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Top of the Heap 1972
Description: He was a violent man...trouble was--he was also a cop.
Released: 02 Jun 1972 Director: Christopher St. John Writers: Christopher St. John Actors: Christopher St. John, Paula Kelly, Florence St. Peter, Leonard Kuras Genres: Drama
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Top of the Heap Reviews:

Its a shame that films like these receive lost in the folds of time. The terrible dude that is the director is also the producer, writer and star. Shot in Washington D.C. in 1971, Top of the Heap is the storyline of a black police officer, who is confused, p***ed off and slowly going crazy. Nice music, nice vignettes. The plot is very disjointed but all in all a nice experience. Some great dream sequences too.


I can only imagine the looks on the faces of patrons who went to see this when it was originally released to theaters. The closest I can describe it is an R-rated take on Walter Mitty, with the central hero repeatedly daydreaming of being an astronaut while his true life is a hellhole. It's certainly an imaginative exercise, but ultimately proves frustrating because of its almost episodic nature, plus a number of murky features (for example, we don't learn that he has more than one child in his family until it's mentioned near the end of the movie!)Still, if you select to watch it (take breaks during your watching, so you don't receive too strained), it does deliever some entertainment and interesting moments. For one thing, this is one of the several black-themed films of the time that isn't totally sympathetic towards its lead character. It's also one of the several that has some likable white characters; in fact, the film seems more vs "the system" than whites in general. There are also a several genuinely hilarious moments. Despite all this, the film is still greatest appreciated as an artifact than a piece of entertainment.


I have a feeling that Abel Ferrara may have seen this movie at some mission before he made "Bad Lieutenant" (much as Sam Raimi undoubtedly saw "Equinox" before he made "Evil Dead"). There are a certain number of striking similarities between the two films: cop who seems to hate the burden of his wife and family, hates his job, is corrupt, does drugs, is p****d off and scornful of just about everything around him and...well, I won't tell any more than that because I might spoil it for viewers who haven't seen one or the another film. One large difference between the two, though, is that Christopher St. John's hero in "Top of the Heap" is rather more well-developed. He has an internal life (represented on-screen by a very odd astronaut/moon-shot fantasy/dream), so we have a certain understanding, if not necessarily a sympathy for his actions and motivations. This is a rather obscure (I'd never heard of it before I found my long-out-of-print Unicorn Video pre-record) but very underrated piece of filmmaking and it doesn't deserve to be heaped together with another weak budget blaxploitation movies of the period. It's really too terrible that Christopher St. John hasn't directed other movie since. I found his work a lot more interesting than the majority of Ferrara's.



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