne, the wispier-voiced, younger sister of pneumatic Carol and who some baby boomer TV lovers may recall as "Camp Runamuck"'s Caprice Yeudleman, and "The Dick van Dyke Show"'s Rose Marie, in a relatively rare big-screen appearance). Eli eventually cons a woman named Inger (the lovely Swedish actress Camilla Sparv) into marrying him and unwittingly abetting him in his grand scheme: robbing the International Bank of Commerce in the Los Angeles International Airport, on the same day that the Soviet premier is due to land! But can Eli and his three accomplices pull off this crime, AND keep Inger in the dark, AND get away with the loot? Even supercool Derek Flint might break a sweat during this caper!

Truth to tell, unlike such marvelous heist films as "Rififi," "The Killing" and "Topkapi," here, the actual robbery sequence is a bit anticlimactic and disappointing; the buildup to the robbery, however, and the events that follow, as we wonder whether or not our quartet will actually get away with the crime, are pretty exciting. It is fairly fascinating to watch Kotch & Co. carry out their plans, IMF style, especially inasmuch as we have no idea where things are heading. But the scheme that the men carry out is fairly ingenious, and a repeat watch of the film made me appreciate Kotch's thoroughness even more. In the lead, Coburn is just perfect as the charming Eli, who can seemingly think/con/talk himself out of any situation. The actor is immensely likable here, displaying that winning, toothy grin over and over again; how much less of a film this would be without him! Coburn is ably assisted by a dynamite supporting cast here, too. In addition to the ladies already mentioned, there is Aldo Ray as one of Eli's henchmen (Ray had previously appeared in the heist film "The Day They Robbed the Bank of England," as well as "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" with Coburn); Robert Webber, who many will recall as the smarmy adman, Juror #12, in "12 Angry Men," here playing a government agent; Severn Darden as another of Eli's henchmen (Darden would appear the following year with Coburn in the wacky satire "The President's Analyst"); two "Star Trek" alumni, Michael "Roger Corby" Strong (another henchman) and Phillip "Colonel Green" Pine (as the LAX security chief); AND, in his film debut, a young actor named Harrison Ford (unbilled here), playing a hotel bellhop ("Paging Mr. Ellis, paging Mr. Ellis"). "Dead Heat..." has been stylishly directed by Bernard Girard, who was known primarily for his television work, and features a catchy, percolating theme by Stu Phillips. Filmed largely at LAX, the picture seems to be enamored of the comparatively new and futuristic-looking Theme Building, which had been erected in 1961; indeed, I counted a good dozen loving and lingering shots of this most distinctive architectural wonder scattered throughout the film, from numerous vantage points and distances. The bottom line is that "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" (and yes, that oddball title DOES eventually make sense) is a most entertaining film, thanks in large part to James Coburn, who, three months later, with the release of the sequel "In Like Flint," would cement his star status even further. So do Kotch & Co. get away with their caper by the film's end and live happily ever after? I wouldn't dream of saying, but I will mention that rather than demonstrating that "crime doesn't pay," this film interestingly posits the notion that the straight road might ultimately be a more lucrative deal....
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Cold blast on a carousel of mediocrity.
mark.waltz14 March 2022
Warning: Spoilers
Like many other caper comedies of the 1960's, this has many great ideas and a lot of great location footage and fashions, but goes all over the place in trying to establish a story, make interesting characters and keep the audience interested. James Coburn has a lot of screen charisma and is fascinating to watch as a parolee who goes on the lamb and begins a series of robberies, but it's basically a list like plotline of "He went there, robbed this person, got on a plane, went there and robbed that person, yada yada yada." All of a sudden, there's a subplot involving Russian visitors to the United States, and it gets more convoluted and unnecessary.

