Hedda (Sue Kiel) is defecting from East Germany to West Germany, carrying important documents with her. After a narrow escape from communist troops, her contacts in the West send a helicopter to pick her up and she settles in a retreat on the other side of the Iron Curtain. It just so happens that there is an American couple staying at the hotel as well, Mike (William Ostrander), a soldier stationed in Berlin and his college student fiancée, Chris (Linda Blair), who has joined him to discuss their upcoming marriage. However when he tells her that they will have to postpone the nuptials she is not happy and wanders the grounds that night, deep in thought. Suddenly, she witnesses Hedda being bundled into the back of a truck by East German spies, and is spotted by them. They grab her and soon Chris is on her way to a women's jail as a political prisoner...
Yes, even Germany had a try at the Women in Prison genre, in this co-production with the United States starring the chipmunk-esque lead actress of Chained Heat, Linda Blair. However, the word "heat" and women's incarceration apart, Red Heat is not on the campy level of its supposed predecessor, and there are strong signs that director Robert Collector (I wonder how many Roberts he has now?), who co-wrote the script with Gary Drucker, is taking this far more seriously than it really needed to be for the maximum exploitation effects. In fact, there's a decidedly joyless air hanging over the whole thing as everything looks grey and miserable.
Not that there is a total lack of camp, as we see when Chris is finally sent to the jail with her cries of "Goddammit, I'm an American citizen!" sounding hollow in the corridors. Once inside, she actually takes a step back and is sidelined by the antics of the other inmates, with head bully Sofia (Sylvia Kristel with orange hair) taking the centre stage. She has her own gang who rule over the others with an iron fist, more so than the guards it would seem, and Sofia has the warden in the palm of her hand thanks to her seductive, lesbian wiles. Chris will butt heads with her eventually, but first Hedda is victimised, earning a lengthy sentence and stoically accepting her punishment while not revealing the names of her cohorts. Chris is presumed to be her accomplice, but the authorities offer to be lenient on her if she turns informer; her response? A heartfelt, "Fuck You!"
That's because prison life is making a whole new woman of Chris, and she's not afraid to stand up for herself anymore. All the while, we cut back to Mike doing his best to find out why his fiancée disppeared and where she went off to. For the film's exciting finale, he stages a prison break to free her, and some of the other inmates who she has befriended - but Chris's enemies won't let her go without a fight. As these things go, Red Heat is a dour entry, with only the odd unintentional laugh (Sofia's seething admission she killed her father because he ate her pet snake - what?) to alleviate the tedium. Hardened WiP fans will be disappointed that the obligatory shower scene only lasts about ten seconds and any gratuitous lesbianism is filmed in such a gloom as to render such scenes impenetrable. Add to that the poor photography and lighting that doesn't show off the cast to their best advantage, with Blair looking particularly tired and drawn (she broke her leg while filming, which couldn't have helped), and for thrills you might be better off with the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of the same name. Music by Tangerine Dream in their "will score anything that comes along" phase.