Disc Reviews

The Last Seduction Blu-ray Review

lastsedThere was no such term as film noir in the 1940s; that term was a construct of the French intelligentsia in the 1960s. These films that were later called film noir were moodily shot often with a nocturnal setting with chiaroscuro lighting, but not always. They often had a flashback story, but not always. There was usually a murder but not exclusively, but there was always some smart tongued streetwise language à la Dashiell Hammett. There was quite often a femme-fatale, but not always and they were mostly shot in black and white. The golden period of this genre was between the early 1940s and lasted until about 1958 with Orson Welles’s A Touch of Evil (1958) often being considered one of the last film noirs. Following this there were films that made such reference to them that are often considered film noirs. There was Body Heat in 1981, a steamy remake of the classic, dare I say benchmark film noir, Double Indemnity (1944). There was also LA Confidential (1997), a thriller that has a direct reference to films made in the 1940s. Then there was The Last Seduction (1994).

The story as it stands is classic film noir: a woman, Bridget Gregory (Linda Fiorentino) plots and persuades her doctor husband (Bill Pullman) to sell prescription cocaine to street dealers and make a million dollars. A short while after, as the husband is in the shower she takes off with the money. Needless to say the husband is irked at this and gets a private dick to trace her. She makes her way to upstate Midwest New York to a small town near Buffalo (‘Buffalo Girls’ was the film’s original title) and changes her name to Wendy Kory (geddit, a play on New York spelt backwards). She picks up the hapless Mike Swale (Peter Berg) in a bar. Here she stands out in her (80s) suits against the generic redneck clothes of the yokels. She also has a potty mouth that doesn’t win her too many friends and takes on a position in an insurance company. Her husband soon tracks her down and gets a private dick to keep his eye on her. The poor sucker, Mike ends up being dangled and manipulated by Bridget/Wendy.

Written by Steve Baranchik and directed by John Dahl, who had also cut his teeth with a Dennis Hopper vehicle, Red Rock West (1992) here presents a quite different yet tough thriller. The company that produced the film, ICT just wanted an exploitation erotic thriller intended for the late night cable network. Dahl and Baranchik had no intention of making such trash and wanted to make a film more along the lines of an arthouse late night cult thriller, albeit quite raunchy but with a tough ballsy lead woman. It works too. Fiorentino in the lead is very different from any other leading lady. This is more of the kind of role that would more commonly be a male character. In one of the more notorious scenes, the one in the bar where she meets Mike Swale he tries to naively tell her that she is hung like a horse. She asks him to prove it, he becomes shy, but not before she has thrust her hand into his fly and proceeds to sniff her fingers. Elsewhere she convinces the African American private dick to “prove its true what they say about black men”, distracting him and causing his demise. This kind of manipulation is pure film noir (with a very modern more forthright directness), mirrored by Fiorenetino’s heavy smoking and Lauren Bacall like flop of her across her face.

This film, while very much a cult classic is one that covers a broad church in terms of its appeal to an adult audience. It has most of the aforementioned film noir tropes with an updated twist. Sadly the image on the Network release is very grainy, especially in the many of the key nocturnal shots but the film is a standout. Despite the picture quality there is a good documentary about the making of the film on the disc that includes interviews with Dahl and Baranchik giving good insight into the making of the film. There are also scenes of shot behind the camera showing a few of the key scenes shot between Fiorentino and Pullman.


Chris Hick

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