The 80s and 90s were a heyday for twisted cinema, especially for thrillers and horror. The home video age opened up new audiences for films that were edgier, riskier and more explicit. Aside from foreign extreme films like those of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci that found new attention on home video, American films that were more cutting edge were finding audiences as well. Films like Angel Heart, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Videodrome and Ms. 45 all gained notoriety that they probably would not have received on big screens only. Another such film is getting the full special edition Blu-ray treatment this month from the wonderful folks at Arrow Video, Ken Russell’s Crimes of Passion.
Bobby Grady (John Laughlin) is a married man with two children who finds his marriage in crisis when his wife Amy (Annie Potts) loses interest in him. When Bobby is invited to work the night shift at a fashion design studio to find out if designer Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner) is selling designs to competitors. But when he follows Joanne one night he discovers she leads a double life as China Blue, a kinky prostitute in the red light district. Now obsessed with China Blue Bobby also finds someone else who is obsessed with China. An insane preacher named Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins).
Crimes of Passion is about as twisted as a thriller can get and just based on descriptions you would think it to be your average low budget exploitation flick. But in the hands of director Ken Russell (Tommy, Altered States, The Lair of the White Worm) it becomes a stylistic cult masterpiece. Russell’s direction is lush, lurid and hypnotic with bold colors reminiscent of the Italian Giallo films of Dario Argento. And the performances are the stuff of legend. Kathleen Turner gives one of the boldest and best performances of her career as Joanna/China Blue. She is funny, tragic, strong, and sympathetic, often at the same time. And Anthony Perkins, often pigeonholed playing a psycho, embraces his role and plays it so over the top it is truly frightening. Along with a similar performance 5 years later in Edge of Sanity, Perkins proved he still had what it took to disturb an audience a quarter of a century after his iconic role as Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Crimes of Passion is not for everyone. It is dirty, lurid, slick, disturbing, violent and unique. If you are up for that kind of ride, by all means give it a chance.
The new special edition from Arrow boasts a beautiful new 2K restoration that is stunning, as well as both the 112 minute Directors Cut and the 107 minute Unrated version. You also get loads of special features from audio commentaries to brand new interviews and more. This is a cult classic must own and is highly recommended.