Director Jag Mundhra uses both the urban and natural scenery of India as a backdrop for this would-be murder mystery, but spends more time exposing women's breasts than developing the film's paper-thin plot. The result is a tiresome and unsurprising "mystery" that occasionally plays like a
resume to an adult film production company.
In India, a rich Maharajah is stomped to death by an elephant while on safari, and his beautiful American widow (Maryam D'Abo) goes to a Los Angeles insurance firm to collect on her late husband's $5 million policy. Suspicious of any overseas claim, insurance agent Carolyn (Lee Ann Beaman) calls
on her old flame Gravis (Rick Rossovich), a sometime-private eye, to travel to India and investigate. There Gravis meets the widow, Beverly, who is living alone in her late husband's palace, with just a single servant (Ashok Rao) to tend to her. Between trips to the local police and coroner,
Gravis manages to begin a steamy affair with the beautiful widow and soon-to-be millionairess. But just before he leaves India to give the insurance company the go-ahead, he's visited by a young local girl, Kamla (Asha Siewkumar), who tells him that Beverly murdered her father, mangled his corpse,
and substituted it for that of the supposedly-deceased Maharajah.
His interest piqued, Gravis returns to Beverly's palace to continue both his investigation and affair. With the heat turned up a notch, the coroner (Goving Rao) demands more money from Beverly to keep quiet about the body switch; Beverly, in turn, has her servant kill the coroner--in full sight
of Kamla, who is hiding nearby. Kamla urges Gravis to confront Beverly, but he is still not convinced; Beverly, meanwhile, kills her husband (who had been masquerading as her servant) in order to split the insurance money with her real accomplice--her insurance agent, ex-roommate, and lesbian
lover, Carolyn. Beverly and Carolyn try to take Gravis hostage and leave with the money but their escape plan fails. Carolyn is trampled by an elephant and Beverly goes to jail.
It's surprising that director Mundhra could get actors like D'Abo (THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS) and Rossovich (TOP GUN, ROXANNE) to appear in a film this poor. Ostensibly a murder mystery, the murderer is revealed both to the audience and the characters about midway through, and the relationship
between Gravis and Beverly is so shallow that there's no real reason to care how the whole thing turns out. What "surprises" there are--Beverly as the murderer, the Maharajah's disguise, etc.--are all painfully obvious, with the possible exception of Carolyn's late reappearance, if only because
she'd been long written off as just another ancillary character.
Despite his inability to create anything approaching suspense, Mundhra uses the Indian landscape to good advantage, shooting several scenes in the lush jungles, near cascading waterfalls, among the ancient shrines, even in the colorfully crowded streets of the city. Had he been a little smarter,
he would have made these exotic and enigmatic settings the centerpiece of his film. Instead, perhaps knowing that no viewer would sit through all of TROPICAL HEAT on the strength of its plot alone, Mundhra throws in a number of non-sequitur love scenes gratuitous enough to border on Playboy-style
soft-core pornography. (Graphic violence, extensive nudity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: Director Jag Mundhra uses both the urban and natural scenery of India as a backdrop for this would-be murder mystery, but spends more time exposing women's breasts than developing the film's paper-thin plot. The result is a tiresome and unsurprising "myste… (more)