The Film (4/5)
It feels like the films of British auteur Ken Russell have been making it out to the Blu-ray format at a snails pace. He is one of the most significant filmmakers of the latter years of the 20th century, though his work was not always without controversy, and is not always easy to digest, but he deserves far better treatment on the format then he has gotten. Thus far in my research there has been a DNR laden Warner Brothers release of his Altered States, Tommy is out, Kino Lorber recently did a release of Valentino, and there is a UK release of Women in Love. We are now treated to Russell's Crimes of Passion in a newly remastered special edition from Arrow Video.
Crimes of Passion follows the unhappily married Bobby Grady (John Laughlin) who as the film begins is running an unsuccessful business, and needs to make some extra money by doing some surveillance work. This works comes from a fashion design firm owner that believes one of their top employees, Joanna Crane(Kathleen Turner), is selling their designs to a competitor. As it turns out she is not, what she is doing is leaving work at night and living a double life as a prostitute China Blue. China Blue walks the streets in a sleazy part of town providing pleasure to a series of obsessed oddballs including the "Reverend" Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins). Grady becomes similarly obsessed with China/Joanna and utilizes her services, but becomes convinced that their paid sexual encounter was much deeper than a simple physical encounter.
The film it would be no surprise to tell viewers is another wild and bizarre affair from director Russell. The film has a quite dirty and sleazy atmosphere, countered with moments of odd domesticity such as when Bobby is at home with his wife Amy (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters) or even at the office bound moments in the film. The film mostly shines when it focuses on the triumvirate of characters of Bobby, China/Joanna, and Peter Shayne, and the sleazy environment they dwell in.
Crimes of Passion doesn't feel so much like a plot or story driven affair, but a character piece. It feels more like the viewer is watching how the various situations and how they play out personally affect the characters. This at times makes things feel a bit disjointed and the pacing of the film feel slightly off.
The direction from Russell was up to his usual quality standard, and he manages to create a dirty and sleazy atmosphere with a visual presence that while not entirely unique is definitely memorable. Kathleen Turner and Anthony Perkins shine among the cast, and turn in intense performances that could be considered among their career best. John Laughlin's performance certainly fit his character as an average every man, but I found his lack of charisma on any level off putting. Annie Potts performs well as Annie, but again I felt the character as written was just a cypher for Laughlin's character to work against, and had not much in the way of depth.
Crimes of Passion is certainly an excellent entry in Russell's oeuvre. The film has seriously striking and memorable sexually charged imagery, and a pair of intense performances from Perkins and Turner. On a personal level I hope that this release signals more Ken Russell films on Blu-ray from Arrow Video..
Arrow Video presents Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion in a very decent 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks quite solid with excellent fine detail, solid blacks, and accurate flesh tones. The garish colors occasionally present in the film are well reproduced.
The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 1.0 track in English. The track is quite solid with dialogue and score coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues with the track on my playthrough.
Arrow Video have put together quite a solid extras package for their release of Crimes of Passion. We get an archival commentary track with Ken Russell and screenwriter Barry Sandler. There are deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Sandler. There is a new interview with Sandler, and an interview with Yes' Rick Wakeman who did the score for the film. There are also liner notes, a theatrical trailer, and a music video.
Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion is quite a solid entry from the director. It's an awesome character driven piece with a solid sleazy atmosphere. The Blu-ray looks and sounds quite nice, and comes with a decent extras package. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.