Tuesday, June 16, 2009


D: Joel Silberg
W: Stirling Silliphant
(aka: Feel The Heat)

This pedestrian actioner from the director of 1984's BREAKIN' and 1985's RAPPIN' has four aces up its sleeve (well, two down it's shirt, actually): Oscar-winning screenwriter/executive producer Stirling Silliphant (long past his prime); his alleged** wife, leading lady Tiana Alexandra, and her fantastic breasts, which debuted to the world in a very impressive wet t-shirt sequence, and later in a brief shower scene. The movie also stars Rod Steiger, but he doesn't count as an ace up the sleeve because it really feels like he did this as a favour to the prolific screenwriter who helped him score an Oscar for IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT.

Produced in association with a rather haughty sounding outfit called M'amsel Tea Entertainment that one presumes was fronted by the Vietnamese-American actress herself, CATCH THE HEAT casts the overeager-to-be-a-star Alexander as Checkers, a hot shot U.S. cop recruited by tough guy partner David Dukes (very wrong for this kind of role) to infiltrate Rod Steiger's Buenos Aires drug operation via his nightclub by posing as an import dancer from Hong Kong.

Steiger's master plan for flooding the U.S. with drugs involves ripping off and killing his Malaysian suppliers, then encouraging his dancers to undergo boob jobs, whereupon their bazooms are stuffed with bags of heroin before the gals are shipped back to the U.S. for unstuffing. (!) Yeah, that's a speedy plan! Alexander's "clever" disguise consists almost entirely of a high-slit cheongsam, a few Suzy Wong wigs, and one of the phoniest Chinese "accents" ever. In fact, Alexander doesn't so much effect an accent as an "oriental" cadence that would fool no one because every word she speaks utilizing this facade sounds like fluent English in its own right, with only the rhythm of the sentences making it all sound "foreign". But she's beautiful, "feisty", and she fills out unitards and Danskins quite nicely while delivering high kicks to the faces of Steiger's goons.

Production values rival an average TV cop show of the day: flat compositions, hasty framing, harsh lighting, but with a couple of larger explosions than you might see on the tube.

Weirdest gag in the movie: when henchman Ike (John Hancock) discovers the undercover Alexander's real name, Checkers Goldberg, and calls her "that fuckin' Chinese Jew, half heeb, half chink" which makes no sense as it implies that the character is of mixed heritage, which by all accounts she's not, or that she adopted the religion, which still wouldn't make her half-Jewish. I'm guessing Silliphant thought it sounded funny, but didn't think about it beyond that.

**I say "alleged wife" because IMDB's entry for Tiana Alexandra lists her year of birth as 1961 and claims she was married to Stirling Silliphant until his death but give no year for their marriage. The Silliphant entry, however lists the year of his marriage to one Tiana Du Long as 1974. If these two are the same woman, which seems highly likely, that means either a) he married her when she was 13 or b) she lied about her age somewhere along the line. Wish the IMDB could be straight about this.

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