Rose Marie, wearing her hair dyed to look like either Arlene Dahl or Rhonda Fleming, has a pointless cameo, but at least it's a better film for her in 1966 than the disastrous "Don't Worry. We'll think of a Title". Coburn is fun to watch, and his intelligence and wit are undeniable, but. Golden Globe winner Camilla Sparv (best newcomer) isn't as exciting as that newcomer award would indicate. Director Bernard Girard was obviously great for TV, but his film credits aren't impressive, and this is evidence as to why. Vic Tayback of "Alice" is quickly recognizable at least through his voice, but you'll have to be a pretty sharp viewer to pick out Harrison Ford in a bit. Robert Webber and Aldo Ray get differing reactions from me for obvious reasons. Nice shots of Boston during the winter is a plus, but like Boston in the winter, they're still left me feeling very cold.
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Boring movie saved by the two leads
Hang_All_Drunkdrivers11 August 2009
James Coburn plays an ex-con planning a complicated bank job. For some reason he keeps changing his name and stated occupation and even his accent though none of these lies seem to matter to the goal of robbing the bank. Meanwhile there's a subplot involving the arrival of a Russian big-shot but again, that has nothing to do with robbing the bank!

But Coburn is always watchable with his strange face and gangly body and deep voice and disarming smile. He is probably the greatest scene-stealer in film history though it doesn't happen here since he's the star. His co-star is the beautiful Camilla Sparv. She doesn't really do much, but she is a great beauty and you have to wonder what ever happened to her career.
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Light hearted crime romp, with a twist.
jfkeegan19 November 2002
A great movie to see while knowing nothing much about it. (Stop here if this is you, and watch it!)

A marvelous script, and Coburn is fantastic. The rest of the cast does a great job with their material, too. Good to very good direction and good to very good production values.

Cute sub-plot, and a nice ironic twist at the very end.

This has long been one of my favorite movies.
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Airport Theatre of The Absurd
jacegaffney17 January 2013
For quite some time, this movie has held a place on my list of quintessential 60s guilty pleasure; it's a mini-super-light heist flick variation on some of the same themes in John Boorman's masterpiece, POINT BLANK - with its consistent visual chronicling of a transient American culture made anonymous by its materialistic-quack preoccupations (and thus,easily vulnerable to chameleon criminality). James Coburn, who plays DEAD HEAT'S hero shares some of Lee Marvin's traits in POINT BLANK. Both men move, mysteriously, like the wind, "beat the system," "win out" as anti-heroes but, in the process,they negate themselves out of existence ( they are, literally, "gone with the wind" at their respective pictures' fade-outs). On this last go-round, having just recently watched it again (via TCM), I'm prepared to give it a less qualified, more hearty endorsement. Writer-director, Bernard Girard makes the best case for modern international airports to be THE stage for absurdist comedy of any film I can think of. It begins with a mock-dramatic monologue by Coburn that keys the unique tongue-in-cheek tone of the film brilliantly and is probably the best acting he ever did on film. Stu Philips' catchy theme music maintains the puckish spirit of the piece in a way that few American movie scores of the 60s ( or movie scores of any other period for that matter) have been able to do as successfully or as memorably.
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Boring and disappointing and confusing
mrmerims12 April 2020
Weak plot. Scenes without purpose and connection to the overall story. Inconsistent story line. The surprise ending was flat and uneventful. No need to watch this one even though Coburn smiled, laughed, and changed his voice 7 times.
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Is that David Jannsen in a bit part?
irishmama344 August 2009
We all recognize Harrison Ford in this famous no credit bit part (bell boy).

Is that David Jannsen in a bit part (larger than Ford's), playing one of the uniformed police officers (he says a few lines) in the security area when Coburn's character "picks up" a prisoner? It really looks like Jannsen, but of course he doesn't have a credit that I could find. Between 1963 and 1967, Jannsen doesn't have any TV/movie credits listed on IMDb. This movie is 1966 (and before his famous Fugitive TV series), so I guess it's possible that he did some work for pay, but no credit.

Does anyone else think it's David Jannsen?
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