Director – Lawrence Lanoff, Screenplay – Melissa Mitchell, Producer – Michael Cain, Photography – Anthony G. Nakonechnyi, Music – Michael Stearns, Visual Effects Consultant – Joshua Culp, Special Effects – Ultimate Effects (Supervisor – Beverly Hartican), Makeup Effects – Ted Haines & Melanie Tooker, Production Design – Gary Randall. Production Company – Playboy Entertainment Group
Kim Delaney (Karin Swann), Chris Sarandon (Matt Christianson), Ben Cross (Dr Samudaya), Dee Wallace Stone (Allison Mackie), Corbin Bernsen (Nick), David Brooks (Larry Gilbert), Jessica Walter (Dr Phyllis Evergreen)
Karin Swann returns from a trip to India, claiming to have been spiritually awakened and showing a tattoo that she has accepted on her breast as mark. The men around Karin become alarmed at how lewd and sexually aggressive her behaviour has become. Some of these men then die in unusual circumstances. At the same time, Karin starts worshipping the Hindu goddess Kali. An Indian theologian persuades Karin’s friends to intervene. They discover through hypno-regression that, while at an Indian ashram, Karin was chosen to be the vessel of the Hindu goddess Kali for the coming Age of Kali, which signals the imminent end of the world. The only choice seems to be to summon the spirit of Kali’s husband Shiva and allow him to possess Karin’s boyfriend Matt so as to defeat the Kali spirit through the wholesomeness of love.
Temptress, which is produced by the filmmaking subsidiary of Playboy magazine, was one of the first erotic films made directly for the cable market. The mixture of erotica and horror is a potentially interesting combination that has never been explored as much as it potentially could be on screen. Unfortunately, despite the promise that such generic crosshatch might offer, Temptress succeeds neither as horror nor as erotica. It is hard to suspend your disbelief when it comes to the erotic scenes because it is painfully clear that the naked body on display is that of a body double whose body is cut off from the head, not that of lead actress Kim Delaney. You might have thought if Playboy were trying to make an erotic film they would have at least cast an actress that would do her own body scenes – the cable erotica market is filled with a number of actresses who can actually act as well as disrobe. A number of Playmates have tried to branch out into acting careers.
In terms of its story premise, Temptress knows next to nothing about its chosen subject matter – Hinduism. Hinduism tends to be divided on whether Kali is a force for good or evil – so one cannot complain there, even if her depiction here tends to buy into evil goddess cliches. Elsewhere, the film identifies Shiva as the Creator whereas, according to The Trimurti, Shiva is in fact the Destroyer and the creator is Vishnu. The basic purpose of this mislabelling in the film is to create a simplistic good/evil dualism – with the female Kali standing in for evil and the male Shiva representing good. Beneath these polarities, Temptress is crude and misogynistic equating of unleashed female sexuality with evil. Which seems an odd message considering that Temptress is an erotic film, a genre that normally sees unleashed female sexuality as a good thing. The end of the film where the rampant female sexuality is finally subjugated contains a repressiveness that seems totally at odds with the erotic appeal that the film is pitched to.
Furthermore, Temptress falls woefully short as horror. It sets up such monumental promises as a battle against a force of evil with the end of the world in the imminent offing. For such an epic promise, the film’s delivery, which centres around no more than two killings and one woman becoming licentious and sexually assertive, is something so underwhelming as to verge on the laughable. The climax sets up a momentous battle between the creator and destroyer of the universe as incarnated in the bodies of two lovers but at its most exciting this comes down to a struggle to levitate a burning shelf back upright. Some parts of the film, such as the sequence with Kim Delaney dancing with Corbin Bernsen, are risible.
Director Lawrence Lanoff directed and produced several other erotic films and Playboy specials. His one other genre entry is the hilarious white trash superheroine film The Chosen One: Legend of the Raven (1998).