Cinemax Friday: Red Heat (1985, directed by Robert Collector and Ernest Ritter von Theumer)

At the height of the cold war, college student Christine Carlson (Linda Blair, of course) travels to West Germany to  marry her fiancée, Lt. Mike Grainger (William Ostrander).  Mike has spent the last few years in West Berlin but, with his time in the army coming to an end, that means that he will be able to return to the United States with Christine.  The only problem is that Mike doesn’t want to do that.  Instead, Mike has decided to spend a few more years in the army and to put the marriage off for a while.

Christine is so upset that she goes for a walk to clear her head.  Unfortunately, while walking around West Berlin, she witnesses a defector being abducted by the Stasi.  For unclear reasons, the Stasi decided to kidnap Christine as well.  Soon, Christine is in East Berlin, where she’s forced to falsely confess to being a CIA agent.  Christine is sentenced to three years in prison and finally, after 20 minutes of build-up, Red Heat settles into being a typical Women In Prison film.

All of the usual WIP tropes are present.  Sylvia Kristel plays Sofia, the lesbian gang leader who immediately targets Christine.  The political prisoners (like Christine) are preyed upon by the common criminals, some of whom work with crooked guards to maintain order in the prison.  There’s the usual collection of fights, shower scenes, and suicides, all mixed with scenes of Mike trying to get a group together to sneak across the border and rescue his fiancée.  The only thing that really distinguished Red Heat from every other WIP film ever made is that it takes place in a communist-controlled prison so, in between fighting off Sofia and her crew, Christine has to watch propaganda films.

Linda Blair appeared in a lot of films like this and, by the time she made Red Heat, she was clearly getting bored with the genre.  Both Blair and Kristel go through the motions and supply the obligatory nudity but neither one of them really seems to be that into the movie, with Sylvia Kristel especially appearing to be bored.  Both Blair and Kristel were better in other films and, despite the uniqueness of the cold war angle, Red Heat is never as strange or as memorable as Blair’s best WIP film, Chained HeatRed Heat is ultimately for Blair and Kristel completists only.

(In a perfect world, Red Heat would have been made in the 70s with Pam Grier in Blair’s role, Glynn Turman as Mike, Barbara Steele as Sofia, and Sid Haig as one of the guards.  Now that would have been something to see!)

30 More Days Of Noir #12: No Man’s Woman (dir by Franklin Adreon)

This 1955 film tells the story of a murder.

When we first meet Carolyn Elleson Grant (Marie Windsor), she refuses to give her husband, Harlow Grant (John Archer) a divorce, despite the fact that they’ve been separated for several years and Harlow now wants to marry Louise Nelson (Nancy Gates) and Carolyn is now involved with an art critic named Wayne Vincent (Patrick Knowles).  Carolyn only married Harlow for his money and, while she has other rich lovers, she just enjoys making Harlow’s life as difficult as possible.  It’s hard to blame her because Harlow is kind of whiny.

However, Carolyn has grown bored with Wayne Vincent and she’s now decided that she would rather get involved with Dick Sawyer (Richard Crane), who is rich and owns a boat.  However, Dick is engaged to Carolyn’s personal assistant, Betty (Jill Jarmyn).  Carolyn thinks it would be perfectly amusing to not only seduce Dick but to also destroy Betty’s happiness.


As one character put it, Carolyn is “a witch!”

(Someone then adds that Carolyn is a word that “rhymes” with witch.  They don’t actually say the word because this film was made in 1955 but still….)

With Carolyn casually trying to destroy everyone’s lives and happiness, is it really a shock when some unseen person shows up at her art studio late at night and shoots her?

With Carolyn dead, it falls to Detectives Colton (Louis Jean Heydt) and Wells (John Gallaudet) to figure out the identity of the murder.  They immediately suspect that it had to have been Harlow Grant.  Not only does he have the motive and the opportunity but his name is Harlow Grant and I defy you to find anyone named Harlow Grant who hasn’t subsequently turned out to be involved in something shady.  Harlow, however, insists that he’s innocent and the investigation is about to get a lot more complicated….

Well, okay, maybe not a lot more complicated.  To be honest, it’s really not that difficult to figure out who the murderer actually is No Man’s Woman but that’s okay.  The investigation itself only takes the last third of this 70-minute film.  No Man’s Woman is a like a low-budget version of Gosford Park.  The murder is less important than all of the drama surrounding it.

And make no mistake, there’s a lot of drama!  This is a fun movie, specifically because Carolyn is such a wonderfully evil character and Marie Windsor has so much fun playing her.  Carolyn doesn’t really have any deep motivation for why she does the terrible things that she does.  She just does them because she can and she believes that she can get away with it.  A good deal of the film’s entertainment comes from just seeing how bad Carolyn can be.  In fact, you’re a bit disappointed when she’s murdered because Carolyn is the most enjoyable character in the movie.  She’s someone who is literally willing to do and say anything and she makes an apologies for her actions.  You wouldn’t necessarily want to work with her but she’s fun to watch.

The rest of the cast is adequate.  John Archer and Nancy Gates are a bit on the dull side as the “good” characters but I liked the performances of the other suspects.  Richard Crane and Jill Jarmyn, in particular, are memorable as Dick and Betty.  I loved how going out on someone’s boat was apparently the height of decadence in 1955.

No Man’s Woman is an entertaining mix of noir and soap opera.  Find it on Prime!

Catching Up With Josh Simmons’ “Ghouls”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Forgive me in advance for broaching the subject, but — is there anything you’re going to miss about the pandemic when it’s over? Go on, act as incensed at the question as you wish, but I’ll bet you it’s something you’ve asked yourself at least once, even if you felt guilty that it even so much as entered your mind. Come on, be honest here : less traffic, quiet neighborhood streets at night, no waiting for tables at restaurants, being able to work from home — all of these things are, well, kinda nice. Not to say that they’re worth hundreds of thousands dead, millions more infected, and probably very nearly the same number of people out of work either temporarily or permanently — just saying, these are things that are not bad, in and of themselves, even if we arrived at them via the most fucked-up means possible…

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