Bluray Review: CRIMES OF PASSION
How can one describe CRIMES OF PASSION, Ken Russell’s ode to sexual frustration and unhappiness? On the surface, it appears the be the story of a prostitute, China Blue (Kathleen Turner), a street preacher named Rev. Shayne (Anthony Perkins), and a home security expert named Bobby (John McLaughlin) who finds himself taking a job to follow China Blue and stumbles into far more than he expected. To say anything more than this about the story would do a disservice to the subversion of expectations of the material that director Ken Russell and writer Barry Sandler bake into this delirious concoction. This film isn’t for everybody, and if you’ve seen any of Ken Russell’s work, THE DEVILS (1971), TOMMY (1974), or GOTHIC (1986) to name a few, you’ll know he has a very distinct aesthetic that is unique and commands a certain dedication on the part of the viewer to settle into whatever version of reality he’s serving up that day.
I don’t want to give the impression that the film is all style and flash, with nothing underneath. The film is anchored by bizarre, yet equally sturdy performances from Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins, with John McLaughlin gamely along for the ride. Already a big star, having been in BODY HEAT, THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, and JEWEL OF THE NILE. The latter, which was released in the earlier part of 1984 the same year as CRIMES OF PASSION, Turner is undoubtedly the center of the film. Her work is executed sharply, and she gives the character a real sense of heart that mirrors the struggles of Bobby’s personal relationships and his own pain and frustration. Anthony Perkins also plays a man who is obsessed with and repelled by his own sexual desires, so much that he takes to the street to preach to people in the city’s red light district. John McLaughlin and Annie Potts are commendable and effective in their “lower key” roles as the unhappily married couple, Bobby and Amy Grady.
This new Blu-ray/DVD set offers the Director’s Cut and Unrated versions, which is welcome, for comparison’s sake and completion. It’s a wonder they couldn’t also include the R rated version that played in theaters, for an even more complete picture. But no harm done as Arrow Video has done a lovely job delivering a sharp, bright picture that showcases the candy colored lighting and sets in the world of China Blue. The softer, paler, universe of the rest of the film is represented just as well, with a healthy looking grain and no indication of DNR that had plagued many of Arrow’s older releases. The audio in the set features a strong track, dialogue is always clear and stands out nicely against the often times pummeling soundtrack. Bonus material starts off with a commentary with Ken Russell and screenwriter Barry Sandler, and it’s a must listen to anyone who loves or even remotely likes this movie. A batch of seven deleted scenes with optional commentary with Sandler are an interesting watch, as the first couple are a continuous sequence that was taken out of a section of the film. Perhaps they’re only meant to be one scene, but it’s a long slug to remove. As for new material, two sit down interviews with writer/producer Barry Sandler and composer Rick Wakeman give plenty of information on their roles in the production. The music video for Wakeman’s song It’s a Lonely Life, and a theatrical trailer round things out.
Fans of outré cinema should rejoice in Arrow’s new U.S. Blu-ray release of Ken Russell’s CRIMES OF PASSION. The film looks and sounds great, and even the standard definition inserts of previously excised footage in both versions presented look good, so no worries there. While a bit weak on the supplemental material in comparison with many Arrow releases, what is here gives a solid look at the making of the film and its subsequent reputation. If you’re up for something wholly unique and enjoy Russell’s brand of filmmaking, this should be a no-brainer.