Sunday, July 17, 2016

Is Ken Russell's CRIMES OF PASSION (now on Blu-ray/director's cut) as bad as we thought?

Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! But you know what? With time -- 32 years -- the movie seems to have become a lot more fun. Not nearly as much fun as, say, Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, though the two films have things in common. Both want to get us all bigtime hot-and-bothered, while simultaneously teaching us the right pathway to pursue. Meyer's is the much better of the two films, though Ken Russell's over-the-top movie (the filmmaker is shown below) has its own special charm -- and a couple of very hot actors in the leading roles.

We forget how incredibly gorgeous and sexy (and talented) was its leading lady Kathleen Turner, just three years off Body Heat when CRIMES OF PASSION was released (1984). Co-star John Laughlin was in his prime at the time, too, and he makes one hot hunk of beefcake in the role of a horny husband whose wife (Annie Potts) wants nothing to do with him in the sack. Mr. Russell made a number of good movies in his time (his bio films for the BBC about artists constitute his best work), but this one is not among them.

Ms Turner plays a smart and sexy young woman who goes by the name of Joanna Crane at her day job in the garment industry; by night she's China Blue (above), a hot-looking whore with a rather low-end clientele who is menaced (though she does not seem to realize this for quite some time) by a Bible-toting nutcase, played in his best-though-much-overused nutcase fashion by Anthony Perkins (below).

Into the mix comes Mr. Laughlin (below), hired to trail Turner due to some supposed industrial espionage, who falls prey to her charms and is soon banging her every which way, and at the same time, of course, falling in love with the gal.

And therein lies the biggest problem with Crimes of Passion. Every time Russell (along with the script, penned by Barry Sandler) gets serious, the movie goes south. Scenes evidently designed to comment on societal hypocrisy play like something written by and for Boy Scouts (granted, these Scouts have very dirty mouths), but then we get back to the sex-and-sin and come-on-in, and things get enjoyably hot-and-heavy once again. (Russell was always pretty good at giving us "shock value".)

Along the way, we see various of China Blue's clients in multitudinous positions -- most of which may have seemed shocking in their time but today seem more recherché than anything else.  By the time we get to the suspense-thriller finale, it's all so been-there/done-that, you'll see the "big surprise" coming a mile away.

Still, there is fun to be had in watching Turner strut her stuff and noting once again that Mr. Russell's would-be shocks can sometimes prove less transgressive than merely tired. The director's true home was either in those long-ago black-and-white biography films (his Savage Messiah is also pretty good) or in the fun-and-frolicsome genre of The Lair of the White Worm.

From Arrow Video (via MVD Entertainment GroupCrimes of Passion , running 107 minutes, hits the street on Blu-ray + DVD this coming Tuesday, July 19 (or maybe on July 26: I've been told two different street dates on this one), with a huge load of bonus materials, plus both the director's cut and the unrated version of the film included.
Click here for further details. 

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