5 April 2017
CRIMES OF PASSION [1984 / 2016] [Dual Format] [Blu-ray + DVD] Her Name is China Blue. She is watched. She is worshipped. And, She Must Remain A Mystery!
In the early eighties British enfant terrible Ken Russell travelled to America and placed his unorthodox imprint on a pair of US movies. The first was the ‘Altered States,’ so out-there its screenwriter disowned it. The second was the equally crazy ‘CRIMES OF PASSION,’ starring Kathleen Turner [‘Body Heat’ and ‘Serial Mom’] at the height of her powers.
Fashion designer Joanna Crane [Kathleen Turner] leads a double life. By night she is China Blue, a prostitute who s attracted the unwanted attention of two men. One is a sexually frustrated private detective hired by her employees. The other is psychopathic priest [Anthony Perkins] in possession of a murderous sex toy.
With its outré screenplay by Barry Sandler and over the top score by Rick Wakeman, and ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ may just be the most outrageous Ken Russell film ever made and that is quite some feat!
FILM FACT No.1: Rock musician Rick Wakeman performed the synthesizer-heavy score, the majority of which is made up of melodies directly lifted from Czech composer Antonín Dvořák's "New World Symphony." Rick Wakeman has an uncredited role in the film as a wedding photographer.
FILM FACT No.2: DIRECTOR’S CUT: Ken Russell prepared the Director’s Cut for the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ for the LaserDisc edition. It has been recreated for this release using standard definition inserts, resulting in occasional dips in quality.
FILM FACT No.3: URATED CUT: The Unrated Cut is the version Ken Russell prepared for the theatrical distribution in 1984. Cut by the censors in both the UK and USA. The film played in British and American cinemas different and heavily edited and partially re-dubbed. In order to bypass this censorship, New World Pictures released a VHS tape in the USA labelled “Unrated version,” which contained Ken Russell’s intended theatrical cut.
Cast: Kathleen Turner, Bruce Davison, Anthony Perkins, John Laughlin, Annie Potts, Stephen Lee, Louise Sorel, Gordon Hunt, Dan Gerrity, Terri Hoyos, Vince McKewin, Deanna Oliver, Patricia Stevens, John G. Scanlon, Janice Renney, Pat McNamara, Christina Lange, Seth Wagerman, Joseph Chapman, Norman Burton, Thomas Murphy, Roxanne Mayweather, Donald J. Westerdale, John Rose, Lisa Hayslip, Pamela Anderson, Janice Kent, Yvonne McCord, James Crittenden, Ian Petrella, Randall Brady, Peggy Feury, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, John Gocha (uncredited), Helen Kelly (uncredited), Carl Solomon (uncredited), Molly Russell (Music Video) (uncredited), Victoria Russell (Music Video) (uncredited) and Rick Wakeman (Wedding Photographer) (uncredited)
Director: Ken Russell
Producers: Barry Sandler, Donald P. Borchers and Larry A. Thompson
Screenplay: Barry Sandler
Composer: Rick Wakeman
Cinematography: Dick Bush
Video Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)
Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: Director’s Cut: 112 minutes / Unrated Cut: 106 minutes
Region: Region A/1 and Region B/2
Number of discs: 2
Studio: New World Pictures / Arrow Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Ken Russell’s 1984 film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ is one of those films that is so barking mad and very thought provoking, that it is difficult to know where to begin when it comes to analysing what it is all about, let alone how you begin to recommend it to somebody, but at the heart of it there is an exploration of sex and relationships, that had it been handled by another director, apart from possibly David Cronenberg, it probably wouldn’t be quite so thought-provoking and out there.
For all of his extravagance, Ken Russell's films have never lacked exuberance or humour, which makes the flat, joyless tone of ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ a wonderful surprise. Much of this is attributable to a screenplay by Barry Sandler and is filled with wonderful rude double-entendres and weighty ironies. Only intermittently does Ken Russell break through with the kind of over the top manic flamboyance that is so singularly and rudely all of his own doing as usual and of course the film's craziest moments, but ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ is best off when it makes the least sense. There is plenty of sexually explicit material to go around, from the stridently sexual dialogue to the lurid peep-show atmosphere in which most of the story takes place.
Kathleen Turner plays Joanna Crane, a successful sportswear designer by day but at night she becomes “China Blue” and the most popular hooker on her particular patch. Bobby Grady [John Laughlin], who owns a home security store but takes an extra job investigating Joanna as her boss believes she is involved in industrial espionage. Bobby Grady is married to Amy Grady [Annie Potts], his high school sweetheart, but the spark has gone right out of their marriage and is fed up trying to please his sexually frigid wife, Bobby Grady begins to develop feelings for Joanna Crane/China Blue as he discovers her secret and wants that level of excitement in his life.
