Color, 1981, 86 mins. 30 secs.
Directed by Roger Vadim
Starring Wayne Rogers, Marie-France Pisier, Lloyd Bochner, Samantha Eggar, Patrick Macnee, Melvyn Douglas, Allan Kolman Code Red / Kino Lorber (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
The career of French director Roger Vadim was in a strange place in the early '80s when he tackled this fairly obscure, Montreal-shot caper film. Since French-Canadian productions allowed French citizens to count as the obligatory local talent, Vadim, essentially a gun for hire here following his mostly ignored erotic drama Night Games for Golden Harvest, was brought in from Europe for this film along with star Marie-France Pisier. The end result, The Hot Touch (or just Hot Touch according to the opening title card), screams late-period Canadian tax shelter with its strange stew of stars and very non-U.S. settings; a real curio in the career of the director, it now seems worlds away from a film that could possibly get made.
Expert art forger Danny Fairchild (M*A*S*H's Rogers) has a lucrative gig going replicating valuable paintings for auction, with his partner in crime Vincent (Macnee) authenticating the imitations. Their latest scam in New York involving one of Picasso's harlequin painting to pawn off on some Saudi sheiks seems to go off without a hitch, during which Danny also meets cute with a psychologist, Simpson (Pisier), who nearly loses her lab mouse during an auction. She's married to the creepy auctioneer Lincoln (Shivers' Kolman) with both set to jet off to Montreal, which is exactly where Danny and Vincent are heading for their next gig. Things get complicated when a mystery man named Severo (Bochner) shows up and threatens to blow the legal whistle on the forgers unless they help him with a covert operation involving smuggled World War II artifacts, but as we've already seen in a pre-credits scene involving Severo wielding a scalpel on another wayward forger, something more sinister is afoot.
It's a little difficult to tell exactly what kind of tone this film is shooting for, though based on some occasional stabs at witty romantic banter, the inspiration was probably '60s Hollywood crime romps like How to Steal a Million. The peppy music also seems to indicate a comedy, though there's also quite a bit of traditional suspense and bits of violent action (especially a pretty shocking bloody bit with a hypodermic) mixed in with the large cast of characters. Regular Canadian stalwart Eggar makes a nice impression in a small role as a high-end art collector, with the legendary Melvyn Douglas also getting a couple of nice moments as Rogers' mentor in what would be one of his final roles (along with Ghost Story). The main Rogers/Pisier pairing is a weird one that never quite clicks, though they're both solid pros and keep things moving along nicely enough.
A busy title for HBO for few months in the early '80s, The Hot Touch only received minimal theatrical play (with Astral handling it in Canada and Fox in the U.S.) with its VHS release from Trans World barely making a blip. The 2017 Blu-ray and DVD editions from Code Red via Kino Lorber obviously doesn't have much competition out there and looks pretty pleasing, taken from what appears to be a good quality 35mm print with just a handful of green scratches and a rough reel change around the 81-minute mark. Colors and detail levels look stable enough for what they are; it isn't a knockout of a film in visual terms, but it's so far beyond any other version out there that any curious viewers should be more than pleased. The DTS-HD MA English audio also sounds solid apart from the occasional sign of damage.
The sole relevant extra is a video interview with producer Bob Kline (14m36s), which includes some good info about how the project came together including his long-running friendship with fellow tennis player and Hollywood financial wizard Rogers. It's very strangely edited though, with some dead space left in with Kline staring off camera six minutes in and a bizarre, extremely abrupt ending. Also included are bonus trailers for Highpoint, The Funny Farm, The Curious Female, Being Different,Kingdom of the Spiders, and Blackout.