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  Angel of H.E.A.T. Too hot to handle
Year: 1983
Director: Myrl Schreibmann
Stars: Marilyn Chambers, Stephen Johnson, Mary Woronov, Milt Kogan, Remy O'Neill, Dan Jesse, Gerald Okamura, Randy West, Harry Townes, Jerry Riley, Hal Kant, Janis Thrash, Charles Hoyes, Tony D'Andrea, Steve Cloud
Genre: Comedy, Sex, Action, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Unbeatable in martial arts and insatiable in bed, Angel Harmony (Marilyn Chambers) is an alluring agent of H.E.A.T., a sub-division of a benevolent but super-secret organization called the Protectors. Angel's latest mission leads her to cross paths with perpetually horny government agents Mark Wisdom (Stephen Johnson) and Samantha Vitesse (Mary Woronov). Taking a break from fondling each other's genitals, the duo are assigned to watch over Albert Shockley (Milt Kogan), a reclusive and eccentric scientist at work perfecting recording techniques for New Wave bands (?!) However, the agents discover Albert is far from the harmless kook he appears to be. Having amassed an army of remarkably lifelike sex robots he sets his sights on taking over the world. It falls to Angel to help the good guys foil Albert's evil scheme.

Despite a credible turn in David Cronenberg's provocative horror classic Rabid (1976) adult film star Marilyn Chambers never again achieved her lifelong goal of crossing into the mainstream. Before long she was back making porn or trashy nonsense like Agent of H.E.A.T., a combination spy spoof, soft-core sexploitation, science fiction action-thriller. Barely serious in its attempt to mould Marilyn into an action star (needless to say, her martial arts moves are less than convincing) the film puts a lusty feminine spin on the James Bond movies. Which at this stage under Roger Moore's tenure were basically structured like pornos anyway. So we get a cod-Maurice Binder opening title sequence with Miss Chambers performing karate in and out of her clothes, a silly espionage story with a villain bent on world-domination, wacky henchmen and the odd zany gadget including Angel's cheesy holographic security system that does not really figure into the plot.

Tonally Angel of H.E.A.T. evokes the cheerfully lurid and self-consciously trashy cheesecake action films of direct-to-video mogul Andy Sidaris. Only with an even wackier sense of humour. Take the opening steamy encounter between Angel and her sidekick: a clearly Caucasian buff blonde hunk who converses in a cod-Oriental dialect complete with dodgy subtitles! By comparison Angel's Japanese mentor is dubbed with a broad German accent including the odd line of Yiddish slang. The humour even gets a bit 'meta' when Angel reacts to a shocking discovery in a secret room with the quip: "So that's what's behind the green door" - a reference to Chamber's infamous porn-horror opus Behind the Green Door (1973). Co-written by Helen Sanford and director Myrl A. Schreibmann, the gags (which for some reason include a lot of digs at punk and New Wave rock) are wildly hit and miss but benefit from the committed playing of an unexpectedly charming ensemble cast. Stephen Johnson and Mary Woronov, a cult film legend in her own right then fresh off Paul Bartel's critically lauded satire Eating Raoul (1982), are especially adept at energizing a host of potentially lame comic routines. Marilyn Chambers also acquits herself well in the comedic scenes although whether one finds her presence captivating enough to overcome the movie's glaring flaws comes down to personal taste.

Even so, pacing is clearly not Schreibmann's forte. More active as a producer, the former child actor directed only two films. The other being Liberty & Bash (1989), a less than epic team-up between B-movie musclemen Lou Ferrigno and Miles O'Keefe. Today Schreibman is best known for filing a lawsuit against DreamWorks and Warner Bros. over plot similarities between Michael Bay's big-budget sci-fi action film The Island (2005) and The Clonus Horror (1979), the cult favourite he scripted and produced. Indeed Angel of H.E.A.T.'s big third act plot twist (if you can call it that) unmasking two thirds of the cast as sex robots created by mad genius Albert recalls The Clonus Horror. Only here it sets up a memorably silly sequence landing Mark and Angel in the midst of a robot orgy where they basically pull a Barbarella (1967). On the positive side the characters are strangely likable with a positive, life-affirming attitude to sex shunning the violence and misogyny one usually expects from an exploitation flick and embracing gay and bisexual characters. For all the sleaze and nudity the film flings about it is fluffy and inoffensive albeit meandering and lethargic.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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