Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner) leads a dangerous double life. By day she is an ice-maiden fashion designer, by night she is the prostitute China Blue, for whom no sexual fantasy is out-of-bounds. But her secret is about to be revealed when she becomes the object of two very different men’s obsessions – Bobby Grady (John Laughlin), an unhappily married store owner moonlighting as a surveillance man, and the ‘Reverend’ Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins), a psychotic street preacher armed with a monstrous sharpened vibrator. Shayne is determined to save China Blue from herself, even if that ultimately means she will have to die. As the trap closes around Joanna Crane, she is forced through a series of violent and tragic encounters to confront how terrifyingly unstable her hidden identity has become, not realising that Grady has been assigned to follow her, nor that Shayne is watching her every move and preparing to deliver the last rites.
I’ve got a confession to make. When Crimes of Passion was released in 1984, I was obsessed by it. Although ‘The Devils’ is certainly Ken Russell’s finest film, ‘Crimes of Passion’ is arguably his masterpiece, and Arrow’s new Blu-ray presentation is by leaps and bounds the best it has ever looked and sounded – it wasn’t even this good on the big screen. True, Barry Sandler’s screenplay doesn’t quite match Russell’s finesse behind the camera – there are one or two clunky dialogue scenes, most notably during a group therapy session at the start of the film which really exposes Sandler’s flaws as a writer and Laughlin’s limitations as an actor – but it’s Turner and Perkins who steal this show. Turner, who had recently been catapulted into the Hollywood A-List courtesy of Lawrence Kasdan’s phenomenal ‘Body Heat’ and the fantastic ‘Romancing the Stone’, gives a bravura performance as Joanna Crane / China Blue. She is sexy, funny, seemingly without inhibition, and the film catches fire whenever she appears. Similarly, Perkins is so maniacally over-the-top in his role as Peter Shayne that it’s easy to forget his more famous turn as Psycho’s Norman Bates – this is brilliant, hypnotising acting, and when Turner and Perkins are onscreen together, skewered by the intensity of Russell’s vision, the result is powerful cinematic genius. Crimes of Passion isn’t a film you passively watch, it’s a juggernaut you experience. And like it or loathe it, you’ll never forget it.
Arrow have really gone to town with this Blu-ray. We get both the Unrated and Director’s Cuts of the film (the DC is best), the notorious audio commentary Russell and Sandler originally recorded for the 1996 laserdisc, and new interviews with Sandler and composer Rick Wakeman, who provided the film’s outrageous musical score. There’s even a trailer, a music video and a very informative booklet that includes some interesting messages passed between Russell and his leading lady.
‘It’s a Lovely Life’, so miss this at your peril.
CRIMES OF PASSION / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: KEN RUSSELL / SCREENPLAY: DICK BUSH / STARRING: CATHLEEN TURNER, ANTHONY PERKINS, JOHN LAUGHLIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW