Raphael Pour-Hashemi has reviewed the Region 2 release of The Last Seduction.
An excellent film noir with an excellent ‘femme fatale’ in sexy Linda Fiorentino. A bare bones Carlton release that can be picked up in may high street sales at around £4.99.
A sign in a Buffalo gas station reads ‘Self Serve Only‘, and this serves as a warning to the audience in The Last Seduction. Clay Gregory (Bill Pullman) returns home to his wife Bridget (Linda Fiorentino) having successfully handled a seven hundred thousand dollar drug deal beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Bridget criticises Clay despite his success, and Clay slaps her. Eventually, he is forgiven, and decides to take a shower. However, whilst Clay is indisposed, Bridget leaves with all of the money; even though she knows that Clay is being threatened by loan sharks who require a large debt from Clay to be paid off. Soon it transpires that Bridget is exceptionally calculating, and it isn’t long before she has moved to another town, assumed another name, and suckered in a poor fool – Mike Swale (Peter Berg) as cover for her schemes. Clay hasn’t given up on his money however, and has hired a private detective to track Bridget down. Just like a typical film-noir however, the Femme Fatale comes out winning; as soon stupid Mike becomes caught up in a plan to kill Clay, an act which he hopes will prove his devotion to the merciless bitch that is Bridget.
The Last Seduction debuted in the States on cable television, despite garnering theatrical distribution in other countries. This fact proved unfortunate to Linda Fiorentino, as no matter how much the Oscars academy wanted to nominate her for her performance as Bridget, they weren’t allowed due to the rules stating that a film must have its first showing in theatres in order to be eligible. This was a pity, as Fiorentino seems to effortlessly portray a character that manages to simultaneously ooze with attraction and yet repulse due to her extreme disregard for other human life. These two traits are necessary in the character makeup of Femme Fatales in order for a Film Noir to work, and The Last Seduction works because Linda Fiorentino is so effective in her performance.
A lesser director would have exploited the clichés in Steve Barancik’s script and produced a more far-fetched film (The scene in which Clay figures out Bridget’s alias stretches credibility), yet John Dahl is more concerned with characterisation as opposed to plot mechanics. The characters are rendered believable, and even darkly humourous. Take for instance Clay Gregory, played by Bill Pullman – here is a character that beats his wife, and is only interested in tracking her down because of the money she has stolen from him, and yet in a twisted way he is the film’s anti-hero. Clay is the only man who seems mentally equipped to stop Bridget’s schemes. You could even argue that their banter is not of bitter ex-lovers but similar to that of distrusting opponents in a game. Peter Berg is the film’s weakest note as Mike, the pawn of Bridget. His status doesn’t seem to match that of Pullman and Fiorentino, and he struggles to leave a mark on the film. It’s possible he’s now found more of a niche for himself on TV in such dramas as Chicago Hope.
It’s so rare nowadays to find a decent film-noir, considering that the decades of the forties and fifties were full to the brim with them, such as classics like Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Kiss Me Deadly. The 1981 Lawrence Kasdan homage Body Heat was an erotic reworking of similar ground, but we had to wait until 1994 to find a film that effectively became a part of the genre rather than pay tribute to it.
Full marks to distributors Carlton for delivering an excellent anamorphic transfer that knocks the non-anamorphic Region 1 for six. The colours are fully realised and the print makes the film feel brand new as opposed to seven years old, which is always a good sign for a DVD transfer. Framed at 1.77:1.
Presented in the film’s original Dolby 2.0 surround, the sound track is as much as you can expect from a two-channel mix. Dialogue is essentially mono, with the music score and relevant effects occupying either channel. The Last Seduction is essentially dialogue rather than sound effect driven, which leaves a 5.1 mix redundant anyhow.
Menu: The typical Carlton Silver Collection menu, with silver borders coupled with incorporated silent film clips scored with music from the film.
Packaging: Again in keeping with the Carlton Silver Collection range, the packaging contains a four page booklet detailing other releases in the range as well as chapter listings for the film.
Theatrical Trailer: The trailer feels more like a video/cable trailer for the film, but even so, manages to capture the essence of the film in a condensed summary.
The best film-noir of the nineties receives a bare-bones release from Carlton Silver Collection. The picture and sound qualities of the film are splendid, and this is worthy of a purchase despite the lack of extras (and no doubt an eventual release of a Special Edition) due to the low RRP and the fact that this is often half price in many high-street sales.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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