More women-in-prison sludge scraped off the floor of the New World Pictures exploitation-flick factory, The Hot Box is mildly notable for a couple of reasons. In terms of content, because the storyline involves freedom fighters in Latin America, the picture anticipates themes that pervaded 1980s cinema. Behind the scenes, the film was an early credit for Jonathan Demme, who cowrote the script, produced the picture, and also directed second-unit scenes. (The film was helmed and cowritten by Joe Viola.) One need not strain to find tropes that recurred throughout Demme’s career, such as political activism and strong women, but in the most important respects, this is typically dumb and sleazy New World fare. Four American nurses are kidnapped by guerillas who need medical services at their hidden compound, and the nurses have varying reactions to their circumstances. Some become sympathetic to their captors, while others simply wish to escape. Action arises in the form of raids the guerillas execute in order to steal medical supplies, as well as showdowns with government forces. Yawn. The characters are mostly interchangeable, and the acting is unimpressive; arguably the biggest name in the cast is Margaret Markov, best known for her subsequent starring roles opposite Pam Grier in Black Mama, White Mama (1973) and The Arena (1974). Per the New World formula, the filmmakers contrive many silly reasons for topless scenes—bathing in grottos, sleeping nude during oppressive heat, etc. It’s also worth noting that, like so many other exploitation flicks of the same era, The Hot Box was shot in the Philippines, rather than South America, so it’s not as if authenticity was the order of the day. A generous viewer might note that The Hot Box is less vile than other women-in-prison movies (there’s less of a focus on rape than usual), but the film is way too clunky and forgettable to recommend.
The Hot Box: LAME