They’re Playing With Fire (1984) – A Review
“I can’t remember a hotter day.”
“You look as though you could use a break. Want to have a nice cold drink with me?”
“No I better keep working and finish.”
“You’ve been working hard all day. I feel guilty if you don’t let me give you a drink.”
“Ok Mrs. Stevens.”
“Call me Diane….here.”
Sybil Danning is one of those actresses that doesn’t seem real. She’s like a fantastical version of what an adolescent horny male would create if he could.
Like, in Weird Science, two teens create in their minds the ‘perfect woman’. They could have easily created Sybil. Tall, leggy, stacked and blonde. Plus, she could have fought all those post-apocalyptic goons single-handedly and probably would have kicked their butts all on her own.
Danning looked tailor-made to be a B-Movie Queen. Which is exactly what she was. Barbarians, action heroines, evil alien queens, prison wardens, a werewolf queen, the seductive older woman those were the roles that carried her through most of the late 70’s and early 80’s. They weren’t all good movies, but they were enough for Danning to accumulate a loyal fanbase throughout the 80’s showcasing her unique buxom, statuesque screen presence, which usually was one of the major selling points of watching them.
One role that Danning felt she gave one of her best performances as was the seductive, mysterious college professor Diane Stevens in They’re Playing With Fire.
College student Jay Richard (Eric Brown) gets offered an innocuous job to do some work on the yacht of his teacher Dr. Diane Stevens (Danning). It doesn’t take long before Diane removes her bikini and seduces the bewildered Jay. That’s a real bonus on top of earning a few bucks!
Soon afterwards Jay is asked to do Diane and her husband Michael a favor by helping putting a huge inheritance their looking to get from his mother on the fast track. All he has to do is goto her mansion and scare her. Easy enough.
Doesn’t make too much sense, but what the heck easy job for some Danning sex and to earn more extra cash. However, things start to spiral out of control when Jay botches the break in, runs away scared and the next day the mother shows up dead.
Suspicions abound. Jay’s ex-girlfriend gets jealous. There’s an oddball groundskeeper. Alibi’s are needed. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t feel too compelled to recount the goings-on or even remembering any of what follows. This is not a good movie.
It’s meant to be sort of an erotic/thriller/mystery I think. It doesn’t do a good job on that. The story is convoluted and very uninteresting. Most of the time people are standing around talking about stuff I neither understand or care about.
The initial plan that kickstarts the story doesn’t even make much sense. This couple recruits a kid to break into his rich mothers house to scare her as a way of getting her inheritance.
I’m not sure how this is supposed to work or how stupid Jay is for going along with it. He’s got to be the most gullible student at this college.
As complications arise it does no favors to keeping me involved in the story. In fact it pushes me further away from caring about any of it.
I know people are talking and they’re supposed to be saying some heavy dramatic stuff and things are meant to build to a big whodunit reveal, but it’s all so poorly done you’ll be fighting the urge to fast forward through it. Simply put it’s horrible.
However, there are a few portions you might want to actually watch – the sex scenes and Danning appearing au natural. This should not be a surprise.
I’ve read several reviews for this movie and I think every single one of them points out Danning’s breasts and the sex scenes.
Those are truly the highlights of this flick. She does look good and if you’re a Danning fan they’re probably the best nude scenes of her on her resume. Other than her latter sex scenes and blatant need to disrobe for showers, Danning’s initial seduction of Brown on her yacht is the most worthwhile few minutes in the entire film.
In fact as a service to my Haphazard Readers – at least those of you who want to see Danning naked and for some reason feel compelled to seek out They’re Playing With Fire– I’ll save you some trouble.
– the opening credits of the film Danning is in a bikini sunning herself with terrible eighties theme song playing
– four and half minutes in the seduction scene takes place (see you don’t have to wait very long)
– ten and half minutes Danning nonchalantly takes a shower discussing the plan with her husband
– forty-three minutes the second sex scene between Danning and Brown takes place (be warned she leaves on her bra and we only see the initial embrace)
– forty-eight minutes Danning feels another need to disrobe and take a shower (quite brief)
– an hour and twelve minutes the third sex scene between Danning and Brown, it’s not bad, plus we get that wacky theme song playing in the background
That sums it up. In between all that is the insipid story that you won’t care a thing about.
The acting isn’t worth mentioning. Brown goes back and forth between holding his mouth open in bewilderment or having his mouth hang open in a silly grin. I don’t find him very charismatic and the only thing worth noting about him is that this is his second role of being a youngster seduced by an older woman, the first being Private Lessons.
I’m not sure how he got typecast in that kind of part. His career was somewhat brief. As the 80’s were winding down it appears he acted less and less as until eventually he left acting altogether and moved onto other things.
The rest of the cast is completely forgettable with none standing out in any of the scenes of them delivering ridiculous and/or melodramatic dialogue. One high point is Jay’s ex-girlfriend being bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat by a killer disguised as Santa Claus. I have no idea what that was about nor did I care.
It was funny how it’s filmed though. The first hit with the bat by the crazed Santa seems to have no effect on this girl. She just turns around as if he just tapped her on the shoulder.
Then after the second hit the girl falls to the floor and the guy is obviously thrashing the bat very carefully towards the camera while it cuts away to the girl screaming with the fakest ketchup-type blood smeared on her face. Awful. This is around the 58 minute mark if anyone cares.
So, to sum up: Dannings boobs and nothing else. I was hesitant to even include this movie in this ongoing teen/sex/comedy review series of mine, but it was the closest film I could think of that Danning had done that would fit into that genre. And I thought it might be fun to talk about Danning and look at her again. That’s the only thing this movie delivers on.
Today it’s almost unimaginable to think of an actress who was so willing to disrobe for no other reason than just to show off her body in exploitation flicks. Danning didn’t need any well thought out motivations for her character to disrobe. She knew her fans, knew why they were watching her movies, so “let’s just do this scene with me naked in the shower”. Roll em!
It’s as if she was fine that her cleavage and body got her attention, work and fans. It didn’t appear she was straining to breakout from her B-movie image. And even more unbelievable was that she became very popular by sticking with it! We don’t see that happen too often anymore.
Would any actress today be so straight forward about selling herself based on her bod? Would they be so nonchalant to show off their boobs even if it wasn’t vital to the scene in the movie? Do today’s actresses even have boobs???
As much as I like to look at Danning a lot of her movies were really pretty poor. It can be a real struggle to sit through some of them. It’s too bad she didn’t have some better quality material to surround her when she would do her ‘Danning’ thing in them.
Just because she was the 1980’s Queen of B-Movies, doesn’t mean the movies she appeared in had to be so terrible. Some of them could at least be a bit more fun and entertaining. I’m not even sure what is considered her best movie. I guess her hardcore fans do enjoy them, which is cool, but I consider myself one of her more ‘fast-forward-kind’ of fans.
When you watch the trailer for They’re Playing With Fire don’t be deceived by it. It makes it seem like the focus is the ‘older woman/younger student’ aspect to it. It is not! “See folks they have this torrid affair and then the husband wants to kill the kid, so the kid is in the middle of suspenseful scenes with his life being threatened. NOT!
They basically edited it without including any of the half-baked inheritance story, which takes up the bulk of the movie! At least it features the movie’s theme song so you can get an idea of how that sounds and brief glimpses of the Danning scenes that are the only thing that make sitting through this flick bearable.