As was the case with the Point of No Return pistols (see Auction Report, Part 7),when I was originally researching the Stembridge Collection catalog for Little John’s Stembridge Collection Auction, one of the few pieces on my “short list”, which I considered secondary to my two top wants (the T2 and True Lies pistols) was one of the pair of Heat sidearm pistols offered, which were attributed to use by Al Pacino in the Michael Mann film.
Because of the lack of rental agreements, and my own inability to match them to the screenshots, I did not ultimately place a bid at auction. I knew the pieces that I did win were absolutely authentic and properly attributed, so I did not want to take any risks on pieces that were inconclusive in my own personal research. As I’ve said in several articles on the blog, I like to approach a piece assuming it is inauthentic until proven otherwise. In this case, though all “Stembridge weapons”, and likely original to “something”, that obviously affects value. Even Little Johns found mistakes made between the publishing of the catalog and the auction itself. Given my lack of knowledge in many regards on these pieces, I didn’t have the comfort level, on the front end (pre-auction), to pursue one during the auction event, nor did I want to divert my limited funds away from the top two “gets” on my list.
This could be an extremely long article, but I’ll cut to the conclusions. Suffice it to say, I spent a great amount of time, post auction, researching the Heat pistols. Knowing who won each one, I was able to obtain photos and compare and contrast and compile quite a bit of information.
I did end up buying one of the two (for a sum several times over what was realized at auction), and am very happy with the purchase.
Though I do not have rental agreements in hand (though there is a good chance I may still acquire them), I am confident that the piece I have obtained is from and was used in the production, based on a variety of factors.
I think this is a good example of authentication by triangulation: building a case based on a variety of facts which may or may not be enough on their own merits, but collectively affirm authenticity quite clearly.
One, the piece is from Stembridge Gun Rentals, via the Little John’s Auction Service event this past June.
Two, the piece has been customized in ways that were unique to the Heat production.
Three, the piece is a match to a Heat pistol featured in a Guns Magazine article circa 1998.
Four, there is a possible screen-match to one of the scenes in the film.
Five, there is studio blood still on the piece, which may tie it to the climax of the film wherein Pacino’s character guns down De Niro’s character, then holds his bloody hand while the scene fades out.
Little John’s Auction Service
As auctioned by Little John’s Auction Service, the two pistols attributed to Heat were Lots 72 & 73.
Unfortunately, as with the other lots at auction, catalog shots were grayscale, low resolution, and limited to one side.
The one perplexing piece of information gained via the photos is that one slide was marked “COLT M1991A1” (Lot 72) while the other was “COLT MK IV” (Lot 73), yet the serial numbers on both frames (same naming convention and sequence) would indicate the same make and model.
Additionally, given the lack of clear, well-lit, close-up shots of the piece in the film (one of which I even overlooked in my initial research), there were too many questions and too little to work with.
At the event, during the preview, Lot 73 had a hanging tag that read “Rental Receipts”, though, post auction and in talking with the owner, those were not included with the piece.
Of the two, I am now the owner of Lot 72.
With some significant assistance, I was able to obtain some interesting information from Stembridge in regards to the Al Pacino Heat sidearm.
One, they were purchase ordered specifically for use in the Heat production (both for training Pacino in use as a live fire weapon as well for conversion to blank fire).
As noted, they have custom authentic ivory stocks.
The barrel restrictor, per instructions from Michael Mann, were placed deep into the barrel so as to not be seen on screen (see static screencap of shot on dresser, later in the article).
Also, the rear/side of the port ejector was filed down to accommodate the ejection of blank fire shells (note the rough, rounded rear corner; see static screencap of shot in elevator, later in the article).
While I had scans of this magazine article long before the auction, I honestly forgot about it until afterward, which was a shame, as it ends up that the Pacino Heat pistol featured in a photo in the article is the Lot 72 pistol.
For readers of the OPB, I uploaded scans of the full article previously:
- see OPB article “Guns Magazine Stembridge Gun Rentals Article Circa 1998“
- see full Guns Magazine article “Shoot for Effect” (Adobe Acrobat required)
Of note, in the article “Shoot for Effect”, Armorer Harry Lu gives the Guns Magazine writer and photographer a tour of Stembridge Gun Rentals, with the first stop in the pistol room. Harry Lu was the credited Weapons Master on Heat, and the photo in the article is of the Heat pistol I acquired.
Given that the article was written just three years after the release of Heat (in ’98, with release in ’95), that is a better attribution than in 2007 per Little John’s Auction Service – the Weapons Master for Heat, at Stembridge Gun Rentals just a few years later, pulling this piece out for a feature article, noting it as the pistol used by Pacino in Heat. I did recently correspond with the author of the article, and interesting enough, Stembridge closed just before the article saw print.
Below is a comparison of my pistol (top) and the pistol seen in the Guns Magazine article (bottom), as photographed by Ichiro Nagata. Held at a highly light-reflective angle, I was able to capture many of the hairline scratches in the piece for comparison… (click image for higher resolution)
There are only two clear, well-lit, static shots of the pistol in the film – one on Hana’s dresser at the start of the film, and press-checking it in an elevator toward the end.
Looking at the dresser shot, it is clear that the barrel restrictor is placed deep in the barrel (consistent with the Stembridge specs as outlined), out of sight from the camera lens:
Not a match, not a mismatch, but consistent with the prop and the background information on the customization specs.
The other clear shot, in the elevator, actually may eventually turn out to be a true “screen-match”. As noted and shown above, the rear of the ejector port has been filed down in a very distinct and custom manner. If you reference the close-up of my piece above, you can see it is very irregular in shape and angles.
Looking at the close-up in the elevator, the cuts, angles, and shadow, it appears it may match up (click photo for higher resolution comparison):
Hopefully when Heat is released on HD DVD next year, a high definition resolution and higher quality transfer will yield more definitive results. At this time, I would characterize it as warranting further research.
Another interesting finding with examination of the piece was the presence of studio blood on and around the ivory stocks.
I’ve noticed through close study of the film that Pacino has his side arm in his holster throughout the film. It’s presence is revealed, in part, poking out beneath his jacket/blazer fairly frequently.
There are two scenes in which studio blood might have gotten on the piece:
1) Assuming he was wearing one of the blank fire pistols, in carrying his step-daughter (played by Natalie Portman) after her attempted suicide attempt, in which she was covered in blood:
2) At the end of the film, after shooting and killing Neil McCauley, Vincent Hana holds his bloody hand as the final image fades out:
The presence of studio blood, in the end, could mean nothing, but it is in the plus column on authentication/scene placement none the less.
Here are a few photos of the pistol (click images for higher resolution):
Given my research (not all of which is shared here, for various reasons), I am confident that this is one of the few pistols acquired by the production and modified for use by Al Pacino in Heat. Hopefully I will eventually source copies of the rental agreements.
It was also a learning experience, in trying to approach the Little John’s auction event with caution, only bidding on those pieces that I felt were properly attributed to the correct films. In the end, I did pay a significant premium on the two resale pieces I have acquired (the Point of No Return pistol and this Heat pistol), but, at the same time, I saved myself from the disappointment of buying something which turned out to be inconclusive as to film/production or inconsistent with my expectations.
I have also learned a lot about more researching and authentication in general, so it has been a very positive experience for me.
Of course, I’m very pleased with the piece, as I am a huge fan of the film. Funny enough, in watching the film many more times in performing research, I’ve really come to appreciate even more what a great work it is.
Jason De Bord