This world is frequented by a woman calling herself “China Blue” by night, and working for a clothing manufacturer by day. China Blue attracts the fanatical attention of a deranged minister who claims he is determined to save her. This man of the cloth, Reverend Peter Shayne first seen sweaty watching a beat-up looking erotic dancer and then hysterically preaching a sermon right afterwards, is played by Anthony Perkins, who also sings ''Shout hallelujah, c'mon, get happy!'' before attempting to murder someone, which is perfect casting for his character in the film.
And whatever that means is anyone’s guess, although if you want to cast a sexual deviant with a perverted sense of religious righteousness then Anthony Perkins is probably the obvious choice, if not a little too obvious. However, despite the dark and seedy undertones of ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ that is a neon-lit celebration of sexual liberation and emotional disconnect as we follow China Blue on her nightly adventures satisfying all of her regular customers and seemingly enjoying it. Of course, there is a briefly mentioned of Freudian reason why China Blue is the way she is but the film never goes too deeply into the psychology of her character, instead focusing more on the relationship between Bobby Grady and Amy Grady, a pair of performances from John Laughlin and Annie Potts that veer from heartfelt confessional to looking like they can barely contain their laughter whilst trying to deliver some truly absurd dialogue and giving us plenty of a raving mad Anthony Perkins finally succumbing to the fact that he’ll always play weirdos despite his obvious range and talent; even the ending of the film echoes Anthony Perkins’s better known screen persona and that character’s eventual downfall, and the clarity of the ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ 2K restoration does give it away before it happens if you look.
In a bit that summarises the whole film in a nutshell, where Ken Russell filmed a music video of song “It’s a Lovely Life,” which is just the same bit of the New World Symphony with Rick Wakeman‘s lyrics. The video is bright and garish and gave Ken Russell a chance to give his daughters Molly and Victoria roles as well as a cameo by the musician Rick Wakeman. The music video shows a bride and groom on their happy day as the groom seeks out material wealth, in the form of silverware, while the bride seems entranced by love and or beauty, symbolically represented by doves. The conflict between which is more important, love or money, right from the beginning of the marriage leads to the quick death of love as the doves drown in the pool while the bride and groom are left as skeletons on poolside chairs, together with their wealth. The video, which Amy Grady would rather watch than engage in friskiness with Bobby Grady, is a mirror image of what’s going on in their relationship in a quasi-literal sense as the bride and groom roles are reversed in Bobby Grady and Amy Grady.
‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ is a very special and definitely one of a kind film that is rich in the religious metaphor that fills most of Ken Russell’s work and the sexual content is as comically over-the-top as the two lead performances, full of nonsensical smut such as Anthony Perkins’s Reverend Peter Shayne brandishing a huge razor-sharp dildo (it must be, as he manages to cut through ropes with it), and even the stiff turn from John Laughlin doesn’t manage to bring down the air of mischievous glee that Ken Russell seems to be sprinkling liberally throughout the madness. Despite some of the places it goes to occasionally it isn’t a downbeat film and it is easy to see why Arrow Video chose it to go through their restoration process as it does sit quite comfortably amongst their titles of cult oddities and looks absolutely great, but is it actually a good film? Still that is up to you to decide, but ever since I saw it in the cinema, it has been one of my all-time favourite Ken Russell film and is now pride of place in my Blu-ray Collection.
CRIMES OF PASSION MUSIC TRACK LISTING
GET HAPPY [Performed by Anthony Perkins]
IT’S A LOVELY DAY [Performed by Maggie Bell]
Blu-ray Video Quality – ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ has been exclusively restored in 2K resolution for the release by Arrow Films and with stereo sound. The original 35mm interpositive was scanned in 2K resolution at Fotokem. Picture grading was completed on a DaVinci Resolve at Pinewood Studios. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and light scratches were removed by using PFClean software. Overall image stability and instances of density fluctuation were also improved. All restoration work was completed at Pinewood Studios, which results in the best quality image you will ever view with this film, so top notch professional work all round.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The original stereo soundtrack was transferred from the 35mm magnetic 4-track master reels by Deluxe Audio Services, Los Angeles and was conformed and restored at Pinewood Studios. Tape materials were sourced to complete the longer Director’s Cut Version, as they represented the best quality materials available and the best audio presentation you will ever hear and was well worth waiting for this brilliant Blu-ray release.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Brand new 2K restoration of the film from original film materials.
High Definition Blu-ray [1080p] and Standard Definition DVD [480i] presentations of the 112 minute director’s cut and 106 minute unrated versions of the film.
