Under the DANGEROUS BEAUTIES banner, Scorpion Releasing double bills the early New Line lovers on the run drama RUNNING HOT and Crown International's otherwise generic Kiwi pick-up HOT TARGET.
When Danny (Eric Stoltz, SISTER SISTER) is found guilty of the murder of his abusive father (Ben Hammer, THE BEASTMASTER) – a crime he didn't commit – he makes a daring escape on the way to jail and accidentally kills an officer. Wounded, Danny finds his way into the arms of hooker Charlene (Monica Carrico, GUILTY BY SUSPICION) – nicknamed "Lucky 13" (hence the film's alternate title) – who has fallen in love from him from afar (via her television) and has written to him in prison. Danny and Charlene go on the run to see his sister (Juliette Cummins, PSYCHO III) in Arizona, but ruthless Officer Trent (Stuart Margolin, DEATH WISH) is on their trail with revenge rather than justice on his mind. As they evade Trent, they find just as many other dangers and a couple allies along the way.
The first directorial effort of Mark Griffiths finds him fully indulging in the exploitation tenets of sex, nudity, and some wincing violence with gusto. He would next helm both HARDBODIES films and the action films ULTRAVIOLET and HEROES STAND ALONE before graduating to TV movies ranging from the family friendly to the "movie of the week" (returning briefly to features for BEETHOVEN'S 5TH and NATIONAL LAMPOON'S GOING THE DISTANCE); in fact, without the nudity and a toning down of the sleazy moments, RUNNING HOT plays largely like a TV movie. Stoltz is rather wooden here as he was in his earlier film roles, but Margolin makes up for it. This and a smaller role in the Hollywood Blacklist film GUILTY BY SUSPICION were the only screen efforts of Carrico, which is unfortunate as she is rewarded here for her willingness to shed her clothes with a substantial character which she does proud. Cinematographer Tom Richmond shot Griffith's HARDBODIES films, CHOPPING MALL, and the putrid HARD ROCK ZOMBIES but eventually moved on to loftier projects like STAND AND DELIVER, KILLING ZOE, and WAKING THE DEAD.
RUNNING HOT was previously released by Code Red Releasing in an anamorphic widescreen transfer of a print bearing the alternate LUCKY 13 title card. Scorpion's disc – which features the RUNNING HOT title card – lacks the Code Red commentary with director Mark Griffiths and producer David Callaway and Griffiths interview, but it does feature a newer transfer with more naturalistic colors, slightly different framing (sometimes more on the bottom or more on the right side while the Code Red looks a bit squished in comparison in some shots while revealing more at the bottom in others). The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is of comparable quality. The disc features an optional introduction by Katarina Leigh Waters (3:59) preceded by the Nightmare Theater opening - in which she mentions that the film was released overseas as HIGHWAY TO HELL - as well as a theatrical trailer (1:47) for the film. Even though it doesn't have extras, fans of the film might supplement the Code Red disc with this affordably priced double feature.
In HOT TARGET, Christine (Simone Griffeth, DEATH RACE 2000), the bored American housewife of ruthless New Zealand businessman Clive Webber (Bryan Marshall, THE PUNISHER), has a seemingly chance run-in at a dog park with charming American Greg Standford (Steve Marachuk, PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING) that turns into a full-blown love affair that leaves her conflicted when he reveals that he is a criminal. This adds a further touch of excitement to the affair until Greg breaks into her home to rob her and ends up killing her husband in a struggle. With Inspector Nolan (Peter McCauley, STARLIGHT HOTEL) suspecting an inside job from the start, Christine and Greg are thrown back together to keep themselves from getting caught.
A British/New Zealand pick-up from Crown International Pictures, HOT TARGET boasts slick lensing by Alec Mills (THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS), high production values and less familiar (to American exploitation fans) New Zealand locations, and much skin from Ms. Griffeth. As such, it's sufficiently interesting enough to watch in its first half until we realize that it's the same tired soapy noir-ish scenario with no novel twists (the scoring of the usually good Gil Melle [THE SENTINEL] makes it feel even more generic). The script is attributed to British director Gerry O'Hara (THAT KIND OF GIRL) and cinematographer Denis Lewiston (who shot O'Hara's trashy Jackie Collins adaptations THE BITCH and THE BRUTE as well as Roger Vadim's NIGHT GAMES), and it is possible that Lewiston took over direction from O'Hara (who directing no features in between the 1983 Cannon adaptation of FANNY HILL and the 1993 THE MUMMY LIVES although it is on record that he was replaced on a couple Golan and Globus productions including PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and NIGHT TERRORS).
A Crown International title released to VHS on the Vestron label, HOT TARGET has been easy to come by on DVD through Rhino and then on BCI and Mill Creek boxed sets. I haven't seen any of the older transfers, but Scorpion's progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen HD-mastered transfer boasts gorgeous colors and a sharp image despite some early black scratches and some white specks here and there. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is clean, and Melle's score can also be heard isolated on a second Dolby Digital 2.0 track. There is no trailer for the film, but the sub-menu for the film does allow access to trailers for STRIPPED TO KILL, FIREPOWER, FORCE: FIVE, NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN, PAPER TIGER, and THE OCTAGON. (Eric Cotenas)
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