Plot: George Lattimer (Christopher St. John) is a man living on the brink, pushed to the edge by all the various forces in his life. At work, he is one of the few black police officers, with over a decade of service but no promotions. He is passed over time and again, as his coworkers mostly dislike him and he is rarely on anyone’s good side, including his bosses. But his home life isn’t much better, as his wife disrespects him and his daughter runs wild, while even his mistress is often fed up with him, leaving him no real refuge in the world. Of course, George is to blame for a lot of his woes, as he has a short temper, alienates people around him, and tends to live in a fantasy world where he has immense power over others. A recurring fantasy involves him being an astronaut and planting the flag on the moon, with some strange twists. As tension builds and George is driven closer and closer to the brink, will he be able to keep it together or will he snap under the pressure?
Entertainment Value: Top of the Heap is one of the more unusual blaxploitation entries and given the genre, that’s no small feat. Christopher St. John wrote, produced, directed, and played the lead here, so this is a singular vision and as often happens in those cases, the result is unstable, but a lot of fun. The plot follows a black police officer who feels like he is alone against the world, as his work and personal lives provide him little respect and sense of accomplishment. The end result is a movie that is over the top and even surreal at times, but it always entertains. St. John is the focus of the movie from start to finish, so his performance is the core and man, he is a wild man in this one and immense fun to watch. He is always angry and on the brink of a breakdown, so every conversation is a minefield, as he refuses to get along with anyone. I found his turn here to be out of control, but in the best ways and even casual scenes often spiral into some kind of craziness here. A lot of racial issues pop up as expected, from how George is treated by those around him to an insane sequence where he devours watermelon with a topless girl in a jungle. This is just an off the wall genre piece that fans of weird cinema and blaxploitation will want to check out, for sure.
A few brief topless scenes, but that’s all for the nakedness. On the blood side, we have a few minor instances of the red stuff. A fight results in Eddie gouging a man’s eyes, he smashes a guy’s hand with a trashcan, and a little crimson from a gun shot wound. So not much blood, but a little here and there. The fight scene in the nightclub is fun to watch though, as is a car chase late in the movie. So there’s some action thrown in to keep things motoring along. This one has a lot of fun dialogue, thanks to Eddie’s no nonsense, over the top persona. He argues with everyone, loses his temper often, and refuses to play ball with anyone. I love how dysfunctional he is and his exchanges with various people add a lot to the entertainment value here. Others have some bright spots as well, but Eddie’s the main draw in this one. As you can tell by now, Top of the Heap has some quirky moments and surreal sequences. The astronaut fantasy is such an odd stretch of scenes, especially the ticker tape parade toward the close, where Eddie waves at Richard Nixon. Eddie as a character is also quite over the top, with his abrasive way of dealing with people and rampant mood swings. So while not a totally off the rails run, this one packs some solid wackiness.
Overall Insanity: 5/10