Mr. Skin and Panik House Entertainment have teamed up to provide us with what can only be described as a schlock-o-rama of 1980’s exploitation cinema. After the run of blacksploitation and grindhouse films of the 1970’s, we found ourselves in a cycle where the subject shifted to women behind bars. You could still find the same level of low-budget movie making here but with the added “bonus” of watching hot chicks, for the most part, used and abused while being usually unfairly incarcerated. This three-pack of movies includes the first uncut release of Chained Heat in North America. Now, I’m not really familiar enough with the movie to tell you what might have been added back into the mix, but I’ll bet we can all guess, can’t we?
Chained Heat (1983)
Carol Henderson (Blair) is on her way to prison for what is described as accidentally killing a man. On the way she befriends Val (Hughes) who has been there before and promises to try and teach her the ropes. What she doesn’t mention is that they are entering the most corrupt prison in the country. The warden is a man named Bachman (Vernon). To give you an idea of where his priorities are you need only take a look at his office. It’s equipped with a hot tub and a few video cameras. He also runs the drug trade inside the prison walls. That’s getting to be a problem because his number one officer, Captain Taylor (Stevens) has decided to start her own drug business in the prison along with prison supply man Lester (Silva). So now Carol and Val are being dropped right into the middle of a power struggle, and there’s going to be trouble.
Linda Blair sheds more than her child-actor image with her first nudity role. She still manages to be the face of innocence in the film, and it’s actually a pretty solid performance. Her castmates have long related that she was quite uncomfortable with the amount of nudity and the level of violence the script called for. It might have worked to her advantage, as the character had to portray that same level of shock and despair. She must have gotten over it, however, because she would show up in the next film of the collection, Red Heat.
All of the essential elements of the genre can be found here in generous proportions, indeed. There is plenty of nudity and little doubt that many members of the cast are here for attributes other than their acting skills. Louisa Moritz plays a character named Bubbles who takes the whole dumb blonde routine as far as I’ve seen it played. There’s the obligatory shower scene where there are more bare chests than you could take in at one time. You’ll find plenty of violence and not a redeemable character in the bunch.
The film also stars some pretty well known names in the exploitation genre. Sybil Danning plays Erika, who pretty much controls the other inmates and is Captain Taylor’s inside chick. She’s played some pretty strong roles in her reign as Queen of the B Movie and soft-core industry. We also get another genre favorite in Stella Stevens as the nasty Captain Taylor. In recent years she has been quite successful as an older actress playing more straight roles. John Vernon has always been a wonderful character actor and plays the perfect sleaze in this one.
Red Heat (1985)
Christine (Blair) has arrived in West Germany to marry her military fiancée. They have a fight and she decides to go out to the hotel parking lot for some air. There she sees Hedda (Kiel) being abducted. Before she can get away she is also taken. They end up in an East German prison where she is interrogated as a spy. She’s tricked into confessing falsely and sentenced to 3 years of hard labor. Meanwhile her fiancée has no idea where she is.
In prison, she is subjected to the cruelty of inmate Sofia (Kristel) who pretty much runs the girls inside. When a friend is killed she starts to rebel against the prison’s jungle order and leads a group of the abused girls in a revolt. Meanwhile her fiancée is using his own connections to find out where she is and mount a rescue.
Blair returns to the genre. While she might not show as much nudity here, this is a more brutal and violent film. There is the extra intrigue of the cold war espionage and rescue mission to make this more of a better story than Chained Heat, with more interesting production values. While Chained Heat has had more attention and staying power, I found this to be the more interesting film of the collection.
Jungle Warriors (1984)
A group of models fly to a tropical island in Latin America for an exotic photo shoot. When their plane is shot down by a local drug lord, they find themselves imprisoned in the dungeon of Caesar (Smith), the local drug lord. There they are gang-raped and some of them executed. Unfortunately, they find themselves in the middle of a war between the drug lord, the mafia, and the FBI.
This one has the most impressive cast. John Vernon returns this time as one of the mafia guys sent to buy drugs from Caesar. His partner is played by 1970’s television movie staple Alex Cord. MacGyver’s Dana Elcar is the FBI agent who is trying to bring the drug trade down. The worst actor in the bunch, however, has to be Paul L. Smith as Caesar. This guy sounds like he’s reading every line. As he picks up his gun to get revenge, he sounds like he’s reading yesterday’s box scores. He’s bad. Worse even than Louisa Moritz (remember Bubbles) who returns in another airhead role as one of the models. Sybil Danning returns as the half-sister to Caesar and never really gets to shine in this mess of a movie at all. It ends with the worst firefight in cinema history.
Each film is presented in its original wide format. There’s a ton of compression here and even more video noise. There’s no clean-up effort at all here, and you’ll find plenty of dirt and scratches. The films look rather dreary, which does play in to the theme a bit. This is strictly for those who are happy to have the films and do not care about the condition.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are just as useless. There is distortion and even hiss present throughout. You can hear the dialog, but again this is only going to serve the collector who just wants to see these films again.
A couple of interviews and trailers.
I don’t have any trouble at all with a collection of solid exploitation films. I can even understand why the studio wouldn’t want to put in much effort to clean them up. There’s a little extra added charm seeing them in rough condition. I guess it’s a good way to introduce yourself to the genre. It’s strictly for when your wife/girlfriend is out on a ladies’ night out and you’ve got the boys over at the mancave for a few beers and greasy snacks. You know what I’m talkin’ about. It’s like your own special prison block. After all, “Aren’t we all prisoners of some sort?”