Optional subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Audio Commentary with producer/screenwriter Barry Sandler and director Ken Russell: Here we are introduced to Barry Sandler, who is sitting next to Ken Russell and commenting on the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ with this audio commentary. They talk about the group therapy at the start of the film, which of course goes sort of full circle right at the end of the film. Ken Russell points out the composed music by Rick Wakeman, who Ken informs us that he thinks Rick Wakeman is the greatest British composer/musician ever. They both talk about the main male character John Laughlin, who at first is the uptight sexual character, who has been set up to be living the American suburban lifestyle, and especially living with his middle class frigid wife and children, and he wonders why his life is so unfulfilled, and of course eventually meets the woman that changes his life forever. Ken Russell gives great praise about the actor Anthony Perkins, in being a sort of street priest and points out his clothing looks like it has been slept in, and in fact Ken informs us that Anthony Perkins went home every night and slept in those clothes. When we see Kathleen Turner for the first time, Ken and Barry said they wanted to call her “Miss America,” but because of copyright infringement, they instead had to call her “Miss Liberty,” and they also inform us that Kathleen Turner really relished her character in the film, and Ken and Barry says that Kathleen was a great spot, but one big surprise we hear is the guy in that scene where Kathleen does her final sexual act on him while standing up, well that guy was for a while in great demand in other sexual explicit films. When we see the private sex booth with the naked dancer being watched especially with Anthony Perkins, Ken informs us that he got the idea of the sex booth when he visited one in Munich in Germany. But when Anthony Perkins stands outside the sex booth, this was actually filmed in downtown Los Angeles and all the people walking past were all extras. Ken and Barry talk about that the film was edited five times because of the censors before it was allowed to be seen in the cinema, but of course what we are viewing is now the complete film and the Director’s Cut and on top of all that Ken really praises Barry for his brilliant script and at the same time Barry praises Ken for respecting his screenplay. When we see the music video, Ken talks about the material world that relates to the theme of the music video and how people even today cannot do without their obsessive material world and Ken also points out that in the music video he mentions that you view his two daughters, where it was actually filmed and of course points out Rick Wakeman’s brief appearance as the photographer. Barry asks Ken why this film has been such a massive cult following, and ken replies by saying, “I think some of my films are ahead of their time and if ‘The Devils’ film was released again in its original form, that would become a cult following, especially previously it had serious ratings problem and especially with films relating to religion and sex over tones always gets the “X” certificate, and of course being a lapsed catholic, cannot get it out of my system, as it is all about redemption, especially when Kathleen Turner gest dressed as a nun.” Ken also points out the character of China Blue is a façade of covering up past misfortunes in her life, but at the same time is an intellectual, especially with her Eastern erotic books. When we get to 51 minutes, Barry informs us that Ken had to rush off to catch a plane, so from now on Barry is on his own talking about the film. When we get to the scene where the reverend pays China Blue $50 and gets dressed in her habit outfit, well Barry informs us that this is Barry and Ken’s favourite scene in the film, especially as it represents a power scenario. When we see China Blue driven to the house by the wife of the husband who has not long to live, we finally get to see that China Blue has a compassionate nature. As we are getting to near the end of the film, especially when Anthony Perkins bursts into Kathleen’s apartment, Barry points out that Anthony Perkins really brings out of his character into so many different emotions and really shows off his talent as an actor, with especially so may impulses and reactions, the point of trying to guess his real motive in this tense scene, which of course all is revealed in the final shocking scene. When we get to the final part of the film, where Bobby is back with the group therapy, we are told this was an extra scene added after the first film preview, as people who saw the film wanted closure and Barry felt it was the perfect ending to the film, as he felt the character of Bobby finally realises that things at the beginning were wrong in his life and now wants to move on to a much better future, and we now have all the loose ends tied up and the film ends. As the credits roll up the screen, this is where Barry stops his audio commentary and I suppose he felt he had given enough information towards revealing all aspect about the film and also he involvement in the process of working on the film, despite this, it was still a great informative audio commentary and was also fascinating hearing both Ken Russell and Barry Sandler imparting their words of wisdom on working on the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION,’ and was well worth a listen and definitely get a five star rating from me.
