Synopsis: Contract killer Samantha Fox (Cheri Caffaro) accepts a mission to kill a group of gangsters in the Philippines, but problems arise when she falls for the Manila detective investigating the murders. Director Don Schain, who was married to Carrafo, directed her in several films prior to Too Hot To Handle, including Ginger, Girls Are For Loving and Abductors.
Well, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ has got to be the worst new films I’ve seen in a long, long time! The only reason I even saw it is because it’s part of that exploitation martial arts film set that I’ll be giving a buddy for his birthday (see the Black Dynamite blurb for more on that); I would be highly surprised if I had even considered it otherwise!
There’s not much to say about this film other than it’s a lacklustre femme fatale low-budget action piece. The whole thing hinges on lead actress Cheri Caffaro, what with her character being the central figure of the film. Unfortunately, Caffaro is a weak actress and has no magnetism whatsoever. Furthermore, she is incredibly unsexy, unprovoking – which for a purported sexpot, is no small weakness.
To make matters even worse, Caffaro couldn’t fight if her life depended on it. Her attempt at emulating martial arts moves is risible at best, with her weak limbs going through the motions vaguely, but unconvinced and unconvincingly. To be fair, even though all the killing she does is extremely lame, the fact is that most of the fights were poorly staged – so this didn’t help her case one bit.
A prime example of this problem is a fight on a boat at the beginning of the film. Her attacker splishes and splashes his way to the boat, loudly, unstealthily. At first, I thought this stranger was coming to visit her for undisclosed reasons – I couldn’t believe that it would be an attacker because he was so inept at sneaking up on his prey that it made no sense.
But I realized that he was an unwelcome guest when our anti-heroine, Samantha Fox, hides in the shadows upon discovering his presence.
Then she surprises him. Startled, he climbs up to the top of the boat, looks around aimlessly and without urgency, she arrives casually and they proceed to produce one of the most pathetic fight choreographies I’ve seen – complete with a “peppermint stick” baton combat (sigh… I have no clue what they were doing on the ground and what they are; they were just there ).
Another brilliant piece is a killing in a whirlpool. Firstly, we are supposed to believe that she is disguised as a Filipino maid. She doesn’t look it one bit: she looks like a freak, what with her fake nose, mouthpiece, bad wig and brown paint. Secondly, she puts a paralyzing solution in the water and plugs the drains so that her victim might drown. Since the water was already super high and would have poured over the tub without immersing the target, the actor had to sink into the water to pretend that it was rising. Snicker, snicker… some might call this movie magic.
Admittedly, the film was made on a very low budget in the Philippines so they probably made do with a lot less than most features. However, there’s a limit to just how much suspension of disbelief one should tap into when watching as film; if a movie is too ambitious for its budget, maybe the producers should pool their money on a less demanding script – something that’s character-driven and dialogue-based, for instance. Or something that requires neither, for instance, like porn.
After all, this film was clearly meant to titillate in some ways. Not only is Caffaro/Fox forever in various forms of undress, but there is the usual b-movie conventions of the era, like a b&d sequence that had her conveniently dressed in leather. They even tried to make a brutal cock fight sexual by editing together some sort of erotic imagery of Caffaro being turned on, suggesting that Fox has some sort of blood lust and gets off while watching this fowl show-down. Ridiculous!
On the flip side, most of the b-grade Filipino actors in ‘Too Hot to Handle’ are actually relatively decent. They were probably friends of the producers, because I can’t fathom that there was much of a film industry in the Philippines at the time, but at least they were passable. Also, despite all her shortcomings, Caffaro actually designed her own wardrobe. I hated most of it, but whatever – let’s give her props for effort (she was even involved in the production of the DVD, including her collection of stills from the movie and its promotion).
Hey, do you know what else is too hot to handle? A fresh, steaming turd. Which is what this movie is. And which is what it should have been called. But, then I guess that ‘Hot Steaming Turd’ is more John Waters than Roger Corman – so I suppose that you can’t fault the producers for failing at “truth in advertising”.
Post scriptum: the DVD doesn’t feature the film’s trailer but, bizarrely enough, it include instead a series of trailers of horrible-looking exploitation films about women being abused in jails and prison camps. I know that there was a market for them in the ’70s for some inexplicable reason, but these cheap, crummy, exploitative films made me ill (just imagine what could conceivably take place in jails! ). It looks like terrible, terrible stuff. I can’t believe it was considered a ‘special feature’.