One of the most wonderful things about Arrow Video in the US and UK is that they give us a chance to discover films or filmmakers we may have missed out on or never heard of; that’s the case with Crimes of Passion and myself. I am unfamiliar with the work of director Ken Russell (Altered States) and with the film Crimes of Passion other than an image of Kathleen Turner with a giant metal dildo. Thankfully, Arrow Video has once again provided an unrivaled package and presentation as a means of jumping into obscure cinema head first. This was my first night out with the cinema of Ken Russell, and I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for what I would be in store for.
Make no mistake: Dick Bush being the Director of Photography for Crimes is Passion is no coincidence. Okay, it actually is but this movie is drenched in these sorts of tongue in cheek naughty oddities. Crimes of Passion focuses on the character of Joanne Crane (Kathleen Turner), a fashion designer during the day and a specialty fetish prostitute, “China Blue” by night. She becomes the obsession of two different men during the course of the film. Bobby Grady (John Laughlin) is a private investigator in a fizzling relationship with his wife leaving him sexually frustrated fills out one role. Rev. Peter Shayne fills the other, as a lunatic street preacher who is addicted to but loathes sex, packing a leather bag filled with sex toys and a bible (in a role filled by Psycho himself, Anthony Perkins).
Bobby Grady is contracted to spy on Joanne Crane by her boss who owns the fashion studio, as he suspects her of selling designs to a rival studio. Grady quickly discovers her double life as China Blue while witnessing her in a session with Peter Shayne, wherein he tries to save her soul. From there Crimes of Passion is a whirlwind of suspense, gratuitous sex, and some absolutely delightful cinematography as the family man Grady gets mixed up in China Blue’s seedy underworld as she tries to keep her two lives separate.
Arrow Video has given us the option of both the Director’s Cuts prepared by Ken Russel for the Laserdisc release and the Unrated Cut originally released by New World on VHS in the US. I opted to view the Directors Cut for the full Ken Russell experience, as it is about 8 minutes longer. Crimes of Passion is a fascinating film and certainly a visually appealing one, but the real hook for me was a genuine interest in what was going to happen with the three main characters in the fantastical world Ken Russell has created. Crimes of Passion, like most Arrow Video releases, is not a film for everyone, as it flounders around a bit in plot and can get a little confusing at times. What Crimes of Passion does succeed at is building suspense in a grimy yet still extremely color filled world, oozing to the brim with taboo sex fetishes, neon lights, and just genuine all around weirdness.
Crimes of Passion, while sometimes very abstract, is anything but boring, and that should be enough to make this a worthy pick up for any fan of obscure dreamlike cinema. I was into the story, and while I found the final payoffs a bit disappointing compared to some of the things I was coming up with in my head as watched, it is a film that definitely works for me overall and certainly earns future viewings.
As I mentioned earlier, Crimes of Passion is an absolute visual treat with a spectacular use of color. Purple and blue dominate the frame for most of the film but every color on the palette is used at some point in the film, popping off the screen with beautiful contrast between lights and darks. Watching this film from a visual standpoint was an absolute joy. The use of changing lighting allows color to fill the screen in the same scenes that are cloaked in darkness, creating a wonderful visual representation for desire itself.
Arrow Video has once again knocked it out of the park with this brand new 2K restoration of the film scanned from the original 35mm Interpositive presented in the original 1.85:1 format. The film is shot beautifully courtesy of Dick Bush, with tons of detail to absorb in every frame. The Director’s Cut I chose to watch had certain instances of quality drop from time to time due to the quality of the materials for those scenes, but it was never distracting to the overall experience. If the story doesn’t sound too appealing to you I would still recommend this to anyone who loves the look of colorful 80’s cinema or just fans of well shot cinema in general.
While the Mono 1.0 sound Crimes of Passion is presented in certainly isn’t anything to write the papers about, it’s genuinely a great sounding film and will sound as such on any respectable hardware. I did need to crank the audio up a few times during the film to hear the dialogue compared to previous scenes, but this issue was mostly minimal. The best part here is the score by composer Rick Wakeman, a wondrously wild mix of 80’s synthesizer, sexy jazz, and the horror scores that filled the time period.
As always, Arrow Video gives us collectors what we desire with this dual disc release, the first run sporting a super smooth slipcover featuring the newly commissioned artwork and shiny lettering to boot. Reversible artwork on the sleeve reveals the original art so we can have some variety when we remove the slipcover, and of course the standard Arrow Video booklet featuring some writings on the film. It is a gorgeous package with striking artwork that needs to sit right along with the rest of your Arrow Video titles, and I’d suggest jumping on it now to guarantee the slipcover. A quick side note, my copy of Crimes of Passion actually came with a postcard for The Crazies which has yet to be officially announced by Arrow in either the US or UK.
The discs themselves are also packed with the love and care Arrow Video is known for, featuring the Directors and Unrated Cuts of the film as previously mentioned. The special features side of things are exciting as well, featuring two brand new interviews: one with producer-screenwriter Barry Sandler, and another with the composer of the films great score Rick Wakeman, with them detailing just what its like working with a creative character like Ken Russell. Also included on top of those new interviews are seven deleted/extended scenes that feature an optional commentary with Barry Sandler, a film commentary with Sandler and director Ken Russell himself, a music video directed for MTV to market the film, and a theatrical trailer. It is a well rounded package of content presented in a fantastic looking box.
2K Restoration of the original 35mm Interpositive presented in 1.85:1
English Mono 1.0
1 Region A/B Blu-ray Disc
1 Region 1/2 DVD Disc
Arrow Video has shown why they are my personal favorite distributor time after time by giving us packed releases for fascinating films that I may never have gotten a chance to see otherwise, especially in the top shelf quality Arrow presents them in. Crimes of Passion continues this gold standard, and even without the package Arrow has cooked up it is a film that is worth watching. It is over the top in its story, acting, score, and everything in between but most importantly it’s a fun movie to view even if it was never intended to be. I give this new Blu-ray release of Crimes of Passion a full recommendation for all obscure cinema fans, Arrow Video fanatics & collectors, or anyone who thinks they can appreciate something visually satisfying and genuinely unique.
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.