Special Feature: Barry Sandler: Life of Crime  [1080p] [1.78:1] [22:07] Here we have a Brand-new interview with Barry Sandler recorded especially for this Blu-ray release. Here Barry Sandler gives us some very personal views and we are informed he has been a Screenwriter for 19 years and talks about his personal involvement with director Ken Russell’s film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION.’ Barry informs us that when he moved to Los Angeles and went to the University of California, Los Angeles, he was a massive fan of the actress Raquel Welch and did a sort of stalking business to find out where the actress lived via those maps that informs you where all the stars lived, but of course Barry says you could not do that today, as security is very high and would not allow any kind of personal contact with these Hollywood stars. But the reason for wanting to contact Raquel Welch is that when he was around 19 years of age wrote a screenplay especially for Raquel Welch to be the leading actress in the film, and the film was ‘Kansas City Bombers,’ but when doing lectures for students today, he warns them not to do the stunt in trying to contact stars that he tried to do when he was younger, as they could get into very serious trouble and probably be arrested. Another film Barry was involved in the screenplay was ‘Making Love’  at the age of 30 years of age and then went onto do other films like ‘The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox’  and ‘The Mirror Crack’d’ . But in particular with the film ‘Making Love,’ Barry was very keen to be involved with the screenplay, because it was all about “coming out” and especially at the time he was a closet gay and with the help of 20th Century Fox Executives at the time gave the film the green light and of course went to great success and on top of all that Barry got hundreds of correspondence from gays and lesbians thanking Barry for his involvement with the film and for me personal it was also one of my favourite film to come out in 1982. Barry also informs us that in the early 1980s he noticed around him lots of friends in lots of gay and straight relationships, and especially the sexual revolution and the “Free Love” movement, but of course eventually things didn’t work out and eventually we got AIDS, which of course had a devastating consequences and eventually Barry experienced a great loss of friends. When Barry was at the University of California, Los Angeles, there were directors that he was desperately wanted to work with the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Mike Nicolls, Roman Polanski and of course Ken Russell and because Barry had the same agency ICM Partners [Entertainment agency in Los Angeles, California] and because of the screenplay for the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ he had done and they asked Barry if he would allow his screenplay to be sent to the director Ken Russell and of course gave then the green light to do so instantly and of course Ken Russell responded back immediately with great enthusiasm, especially after a very bad experience on working on the film ‘Altered States’  where he had very serious problems with the studio, and especially with Paddy Chayefsky who wrote the screenplay, but with the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ he felt everything would be alright and a great success. When Barry finally met Ken Russell, who at first was very guarded and suspicious after the debacle with the other film, but after a lengthy chat about the process towards making the film, Ken let Barry into his inner circle with a lot of trust and of course Barry was so thrilled to be working with the director, and Barry had a wonderful experience and really became a good friend and confident to Ken Russell, because the director had great respect for the screenplay. Barry then goes onto talk about the three main actors that appear in the film and why Ken Russell thought Kathleen Turner and John Laughlin were totally ideal for their part in the film, as Ken Russell thought the chemistry between the two actors was perfect. Barry then goes onto why Anthony Perkins was perfect for his part in the film in being an over the top manic preacher. But most importantly, everyone knew it was a totally over the top outrageous film and were all totally 100% enthusiastic towards the project. As we come to the end of this very special feature, it was really great hearing Barry’s personal views and comments on working on the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION,’ and to me he sounds like a really nice guy and it would be a great honour to meet him in person, as I bet he would have lots of other fascinating anecdotes and insights into working in the film industry. This definitely gets a five star rating.
Special Feature: Rick Wakeman: Composing for Ken  [1080p] [1.78:1] [28:54] Here we get a Brand-new interview with composer Rick Wakeman recorded especially for this release Blu-ray release. Here we find Rick Wakeman being interviewed in a private cinema, and talking about two books written by Ken Russell that he read about ken’s personal thoughts on Rick Wakeman, and one comment gives great praise on Rick 100%, but another comment was very scathing about Rick Wakeman and what terrible musician he was and then one day Rick met Ken at the BBC and asked Ken about his contradictory comments about him in his two books and Ken admitted both comments were correct and says it is all according how he felt on certain days when working on his books. But despite these two opposing comments on Rick, he still likes Ken very much and loves him being an out and out rebel in the film industry, especially telling people what he thought of them. Whenever ken and Rick had their 6:00am meeting to discuss about the music for the film, they would always sink a couple of bottles of wine, but what Rick found out from Ken is to always look and learn, and especially if you are not sure of anything, always ask questions, and over time Rick learnt so much knowledge from Ken Russell. Rick also learnt something really special, especially with words of wisdom from Ken Russell, where he said to Rick, by saying, “I am different from other directors, and I believe that a film should stand up on its own, without any