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Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round

14 customer reviews

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(Sep 30, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round is a 1966 crime film written and directed by Bernard Girard, starring James Coburn and featuring Camilla Sparv, Aldo Ray, Nina Wayne, Todd Armstrong, Robert Webber and Rose Marie. James Coburn stars in this comedy-melodrama as Eli Kotch, who uses his charm to obtain a parole from prison by having an affair with a female psychologist. Eli's plan upon getting out of jail is to rob a bank at the L.A. International Airport. The date of the bank robbery coincides with the arrival of the Russian premier, so that bank security will be minimal with the premier attracting most of the airport security forces. Harrison Ford appears in his film debut in the bit part of a bellhop.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: James Coburn, Camilla Sparv, Aldo Ray, Nina Wayne, Robert Webber
  • Directors: Bernard Girard
  • Writers: Bernard Girard
  • Producers: Carter DeHaven
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Georgian
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: September 30, 2003
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000AUHQB
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,870 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By EddieLove on February 1, 2009
Format: DVD
This is a unique and sensational 60s caper -- very well-written. There's no exposition - nothing is telegraphed. You have to pay careful attention to all Coburn's moves to find out how they play out. You're not even sure what the score is `til the final 20 minutes. It's seriously ahead of its time, although its time may not have yet arrived still, because if this were made today they'd overplay the cynicism of the piece and not let it all unfold for the viewer without irony.

Though it has a low-key, hip 60s vibe, it has more of the feel of a subversive 70s entertainment. (I winced when I saw Rose Marie's prominent billing in the credits, fearing a garish Mad-Mad-World-style comic cameo. She has only a couple of scenes, though and she's terrific.) Coburn's never been better.

The picture's a little too long, but it's a complete knockout. Remembered today mainly for Harrison Ford's three lines as a bellboy, this a subtle little classic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Kaczmarek on December 7, 2010
Format: DVD
James Coburn is among my favorite actors -- he might not have been as handsome as, say, Cary Grant or Gregory Peck, nor as suave as Sean Connery or Rock Hudson, but he could carry a film as easily as any of these leading men. What Coburn brought to his roles, long before it became de riguer, was a steady but self-effacing cool, with quite a bit more humor than Steve McQueen or Lee Marvin, who approximated him physically. That his career did not go further is a mystery to me, but thank goodness we have the films he did make. Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round is a cryptic title until you get the reference in the film, but it's a fine hold-up movie, and the sort that keeps you guessing as to what will happen next.

Coburn plays Eli Kotch, a grifter who, among other things, charms his way out of prison by bedding the state's psychologist (Marian McCargo, a cross between Barbara Billingsley and Dina Merrill) before making his way across the country in a series of interesting cons that net him women and money. It's all to buy the scjematics for an airport international bank's security system, which he plans to crack with the help of his gang (Aldo Ray, Michael Strong, and Severn Darden, whom Coburn would again co-star with in the excellent The President's Analyst). At risk are the usual close calls, but what elevates Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round from the usual caper film is its focus on both character and location, giving the film a more introspective geography than most. Watching it, one can see hints to what later would become standard elements of both Tarantino and Coen Brothers films, and in fact, it's rather surprising in particular the latter chose to remake True Grit and not this film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L on January 12, 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
First of, James Coburn was a great actor, in the same style of Charles Bronson, Stephen Boyd, or Lee Marvin. However, somehow he is forgotten by the Hollywood and public in general. I don't know why?

The movie has great 1960's feel to it. Interesting story, and un-Hollywood like ending. Also, great shots of LAX airport.
I give it 4 stars, because I would be lying if said that I love it, but I did like it.
Most importantly, Camilla Sparv is an eye-candy to look at. If at least a quarter of Swedish females look like her,
then I must seriously consider moving to Sweden :)
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By MadMacs on December 31, 2011
Format: DVD
Ah the mid-1960s --- thin acting, thinner scripts. Rented because I'm a huge fan of heist capers. Unfortunately, 'Merry Go Round' is a rather fragile piece of filmmaking. Trying too hard to be clever and failing. Too coy to be slick. Too plastic to be real. And infinitely too convoluted to make any sense.

In this film, Coburn plays Eli Kotch, a con-man and Lothario thief who uses his skills pursuing housemaids in order to pry his way to the goodies; both literal and figurative téndrés des marchandises. It's a decent scam, but he has eyes on a much bigger prize. He's tired of making just enough until he has to do it all over again, so he has plans on a heist that will set him up for life. One big score that will allow him to walk away and drink margaritas on a beach forever.

Seems pretty straight-forward, but the filmmakers pursue a plaintively obtuse and twisted path to reach that simple goal.

One issue I had, and it's only one to illustrate a point, was why Eli needed to recruit his 'assistant' from the east coast, only to have her relocate to the west coast? It's not explained, and I sincerely doubt there is an explanation. Not a reasonable or logical one at least. Again, that's just one issue. There are many more like it in this production.

Again, it was the 1960s. And this kind of plot hole seems par for the course for many B-movies that did not go straight for the easy money via sexploitation or sensationalism. The mid-sixties were a transitional period in Hollywood, a time where things were about to creatively explode as rogue filmmakers and independents were about to shakeup the industry for the next twenty years.
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