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The Hot Spot

theatrical poster
Directed by Dennis Hopper
Produced by Paul Lewis
Written by Charles Williams (book & screenplay)
Nona Tyson (screenplay)
Starring Don Johnson
Virginia Madsen
Jennifer Connelly
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Ueli Steiger
Editing by Wende Phifer Mate
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) September 8, 1990 (Toronto F.F.)
October 12, 1990 (general)
Running time 130 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Gross revenue $1,293,976

The Hot Spot is a 1990 American drama film directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and Jennifer Connelly.

Based on the book Hell Hath No Fury by Charles Williams, the film's soundtrack features a score by Jack Nitzsche played by John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal and Roy Rogers.



Drifter Harry Madox takes a job as a used car salesman in a small Texas town. In the summer heat, he develops an interest in a couple of hot women, one who works at the car dealership and another who is married to its owner.

Gloria Harper is a young, innocent-seeming woman with a secret. It somehow involves a sleazy local man named Frank Sutton who appears to have some hold on her.

Dolly Harshaw is a seductive, anything-goes femme fatale married to George Harshaw, the car dealer. She keeps a gun handy and likes to have sex in unusual, dangerous ways.

Harry carries on with both while looking for an opportunity to rob the local bank.

It ultimately is revealed that Sutton has nude photographs of Gloria, taken from a distance at a remote lakeside setting. Harry lies in wait for Sutton one night and viciously beats him.

Dolly begins to see Harry as her ticket to better things. When she coaxes her husband into bed, it is only to bring George's weak heart to a fatal end.

A sheriff arrests Harry, suspecting him in the bank job, but can't prove it. Harry decides to leave town with Gloria by his side, but Dolly puts an end to that by revealing to Gloria everything else Harry has been doing in town, including her.



Charles Williams wrote a screenplay of his own novel with Nona Tyson in 1962.[1] It was intended for Robert Mitchum. Many years later, Dennis Hopper found the script and updated it.[1] The director described the film as "Last Tango in Texas. Real hot, steamy stuff".[2] A bedroom scene originally called for Madsen to appear naked, but she decided to put on a negligee because she felt that, "Not only was the nudity weak storywise, but it didn't let the audience undress her".[3] Hopper later admitted that Madsen was right.[3] The director gave his impressions of working with Johnson: "He wasn't that bad. He has a lot of people with him. He came on to this film with two bodyguards, a cook, a trainer, ah let's see, a helicopter pilot he comes to and from the set in a helicopter, very glamorous let's see, two drivers, a secretary, and, oh yes, his own hair person, his own make-up person, his own wardrobe person. So when he walks to the set he has five people with him".[4] Johnson found Hopper's approach to filmmaking "a little disappointing, I gotta tell you".[5] Hopper shot the film in Texas during what he described as the "hottest, steamiest weather you could imagine".[6] The swimming scenes were filmed at the Hamilton Pool Preserve.


The Hot Spot had its world premiere at the 1990 Toronto Film Festival.[7] Director Dennis Hopper felt that stars Don Johnson and Virginia Madsen were not as enthusiastic in promoting the film as he would have liked. Hopper said of Johnson that "He says he's not going to do anything for this picture until he reads the reviews."[8] Johnson claims that he was unable to do promotion because he was shooting the film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man with Mickey Rourke.[8] Of Madsen, Hopper claimed that she "was very embarrassed" by the amount of her on-screen nudity.[9] The film was released on October 12, 1990, in 23 theaters, grossing USD $112,188 in its opening weekend. The film grossed only $1.2 million in the North America, far less than the cost of its production.[10]

The Hot Spot received generally mixed reviews from critics and currently has a 67 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "Only movie lovers who have marinated their imaginations in the great B movies from RKO and Republic will recognize The Hot Spot as a superior work in an old tradition."[11] In her review for the New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Mr. Hopper's direction is tough and stylish, in effective contrast with the sunny look of Ueli Steiger's cinematography."[12] USA Today gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote, "In other words, Hopper's direction isn't any great shakes, and the wrap-up is somewhat confusing, but this film does make you want to go skinny-dipping with someone else's mate."[13] In his review for the Washington Post, Desson Howe wrote, "Hot Spot will never go down as timeless, neoclassic noir. But, with its Hopperlike moments, over-the-top performances and infectious music, it carries you along for a spell."[14] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, "Hopper still hasn't learned how to pace a movie, but working from Charles Williams' 1952 novel Hell Hath No Fury he comes up with a reasonably diverting hothouse yarn."[15]


The soundtrack for the film is composed by Jack Nitzsche and features an original collaboration between John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal and Roy Rogers. Allmusic describes the soundtrack album as "marvelous music ... something listeners should be thankful for, particularly fans of either Miles Davis or John Lee Hooker".[16] A sample from one track, "Harry's Philosophy", was later used on "Sure Thing", a single from St. Germain's album Tourist.


  1. ^ a b Thomas, Bob (November 22, 1990). "Director Hopper's back in hot spot with new film". The Advertiser. 
  2. ^ Krum, S (April 18, 1990). "Why Dennis Got Back on His Bike". Herald. 
  3. ^ a b Hayward, J (June 9, 1990). "Screen Sirens Sense and Sexuality". Courier-Mail. 
  4. ^ Malcolm, Derek (November 29, 1990). "The Hopper file". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ Trebbe, Ann (August 23, 1991). "Movie Marlboro Man". USA Today. 
  6. ^ Krum, S (October 23, 1990). "Hopper's back in the hot spot". Herald Sun. 
  7. ^ Harris, Christopher (August 29, 1990). "Frears to attend premiere". Globe and Mail. 
  8. ^ a b Trebbe, Ann (September 11, 1990). "Hopper, hopping mad at Johnson". USA Today. 
  9. ^ Dougherty, Steve (November 12, 1990). "With a New Wife, Son and Movie Uneasy Rider Dennis Hopper Hopes to Find the Hot Spot Back on Top". People.,,20113574,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  10. ^ "The Hot Spot". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 26, 1990). "The Hot Spot". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  12. ^ Maslin, Janet (October 12, 1990). "Taxidermy and Temptations: Dennis Hopper's Dark World". New York Times. 
  13. ^ Clark, Mike (October 12, 1990). "Sexy Hot Spot loses some sizzle over time". USA Today. 
  14. ^ Howe, Desson (October 26, 1990). "Hopper Marks The Hot Spot". Washington Post. 
  15. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (October 19, 1990). "The Hot Spot". Entertainment Weekly.,,318392,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  16. ^

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