Women in Prison, Part II: Red Heat (1985)

July 25, 2011 | By

Just uploaded is a review of Linda Blair’s second Women in Prison films, Red Heat [M], made in 1985, and often confused with the 1988 Arnold Schwarzenegger-Jim Belushi buddy cop film – a fine comic book film, but largely missing the social wrongness that permeates every frame once Blair in thrust into a dank East German jail in spite of her vocal American citizenship declaration.

Red Heat (Panik House) is silly, but there is a strong anti-East German (aka the GDR) sentiment running through the film, making it much more political that prior WIP films. There’s also the valid question of what would it take for a government to distance itself from an incarcerated citizen instead of doing everything within its diplomatic reach to secure the release of someone, if not demand proof a genuine transgression had been committed.

From a Canadian perspective, just from observing & reading news reports over the past 10 years, if an American citizen is wrongfully arrested or tossed in jail under grey circumstances, the U.S. Government – at least via its media persona – does everything it can to rescue its own; if a Canadian falls into unfortunate circumstances, that person is on his / her own. Media-wise, bureaucrats are cold & indifferent, and if you get out, you might be required to pay for a new passport and plane ticket home, as happened not long ago when a Canadian citizen was snatched by Afgan terrorists, assaulted, and eventually made her way to the Canadian Consulate after a lucky escape.

There may be a preponderance of happy endings out there, but whenever a Canadian appears on TV after making his / her way home, when asked about the Canadian Government’s positive role in the drama, they tend to be more diplomatic, if not terse.

See how Sylvia wields her special baton with amazing calm and concentration?

Red Heat‘s basic premise still works because we also hear of naive (bonehead?) figures wandering close to, attempting to test, or hiking into an area within the border of a dangerous nation such as North Korea. However, being a WIP film, credibility dwindles once nudity, abuse, nudity, abuse and much jiggling fills the screen; it’s fair to say that when Blair’s shoved into a shower stall in her birthday suit, it’s clear Red Heat has formally disrobed and revealed its true colours.

Panik House’s DVD features a 94 mins. cut, which is apparently longer than prior Region 2 DVD editions (including the German release), but it’s still missing footage, so in addition to reviewing the film, I’ve cited a trio of deleted scenes that apparently remain exclusive to older VHS transfers. This new release contains a superior transfer, but it lacks the Blair commentary track that accompanies the Canadian VSC release – perhaps the only time anyone associated with this film will ever sit down, watch it (stomach it?) after decades, and ruminate on its colourful qualities.

In Part 3 of this splendid series, I’ll look at the third and final film in Panik House’s WIP triptych, Jungle Warriors – a silly, ridiculous film featuring one of the worst title songs ever.

This week I’ll have more Kubrick, soundtrack reviews + this month’s upcoming release tally, and horror from Anchor Bay.

I’ll also have a tribute to Elwy Yost, the Canadian broadcaster who pased away last Friday at the age of 85. The Star offers an unfortunately brief obit, whereas the CBC piece is more rich in factual details, but I’ll chime in more personal reflections, because the reason I got into film, went to film school, and write about movies is due to his influence. He was a genuine treasure, and is probably responsible for instilling a broad appreciation for classic films – American, Canadian, and foreign – in maybe a quarter to half a million viewers in Buffalo and Ontario between 1974-1999.

That is a helluva legacy.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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