A couple of hoodlums park at the edge of a cliff near Barcelona and get out of their vehicle, then carry the third member of their party to a waiting van - waiting to be pushed over the drop. The girl who is unconscious is placed in the front seat, then they get their car to slowly force the van closer and closer to the precipice, but they have been spotted by a couple of cops who try to stop them, yet arrive too late and see the murder take place, powerless to prevent it. The gangsters then take off in their vehicle after an exchange of gunfire, though one cop is run over in the skirmish, and the other, Alberto (Óscar Ladoire), gives chase, offering a running commentary over his radio. But his boss orders him to let it go...
Downtown Heat was relatively restrained for a movie directed by Jess Franco, that legend of trash cinema who here appeared to be endeavouring to play it as straight as he could with an action thriller as light on the action as it was on the thrills. Indeed, so deadly dull was this that it quickly became a case of spotting the regular absurdities brought about by the low budget as a method of staying even slightly engaged with the plodding plot, which involved a jazz musician (we can tell because he plays the saxophone a total of once - on his own, looking into the middle distance, natch) getting mixed up with police going maverick in an attempt to take down the bad guy, a Mafia boss who has seen the bloke killed at the beginning and now his lady cop widow wants vengeance.
Said lady cop was played by Charlie Chaplin's daughter Josephine Chaplin in what turned out to be her final role; she didn't exactly have an illustrious career in front of the camera, Pier Paolo Pasolini's Canterbury Tales was her highest profile effort, and when she ended it playing in a Franco flick you wonder what was going through her mind (other than "pay me"). Anyway, she got to run about a bit and shoot guns, so there was a possibility she was having fun, which is more than can be said for the stultified audience who would likely have given up on any semblance of interest when the storyline was a vaguely assembled set of clichés that you could see presented better in any number of other cop thrillers. Sure, there was an exploding helicopter here, but even that didn't elicit anything but giggles when it was plainly a toy model being shot out of the sky, such was the low budget.
Franco's better half Lina Romay inevitably showed up to play a lesbian who had been the lover of the musician's wife, sporting a butch haircut and surprising Ancient Egyptian eye makeup. When the wife is found in the back of a car in the scrapyard she calls home, along with a bunch of ruffians straight out of an Italian post-apocalypse movie, we can only ponder the motive of the little white mice that are crawling over the corpse, until we twig that Franco probably intended to use the more menacing rats, but found none to hand. This leads to the vigilante gang, now led by imported American star Mike Connors (familiar to some as the lead in TV's Mannix), to kidnap the crime boss's swimsuit-clad daughter, but by the time this has occurred - WHAT THE HELL IS THAT NOISE?!!! You call that music?! I know Franco liked his jazz but this sounds like the incidental tunes to Seinfeld got roaring drunk and farted about for an hour and a half instead of playing properly. Anyhoo, aside from the toy helicopter going pop, the mice and that awful din there wasn't much to recommend Downtown Heat. As expected.
Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.
Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.