Roger Corman's Cult Classics Triple Feature: Lethal Ladies Collection

Roger Corman's Cult Classics Triple Feature: Lethal Ladies Collection
Roger Corman's New World Pictures cranked out reliable drive-in fare throughout the '70s and '80s, financing films when no one else would. In the last year or so, Shout! Factory has packaged many of these together in reasonably priced collections, giving the viewer more bang for the buck and the ability to experience three or four grindhouse sleazies in one sitting. While the studio always revelled in pushing the boundaries of what could be shown onscreen in the sleazetastic '70s, it also worked with an inherent conservatism, due to tight budgets and shooting schedules, and Corman's business smart, but often creatively stifling, aesthetic requirements over such things as length and amount of fight scenes, and his infamous "nudity clause." Nonetheless, Corman had a movie-making sixth sense like no other, and knew when he had a young prodigy he could give extra leeway to or when he had a hired gun who could turn out a reliable programmer. The three features contained in this set fall into the latter category. Directed in 1974 by Filipino filmmaker Cirio H. Santiago, T.N.T. Jackson transposes the urban action thriller into a Hong Kong-set martial arts showcase for foxy black mama Jeannie Bell. Bell's titular character infiltrates the Hong Kong underworld in search of her missing brother, fighting off marauding kung-fu gangs around every street corner and romancing a fellow Harlem expatriate (Stan Shaw). Santiago unabashedly rips off the early blaxploitation style wholesale, offering some flashy action sequences, including a great street parade set piece, but the film falls short of establishing a style of its own. In 1981, Santiago offered Firecracker, a near scene-for-scene remake of T.N.T. Jackson, this time featuring a white martial arts expert (Jillian Kesner) travelling to the Philippines, ostensibly to learn new techniques, but inevitably out for vengeance. Billed as "the screen's first erotic kung-fu classic," Firecracker cut more corners than T.N.T. Jackson, but shock scene fans should be made aware that it does feature one major character getting a pair of sticks in the eyes. The most ludicrous of the trio, 1977's Too Hot to Handle, features Cheri Caffaro (of the notorious Ginger series) as a slick, cold-blooded assassin who romances the cop that's hot on her trail. Directed by Caffaro's then husband, Don Schain, Too Hot comes off like a strange, lighter version of a letter to Penthouse, with Schain's ogling camerawork redefining the term "vanity project." The discs come with retro trailers and a nice commentary from Caffaro on the Too Hot disc. (Shout! Factory)