effects and without any music. It should stand alone, it won’t be right, it won’t be finished, but it should stand alone, and so therefore I do not do what most other directors do, which is put scratch music on a finished rush or on a first edit. I give it to you with nothing, because too many directors put scratch music on and they think it will be good to edit to and to work to, and it becomes so engrained in their heads, that they cannot get it out and when the composer gives them the proper music, that they are so used to the scratch music, oh it is not like we had before, because with that familiarity has breed acceptance and it is wrong and that is why I won’t do it.” Ken Russell also says that there is another line you will hear over your career when composing music for films and you will hear from the director discussing where the music is supposed to go and you will hear the famous lines, “Ah, now this bit, really needs music,” and that really means the director has messed very badly and is trying to get out of the horrible mess the director has done to his film, and of course Rick says, “How right he was.” But when it came to the composed music for the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION, Ken Russell wanted the music to be based on DVORAK’s “New World Symphony,” and Ken wanted different themes for different scenes in the film, and for China Blue, Ken wanted a particular piece of music, but that same music was used for a very famous British TV Advert for the HOVIS loaf and Ken did not know this, as he had been living in America a long time, and when Ken went to the UK to play the music to the British public and every time the public would mention the HOVIS advert and of course ken was very indignant and upset. About two years before Ken Russell passed away, wanted a long chat with Rick about his life and his frustration with the film industry in general, as Ken tended to frighten people off, but ken felt he still had a lot to offer to the film industry, but Rick felt Ken was very maligned, whereas Rick really got on well with the director, and in the end people would not give Ken the financial backing to make more films, which again frustrated Ken a great deal, because ken would always come in budget when making a film. So ends another very nice interview with Rick Wakeman and especially his working with the director Ken Russell. This was also a very interesting interview.
Special Feature: Deleted Scenes  [480i] [1.33:1] [19:55] Here we get to view seven deleted and extended scenes from the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION.’ Here you can either watch them with the soundtrack or hear an in-depth optional Audio Commentary by screenwriter Barry Sandler, explaining in detail why certain scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
Special Feature: It’s a Lovely Day [Music Video]  [480i] [1.33:1] [3:14] This was directed by Ken Russell and featuring Rick Wakeman’s composed music. This music video was produced exclusively for the MTV channel as a means of promoting the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION.’ It also features two of Ken Russell’s daughters and Rick Wakeman as the photographer.
Special Feature: Gallery: Crimes of Passion – Video Promo Short List  [1080p] [1.78:1] Here we get to view seven images of the information sheets relating to all aspects of the making of the music video “It’s a Lovely Day.”
Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [1.78:1] [1:14] This is the original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘CRIMES OF PASSION.’ It certainly packs a punch, especially in promoting the film in such a way to make it look totally awesome and something you will definitely want to see what all the fuss was about.
BONUS: Stunning designed reversible Blu-ray cover sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil. Kenn Goodall is an artist and illustrator, painting and drawing out of North West London. Twins of Evil has artistic collaboration with Luke Insect.
PLUS: First pressing only: Stunning designed illustrated collector's booklet containing new writing from Paul Sutton, an archive interview with Ken Russell and a personal correspondence between Ken Russell and the actress Kathleen Turner.
Finally, for all their extravagance, Ken Russell's films have never lacked exuberance or humour, which makes the tone of ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ a massive and exciting surprise. Much of this is attributable to the brilliant screenplay by Barry Sandler that is filled with smutty double-entendres and weighty ironies. Only intermittently does the director Ken Russell break through with the kind of manic flamboyance that is so singularly and rudely his own validation. That reversal is part of what makes the character of Bobby tick though: he is more interested in love and happiness than just sex than most men, especially in the erotic thriller genre of ‘CRIMES OF PASSION.’ ‘CRIMES OF PASSION’ is fairly frank and explicit in its depiction of sex acts and sexual references and is a film which is rich in the religious metaphor that fills most of Ken Russell’s work and the sexual content is as comically over-the-top as the two lead performances, full of nonsensical smut such as Anthony Perkins’ Reverend Shayne brandishing a huge razor-sharp sexual object and of course the air of mischievous glee that Ken Russell seems to be sprinkling liberally throughout the madness of this awesome film. In the end, it is a brilliant fine film, with tones of strange atmospheric to keep you mystified, and it is Ken Russell's meditation on society's artificiality sexual obsessions. From casual, thrill-seeking perambulators of the red-light district to yowling 'performance artists' at group therapy to those who prefer plastic flowers to real ones, because they don't die, Ken Russell takes aim at your synthetic lifestyle and fires a nutty salvo of eye-candy, genius performances, social commentary, and random freaky nonsense that always hit homes, and is a film that is bold and will keep you on your toes throughout the film and you will never ever get bored and I think it is one of Ken Russell’s best film ever and I love it, especially now seeing the Director’s Cut. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso