Cold Sweat (1993): Stranger Things

Matty is hot for one of Shannon Tweed’s oddest star vehicles.

Marketed as an erotic thriller — an inevitability given star Shannon Tweed’s growing status as queen of the form — COLD SWEAT is more a darkly comedic domestic drama with a few sexy bits thrown in. Laced with an eccentric, ‘Blood Simple (1984) meets Twin Peaks’ vibe, the film’s an unusual mix for sure. However, like fellow kooky crotch twitchers Naked Obsession (1990) and Sorceress (1995), this gripping little number works a treat and ranks as a high point for all involved.

Produced by Canadian shingle Norstar Entertainment and directed by Gail Harvey (her second feature following ‘female Cassavetes flick’ The Shower (1992)), the stills photographer turned helmer composes some arresting images befitting of her background and keeps Cold Sweat’s mood and peculiarities balanced very nicely indeed. Written by Richard Beattie — one of Norstar’s go-to writers of the period [1] — with input from company regular Ron Oliver [2], the film sees the lives of a suave hitman and a rich housewife colliding amidst a stockpile of quirky situations involving assassination attempts, killer’s guilt syndrome, relationship malaise, erectile dysfunction, and dodgy business deals. To wit: Disturbed during a job, hired gun Mark (Ben Cross) is forced to shoot an innocent bystander (Lenore Zann, Visiting Hours (1982)). Uncharacteristically spooked by the incident, Mark tries to settle back into his cover as a quiet suburban family man but is frequently distracted by visions of a ghostly Zann that seriously hinder rumpy pumpy with his unsuspecting wife (Maria Del Mar, who’d reunite with Harvey on the equally tricksy Never Saw it Coming (2018)). 

Across the other side of Toronto is Beth (Tweed). Unhappily married, Beth’s older husband, Larry (comedian Dave Thomas, brilliantly playing against type), is a pill-popping blowhard desperate to get hold of her trust fund in order to save his floundering insurance business. When Beth refuses to budge, Larry decides to bump off his handsome business partner, Sean (Harry Czerny), instead. It’s a foolproof scheme — or at least it would be if Beth wasn’t shagging Sean and the hunky rollerblading fixer (Adam Baldwin) who procures Mark for Larry in the first place… 

While Cold Sweat’s house of cards plot veers dangerously close to collapsing on a couple of occasions, the well-defined characters at its core are fantastic and give the film’s uniformly excellent cast plenty to sink their teeth into. The perpetually underappreciated Tweed dominates — but Cross submits a wonderfully textured portrayal of a complicated cat uneasily coming to terms with the fact that he does have a conscience after all. On a purely personal note, the flag-waving Teessider within me found the use of local hero Chris Rea’s 1992 track, Too Much Pride, as a kind of Greek chorus a particularly neat touch. Mark is proud of his work; Larry is too proud to admit his marriage is failing; and Beth is proud of her ability to juggle the three fellas in her life with surprisingly little effort. Up the Boro indeed.

Lensed in February ‘93 on a $1.5million budget, Cold Sweat premiered at The World Film Festival in Quebec on 27th August 1993. It arrived in Canadian theatres six months later via Skouras Pictures who unleashed it in Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa between February and May ‘94. Fittingly, Skouras had previously distributed the aforementioned Blood Simple. In the states, Cold Sweat was acquired by the USA Network and broadcast in a slightly censored version as a World Premiere Movie on Friday 4th August 1994. The film was subsequently released on tape in the U.S. by Paramount and by First Independent here in the U.K. Maddeningly, First Independent nixed the Tweed-focused art that adorned Cold Sweat’s striking U.S. poster (see below) in favour of a hideous and wholly unmemorable sleeve.

Canada ● 1993 ● Erotic, Thriller, Drama ● 92mins

Shannon Tweed, Ben Cross, Adam Baldwin, Dave Thomas ● Dir. Gail Harvey ● Wri. Richard Beattie

[1] Beattie penned Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil (1992) and No Contest II (1996), the latter of which also toplined by Tweed.
[2] Oliver was fresh from the superficially similar Liar’s Edge (1992), another Norstar production built around Tweed. He’s credited on Cold Sweat as a ‘creative consultant’. 

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