A long forgotten 1981 Andy Kaufman sc-fi comedy, HEARTBEEPS, has been long forgotten for good reasons. Directed by Allan Arkush, who was coming off the success of the 1979 Ramones flick ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, the film wastes the talents of Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as robots who fall in love in what was then, the near future of 1995. Even with its ripe-for-possibilities premise, it’s a slow, energy-less drag that well earned its 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It is notable as being weird AF comic/performance artist Kaufman’s last film before his death in 1984, and that he apologized for the movie’s incredibly poor quality on Late Night on David Letterman in early 1982, and offered to give back the money to anyone who saw the film. Letterman’s quick response, “you’d better have change for a twenty,” was singled out by critic Peter Sobczynski as being “perhaps the only genuine laugh to be connected with the strange, sad beast known as HEARTBEEPS.”

However, the cast was somewhat decent. Kaufman and Peters were joined by Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel (both were also in ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL), Randy Quaid, Christopher Guest, Melanie Mayron, B-movie legend Dick Miller, and Jerry Garcia. 


Wait, what? Thats right, the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead appears in the film – not in human form, but as the voice of a robot named Phil. Phil is a cute lil droid that was built by Kaufman’s character, ValCom 17485, and Peters as AquaCom-89045, to be their traveling companion, I guess. 

Now, Garcia’s speaking voice isn’t really in HEARTBEEPS, as he provides the baby robot Phil’s R2-D2 sounds via his guitar effects. Garcia, who passed away in the year the movie was set, 1995, became involved in the production from his friendship with Director Arkush. They hung out together watching movies at the time, and I would suspect that the idea of the Dead front-man taking part in the film in the guise of a robot was influenced by a little bit of substance intake.


There isn’t much info about Garcia contribution to HEARTBEEPS online (how much info do you need?), but the film hasn’t completely gone away. It’s available for rent streaming on Amazon, and YouTube, as well as in DVD or Blu Ray editions, with Phil prominently featured on the cover with Kaufman and Peters. But I wouldn’t recommend it in any of those forms unless you’re Kaufman, Peters, or Garcia completists. 


Strangely Garcia wasn’t responsible for any music in HEARTBEEPS as it had a score by the bigwig film composer John Williams, who worked on the movie between his iconic soundtracks for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and E.T. It also got an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup by Stan Winston. 


But it’s Garcia’s scene-stealing blurts run away with the movie. Well, actually I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t confirm that really, but it’s the way I’d like to remember it.


Well, that’s all I got about Garcia’s precipitation in a movie that’s barely a blip on the radar on the pop culture radar.


Now, you can go about your day.

More later…

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