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By Merle Bertrand | October 6, 2000

Old wives’ tales warn of a wide variety of horrible calamities which would befall adolescent men who indulged in masturbation. Hairy palms. Going blind. Not to mention going to Hell. Yet, no one ever mentioned anything like the orgasmic side effect which afflict young Matt Miller (Cory Milano). Holed-up in the bathroom, drooling over the skin magazine he holds in one hand while with the other…well, you know, Matt reaches the self-induced throes of ecstasy and literally ejaculates fire, igniting the magazine and nearly burning the house down. At least he didn’t get the pages sticky.
Now an adult, Matt (Danny Fehsenfeld) explains that such ejaculatory flame throwing, far from being an isolated incident, persisted throughout his teenage years and on into adulthood. It even cost him Mary (Montana Nolte), the love of his life whom he left at the altar rather than risk his particular brand of hot sex on the honeymoon.
Still, a guy has needs; needs which the 140 or so prostitutes Matt inadvertently burns to a crisp have to pay for. It’s only years later, when the all-too incandescent lover, now a priest, bumps into Mary, now a nun, that he has a chance to confront this burning issue and rejoin his beloved…even if it kills her.
Brian Belefant’s gleefully silly tall tale definitely offers up a whole new meaning to the term “hot sex.” At times, when young Matt first hooks up with young Mary (Kirsten Newman), his plaid-skirted schoolgirl fantasy, “Burning Passion” resembles a sort of extreme “Wonder Years” episode. Sly humor abounds here: asked how he got the fire burning so well when camping out with his fellow Boy Scouts, Matt deadpans something about rubbing sticks. Belefant even manages to draw some yucks with his obligatory “falling in love” montage, using a cheeky combination of “Air Supply”‘s “Only Woman in the World to Me”(!) and DP Randy Hart’s striking autumn photography to elicit grins.
Yet people are dying here, in a horrific if silly fashion, and that, along with the downer ending, casts a certain pall over the proceedings. Matt IS a serial killer after all, and it’s hard to reconcile that with the film’s good-natured tone.
Those old wives may not quite have the details just right about the perils of masturbation, but in the case of “Burning Passion,” they at least have the right idea.

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