“The heat is on…”
From the bouncing opening music by Glenn Fry to the final frame of Eddie Murphy’s smile, Beverly Hills Cop has established itself as a classic. Now finally out on Blu-ray, the film shows us all over again why we fell in love with it almost 20 years ago. Murphy hasn’t been as funny since, but we’ll always have Beverly Hills and Axel Foley. There have been many attempts to revive the franchise. There was a failed pilot that would have had Axel as a captain and his son as the wise-cracking rookie detective. It never went beyond an as yet unseen pilot. Several attempts have been made at a fourth film, and a new one was recently announced, but that’s now in limbo as Murphy has just announced he is quitting acting and going back to standup. The first film pulled in a impressive (for 1984) $315 million at the box office. The second pulled in almost exactly the same money. Things hit a snag with the third, which barely topped $100 million. Now Paramount has remastered the films in 4K but is only releasing the 4K/HDR version online. They aren’t releasing it on UHD, and that’s a mystery to me that I hope will be corrected soon.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
The movie had a complicated history, and it’s a kind of miracle that the version we know ever happened at all. The movie was originally conceived as a straight action film with the plan to have either Al Pacino or Clint Eastwood in the title role. At that point the script was called Beverly Drive. When they couldn’t get Al or Clint, they turned to Sylvester Stallone, and Sly took the role. He took the script and rewrote it to fit his own particular style. The main character’s name went from Axel Foley to Cabretti so that he could be called The Cobra. The problem with Sly’s version is that the cost was rising higher than the execs at Paramount were willing to put out. Sly was offered another film to drop Beverly Hills Cop. He took his rewrites with him, and they eventually formed the nucleus of his movie Cobra. The rest of the film had already been cast, so imagine their surprise when the action movie they thought they were making with Rocky turned into a comedy/drama starring the Saturday Night Live, but unproven box office comedian Eddie Murphy.
The result changed the face of the cop movie forever. With Beverly Hills Cop, the comic buddy cop film was born, and imitations follow to this very day. This was when Eddie Murphy was still hungry. Axel Foley is filled with drive and energy and loaded with charm. Murphy ended up adlibbing a lot of the material, but in those days he was a generous actor and was known for being very good at setting up his co-stars with great material to go with. He didn’t feel the need to steal every scene; the truth is, he didn’t have to. The camera loved him then, and he was a natural. It didn’t help that the supporting cast here was also very good. Ronny Cox doesn’t do much comedy, but his straight-man Lt. Bogomil is priceless and a wonderful deadpan for the rest of the cast. Judge Reinhold and John Ashton had wonderful chemistry as the Beverly Hills detectives Rosewood and Taggert respectively. Neither performer has been in a better movie or had better roles before or since. Unfortunately Lisa Eilbacher never had a chance to do much since this movie and didn’t even get to do any of the sequels. Her part is considered a bit rigid by most critics. It’s easy to understand. When Sly was involved, she was the big love interest. The new version left her very little to do. Who can forget Bronson Pinchot’s cameo as the odd art museum assistant Serge? Steven Berkoff played the main villain, something he knew a little about. He was known for his incredible portrayal of the main bad guy Orlov in the James Bond sleeper Octopussy. Finally, give director Martin Brest a standing ovation for complementing his cast with Gilbert R. Hall as Axel’s boss Inspector Todd. While scouting police stations in Detroit, Brest found this particular actor working as a genuine detective in the Detroit police department. He’s quite a catch and adds a great dose of authenticity in his few scenes with Murphy. The film didn’t give him a switch to movies, however. He only did the three Beverly Hills Cop movies, but he did use his bit of fame to become a Detroit councilman and even ran for the office of mayor of Detroit.
Of course, we all remember the energetic music of the movie. It’s become part of what I remembered most, I discovered as I was exploring the movie again for the first time in a decade or so. The pounding beat of the Axel Foley theme brought back the old Hollywood tradition of giving the main character a particular theme. It is very effective here. Not since the Pink Panther films has a character been so identified by a simple musical theme. OK, there was a certain big fish in the 70’s, but that’s not quite the same thing, is it?
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Over the years since the first film we get the impression that Axel and his Beverly Hills counterparts have become friends with family gatherings and fishing trips. One of those fishing getaways gets postponed when Captain Bogomil (Cox) is close to solving a big case called the Alphabet Case and has a big lead. The gang does get together after all when Bogomil is gunned down and hanging on by a thread in the hospital. Foley returns to Beverly Hills to help Billy (Reinhold) and Taggart (Ashton) track down the bad guys. This time Quantum Leap’s Dean Stockwell and Bridget Nielsen are the villains.
The film revisits some of the chemistry between the three cops and adds a personal note to the story. This film also features a milestone in cinema and real police work. Axel shows off his superglue/fingerprints trick in this film. It puzzles the detectives and the audience, but since that time the method has become a staple in forensic science. Sophisticated chambers have been built and sold to labs all over the world that use the trick to get fingerprints from items that can’t necessarily be dusted well. Chris Rock has his very first role as a valet guy in this film.
Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
This is the film that even Eddie Murphy is still apologizing for. It was a mess, which is hard to believe with a master like John Landis at the helm. There were too many things out of his control. The film’s budget and pre-production got so out of hand that John Ashton and Ronny Cox had to drop out because of scheduling issues. That took away half the team, and the quick re-writes just couldn’t fill the gap.
This time around Axel’s captain is killed, and he finds a link to a Beverly Hills amusement park that is really a spoof of Disneyland/Disney World. Axel is on the trail of a counterfeiting ring that uses the park’s printing facilities to make fake $1 bills, which is completely silly in itself. A sheet of $1 bills would cost more to make than the value of the bills themselves. It’s why twenties are so much more common in the business.
The other problem is Murphy himself. He wasn’t hungry any more, and his performances lost much of the energy and charm that made him what he was. It would be the start of a long line of bad Eddie Murphy films. He has said that he was trying to show Foley had matured and wasn’t as silly. It’s a reasonable thought until we look at exactly why the character worked in the first place.
All of the extras are connected with the first film and disc. The sequels never did measure up, but that’s OK. Paramount could have really brightened our day and our home theatres with the overdue release of Beverly Hills Cop on UHD Blu-ray. What’s the point of all that work only to have it viewed with the bandwidth and compression issues of streaming? Anyone caring about the uptick in quality would have preferred the discs. Still, watching this movie again is like a much-needed vacation for this reviewer. The good news is that it will remain a part of my collection. I guess you might call it “the longest vacation you ever heard of”.