Over the past few days I’ve been watching Mark Hartley’s wonderful meticulously researched Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010), a documentary about Filipino action/exploitation cinema. Because it name checks so many amazing-sounding people and films I’ve decided to just watch it in 20-minute intervals and actually watch some of the titles mentioned as I go along.
Last night I decided to watch The Hot Box, a sleazy action film set in the filipino jungle. It is a Roger Corman production and as such it’s not a million miles away from the Filipino jungle prison efforts of Jack Hill (who of course features regularly in the documentary), just a bit sloppier and generally not as entertaining. Of course it’s hard to compete with Hill and films like The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972), but this is still well worth watching. A young Jonathan Demme appear in the credits as writer and producer. Maybe not the title in his filmography he’s proudest of, but we all have to start somewhere, right?
It’s nothing really spectacular. San Rosario is a country in the middle of some sort of civil war. A group of American nurses are kidnapped by a rebel group, The People’s Army of San Rosario, and forced to teach the rebels everything they know about first-aid, healthcare etc. They escape, are captured, develop a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, fight alongside the rebels and manage to find alot of time for washing themselves or generally just being topless. Yes, there’s a lot of nudity in this one, but that kinda comes with the territory.
As is often the case with these films, the title is a tad misleading, but I guess there is actually a short scene involving a ‘hot box’ of sorts. When captured by the real army, the nurses refuse to be examined by the army doctor and as punishment they are locked in a cage and blasted by hot steam until they co-operate. Hence, The Hot Box.
The film is also known as Hell Cats, which is just a bit too generic. They really should have gone with the original title, which was Prescription Revolution. Sure, it’s a bit of a mouthful, but also I think it’s kinda cool and unusual.
Well worth watching if you’re into the whole Filipino jungle prison escape thing, or if you’re a fan of Margaret Markov, who is great and gorgeous as usual.
Although I’m only about half-way through, I can really recommend Machete Maidens Unleashed! Just like Hartley’s previous documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008) it features plenty of rare footage and contributions from an amazing set of actors and filmmakers.