They're Playing With Fire
They're Playing with Fire is called a thriller at IMDb. The summary
starts, "Is this a sex film with slasher overtones or a slasher film with sex
thrown in? The filmmaker never really makes up his mind..."
Let's look at the facts.
Sybil Danning, a college English professor married to an impotent PhD who
teaches at the same school, invites student Jay Richards to her yacht to earn
some extra money. He goes willingly, since he is in lust with her anyway. Once
there, she seduces him, then talks him into helping her with a problem. Her
mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law are about to cut her husband out of their
wills, and she needs Jay to scare them so badly they look incompetent and must
be put away. He tries, but their toy poodle discovers him and he almost gets
shot. Shortly thereafter, somebody shoots the two old ladies and their TV.
Obviously, the two main suspects are Danning and her husband, and there is also a
weird gardener who has been in the household forever.
Ok, I will grant that the plot has thriller-like elements, and I'll offer a
"roger" on the erotic, so it can superficially be mistaken for an erotic
thriller. However, I don't think so. I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be a comedy.
Follow my reasoning.
- When we first see Sybil teaching, she is teaching Macbeth. OK, that could be irony, or a hint at what is to come, helping establish Danning as a red herring.
- A female lead singer announces that the band is taking a break, and that anyone who doesn't like their music could take the opportunity to hang themselves. Then she offers a rope. That
was either a PMS ad, or an attempt at humor.
- The cast includes Dominick Brascia, who basically plays the part of John Belushi. He is fat, rolls his eyes and everything, and constantly craves pizza, which must include mustard and
anchovies. When he needs to take a leak, he says to himself, "good things come in small packages."
- The ending involves a surprise secret evil twin.
- Danning, at the end of the film, decides to go for student Jay Richards as a life partner.
Those facts alone spell comedy intent, but the real kicker is below.
There is no way to explain a bound and gagged toy poodle in anything but
a comedy. Given that, why am I the only one to figure out that this was a
comedy? Because a failed comedy is almost indistinguishable from a film
which isn't trying to be funny in the first place. The jokes fell flat, with
the exception of the poodle.
The low IMDb score is not indicative of the film's watchability quotient.
It has enough bad movie energy for party fodder; Sybil Danning
looked really hot, and spent a lot of time naked; and the bound-and-gagged
poodle was almost worth the DVD price alone.
If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to
explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by
our definition, a
C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs
and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:
Never boring. The kind of bad movie that is fun to watch.