A hugely enjoyable 70's drive-in action exploitation winner
Four American nurses -- sensitive Lynn Forrest (an excellent portrayal by the ravishing Margaret Markov), sassy Ellen St. George (a marvelously fiery Rickey Richardson), feisty Sue Pennwright (luscious brunette stunner Laurie Rose), and vacuous airhead Bunny Kinkaid (busty blonde babe Andrea Cagan) -- working in the oppressive war torn third world country the Republic of San Rosario are kidnapped by a ragtag army of revolutionaries who are in desperate need of proper medical assistance. The naive and apathetic ladies all get a harsh crash course in bitter world politics, with Lynn in particular eventually becoming a firm believer in the rebel army's cause. Director Joe Viola, who also co-wrote the sharp and engrossing script with Jonathan Demme, relates the gripping story at a constant snappy pace, stages the exciting rough'n'ready action set pieces with considerable brio, further spices things up with amusing moments of inspired humor, and certainly doesn't skimp on the tasty gratuitous female nudity (all four gorgeous leads have topless scenes). The violence is extremely bloody and brutal while the overall tone is properly gritty and tough-minded. The radical left-wing politics are a tad too strident at times, but still on the money sincere and provocative. This film scores bonus points for its refusal to neither glamorize nor sanitize the revolutionary way of life: It's shown as pretty grungy and thankless, with danger lurking just around the corner. Moreover, this movie cites various credible and interesting reasons for why people join a revolution: Some are noble, others not. The sturdy cast all contribute sound performances: The actresses playing the nurses are all earnest and appealing, Carmen Argenziano shines as dedicated and passionate army leader Flavio, Charles Dierkop makes for a perfectly hateful villain as the slimy and vicious Major Dubay, plus there are nice turns by Zaldy Zshornack as consummate soldier Ronaldo, Rocco Montalban as scuzzy bandito leader Carragiero, and Jose Romulo as zealous hunter Ronaldo. Restie Umali supplies a deliciously funky, rattling, get-down groovin' score. Felipe Sacdalan's fairly polished cinematography boasts a few flashy scene transitions. Well worth seeing for 70's grindhouse aficionados.
Reviewed by Uriah435 / 10
A Slightly Different Type of Women-in-Prison Film
While serving at a hospital in a small South American country four American nurses are kidnapped by a group of bandits and then sold to some revolutionaries who insist that they train them in first aid and other necessary health skills. At first the women are very reluctant to help out and look for a means to escape. Over time however one or two of the women begin to take a more positive approach but in any case still don't like being held as prisoners against their will. Now rather than reveal any more of this movie and risk spoiling it I will just say that this was a slightly different type of "Women-in-Prison" film in that it didn't have a warden and vicious inmates clawing at each other. But there are some characters in this movie who manage to fill in all the same. Likewise, as the movie continues things change for the women-and not for the better. Anyway, while all of the females were rather pretty I kind of liked "Bunny Kincaid" (Andrea Cagan) the most. Obviously, others may disagree. Be that as it may I rate this movie as about average.
Reviewed by gridoon20225 / 10
Heavy-handed but fairly watchable action flick
As other reviewers have already mentioned, "The Hot Box" has been mis-marketed as a Women-In-Prison film, when in fact it is a low-budget action film with four American nurses getting caught up in a revolution taking place in the "republic of San Rosario". This was one of the earliest scripts that Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs") wrote in his career, and personally I found the structure a bit heavy-handed. I assume that the goal was to make the viewer root for the revolutionaries and against the oppressive government, yet for the first half of the movie most of the revolutionaries we meet are little more than cackling sex maniacs! And even the more "civilized" ones treat the four American women - who are nurses, mind you, not their enemies in any way - pretty horribly. In the second half, they are subjected to even worse treatment by the government side, and finally the revolutionaries are starting to come off as "the good guys" (by default!). Wouldn't it be wiser to try to build more sympathy for them earlier on? I also didn't like the small comedic touches in the film, they felt awkward given the generally grim and unpleasant content. What I did like are the four female leads, who make a likable and good-looking team; their unabashed nudity is most welcome. Is it just me or would Margaret Markov (who plays the most "idealistic" of the four) have been perfect for the part of an angel in a fantasy? (**)