Friday, September 2, 2011

Red Heat (1985)

Poor little Linda Blair's acting career only went south after the Exorcist, which in the 80s meant she was appearing in skin mags and exploitation films. In the case of Red Heat, she's made a fairly convincing case that she actually believed she was making a serious dramatic story of one woman's survival in an East German prison under Communism, instead of another women-in-prison flick with all of the requisite soapy shower and steamy lesbian sex scenes. It's convincing because the movie quite often seems like a serious drama and only delivers the exploitation goods intermittently.

Blair plays Christine Carlson, a nice American girl in East Germany to visit her Army boyfriend Mike at the same time that a lady scientist is trying to escape to the West with commie state secrets. Stumbling into the cliched wrong place at the wrong time, Christine gets hauled in with the turncoat scientist and taken to an East German prison where she's forced to confess to crimes she never committed and sentenced to thirty years. For the first half hour of the film, it really does play like a serious cold war drama. At least until Christine wanders into a four girl fuck fest on her first night in the clink.

The head lesbian tough girl, Sofia, is played by Sylvia Kristel, who certainly looks a bit rougher around the edges here compared to her breakout role in the original Emmanuelle. Naturally, Sofia's got a relationship with the super butch prison guard. Indeed, all of the cliches are accounted for: the beaten down old timers who have given up hope, the kindly older woman who befriends our new fish heroine, the bullying dykes, and the girl who is abused so long she gives up hope and kills herself to get away from the bullying dykes. One wonders how more PC viewers respond these days to the fact that the lesbians in these movies are nearly always the malicious villains, or if it gets in the way of their enjoyment of all the tits and pussy eating. One weird thing- everyone in Germany speaks English in this movie.

Then there's all the tortures and beatings. This one gets particularly ugly early on with a nasty violation scene. Admittedly, if you're watching a women-in-prison flick, you sort of have to expect that, at some point, something will be shoved up a vagina by someone. Sofia is a pretty decent bad girl; in an interesting twist, Kristel's character is openly dominating the head guard. Also interesting is the totalitarian East aspect of the story. In one particularly interesting scene, the women are made to watch a propaganda film about how Communism has liberated the working class.

But, if you've seen more than one of these films, you know where the storyline is going: Christine finds her inner strength and becomes an inspiration to those beaten down old timers, while Mike works round the clock to free her. Eventually, the yanks break her out, but there's not as much lesbo commupance as one might expect. In general, Red Heat suffers greatly from taking itself way too seriously to be a fun exploitation flick and being way too poorly made to be a serious prison drama.

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