Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Too Hot To Handle (1977) review


Cheri Caffaro (Samantha Fox), Aharon Ipale (Domingo de la Torres), Vic Diaz (Sanchez), John Van Dreelen (Mackenzie Portman), Corrine Calvet (Madam Ruanda), Jordan Rosengarten (Justin Stockwell), Butz Aquino (Carlos Rossimo), Subas Herrero (Octavio Calderon), Grace Lee (Miss Chow), Paquito Salcedo (Lu Chang)

Directed by Don Schain

"It's much more of a turn on to watch something die slowly. Even then the greater the distance, the less the fun."--Samantha Fox relates to Domingo on a hunting trip.

The Short Version: The leggy and luscious Cheri Caffaro returns to GINGER Land with a similar, if decidedly darker interpretation as an international hit woman who literally mixes business with pleasure that almost always climaxes with a deadly denouement. The script is quite good and full of ideas including a fascinating lead character, only the lack of a decent budget impedes its progress. It's far better on a filmmaking level when compared with its twin DVD co-features, but fans of those two may be put off by the minimal action instead dominated by lots of sex, skin and S&M. Still, fans of the Andy Sidaris school of 'Girls & Guns' will likely get more than a few cheap thrills out of it.

***WARNING! This review contains images of nudity & sexual situations***

Samantha Fox is a sultry contract killer living on a yacht in Manila. She's hired by an Asian-American crime syndicate to take out four big time local gangsters who all happen to be residing in the Philippines and who all are involved in different nefarious activities ranging from drugs to white slavery. Fox uses sex and assorted disguises to bring her targets to their gruesome doom. The cop on the case ultimately gets involved with the Foxy Samantha and is torn between making his arrest and maintaining a steamy love life with the virulent vixen who may or may not make him her next victim.

Yet another Filipino lensed lady killer flick, but this one is miles away better than the two other movies it's paired with on DVD. There's less fighting and these scenes are just as unconvincing as those seen in TNT JACKSON (1974). The kung fu fights are actually pretty hilarious and manage to work because of how lethargically choreographed they are. They all look like rehearsals as opposed to an actual take. The acting fares no better, either. Co-star Aharon Ipale is a block of wood, but this could possibly be down to a language barrier.

However, the sexual quotient is intensified and quite erotic especially in the character of Samantha Fox who indeed wants, and does have some fun and move her body all night long. The level of sleaze and skin is rather high and all the nudity isn't relegated strictly to Caffaro, although she gets undressed at regular intervals. For such a low budget picture, her character is bigger than the film itself. Something of an anti-Bond female contract killer, she's incredibly strong, sexually liberated and extremely cunning and generally always one step ahead of everybody else.

Fox doles out an excruciating death to a lesbian white slavery ring leader, one of her targets while on assignment in Manila. With this procedure, Madam Ruanda is about to literally be TOO HOT TO HANDLE.

Director Schain (who was also married to Caffaro at one time) handles the material very well despite a crippling and occasionally noticeable lack of funds. The Filipino locales do lend some additional production value even if the action scenes fail to impress. The character of Fox is played by the tall, blonde stunner Cheri Caffaro who was no stranger to 70s exploitation cinema, especially movies that featured lethal women in lead roles. TOO HOT TO HANDLE could be considered something of a companion piece to Caffaro's GINGER series from earlier in the 1970s all of which were directed by Don Schain. She played a super spy in those three films as well. Judging by the scope of this movie, it would seem a possible series was envisioned for it, as well. Unfortunately, the box office wasn't hot enough to send Samantha Fox on assignment a second time.

Caffaro seriously sizzles in her handful of sexually charged bump'em off and grind moments wherein she lures her targets into her web of death. She even manages to pull off a YOJIMBO style massacre between two rival gangs. On her down time, Fox is into bondage and kinky sex. She not only dominates her onscreen men, but she also commands the attention of male viewers who will likely be mesmerized by her lascivious, if dangerous charms. The movie definitely grabs your attention during the opening assassination sequence which involves Fox in a tight, black outfit ready to administer some S&M thrills with a man only to unleash a fatal dose of auto erotic asphyxiation. She takes on an almost villainous demeanor when she casually sits down in front of her suffocating victim and lights a cigarette, waiting patiently for him to expire. Not long after she's at the man's funeral decked out in a black, low cut outfit, her breasts almost hanging out!

While Caffaro makes Fox appear capable of curing any man of erectile dysfunction (if she doesn't kill him in the process), she's also a cold, detached individual not too far removed from Dyanne Thorne's infamous ILSA persona. The one difference between both of these dominatrix's is that Fox never allows a man to cloud her mind staying one step ahead of the game at all times. Fox shares Ilsa's proclivity for wild sex and one scene in particular pushes the envelope. In it, she goes to a cockfight (no doubt the mention of that word would likely bring our sex lovin' spy to near orgasm) only to fantasize about herself writhing in ecstasy on her bed while the chickens engage in a slow motion death struggle! It's one of the most bizarre moments in the film and likely to be found offensive by sensitive viewers as the fowl fight is right graphic.

Filipino exploitation cinema fans will of course be delighted at seeing Vic Diaz here, only this time on the right side of the law playing Domingo's partner; Domingo being the cop who falls for Fox. Diaz was something like the Ku Feng of the Philippines appearing in a seemingly endless array of Filipino exploitation exports. The film was originally proposed in 1974, but took two years to finally get made. Roger Corman eventually picked it up for distribution through New World Pictures in 1977.

Despite some lazily choreographed action scenes and a budget that cannot sustain the scope of its script (written by the hand that wrote KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK [1978]), Caffaro's charisma, her super-charged sex appeal and her various costume changes (she designed her clothes for the film) makes it all worthwhile. The script is far better and more ambitious than either of the two other New World films it's paired with on this DVD set. Some may disagree, but TOO HOT TO HANDLE is far more engaging with just as many pros as cons. Very much an enjoyable movie on its own merits, with a bit more money spread around (and either Don Edmonds or Jack Hill at the helm), this could have been a standout endeavor as opposed to a mere footnote punctuated by a few memorable moments and a knock out lead actress. The picture is definitely HOT, only it loses a lot of heat when Caffaro isn't steaming up the screen.

This review is representative of the Shout! Factory two disc DVD paired with TNT JACKSON (1974) and FIRECRACKER (1981).
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