Monday, October 14, 2019

There's a Snake In My Mailbox & You're Invited

I dread the day I run out of '90s try-hard sex thrillers. 

Thankfully, it is not this day.

Quick Plot: Meet Bill, an NYC psychologist with a successful enough practice to host him in the upper floors of a high-rise. Normally that's probably good thing, but when one of his unbalanced patients decides to hurl herself outside the window, Bill ends up broke and colorblind.

Yes, you read that right. Witnessing the red pool of blood thirty stories down is enough to rob poor Bill of his ability to see color. Needing a break, Bill heads west to visit his college pal Bob, an even more successful doctor whose book sales and group therapy sessions have kept him living in true '90s LA luxury. 

Bill sits in on one of Bob's (terribly run) group sessions and is introduced to cinema's typical brood of stereotypically, offensively eccentric adults in need of therapy. Witness their wackiness, coupled with incredibly unfairly overtalented casting:

Buck (Lance Henriksen!), a former detective with a dead wife and anger issues

Clark (BRAD EFFIN' DOURIF), a lawyer-turned-obsessive-compulsive-counter

Casey (Shelby's beloved Kevin J. O'Connor, who makes the best cherry coke in the history of the world) a poor little rich boy artist

Richie, (actor unknown for somewhat obvious reasons), a totally responsibly portrayed trans man and yes, the "totally responsibly" comment is meant to be sarcastic

and Sondra, (Miss Scarlet herself, Lelsey Ann Warren!), a kleptomaniac nymphomaniac because if you only have one woman in a cinematic group, she obviously has to be sleeping with everyone

Well before he can cure his patients, Bob is murdered by a mysterious, athletic assassin sporting a pretty nifty retractable knife glove. Detective Martinez (Ruben Blades, having a blast in his own, much more fun movie) is on the case, or rather, he directs Bill to investigate the therapy group and find the suspect, all while living in Bob's deluxe estate. 

It's not really a bad gig, especially after a fender bender brings a very beautiful, very horny, and very young lady named Rose into his (dead best friend's) bed. 

And pool.

And eventually, kitchen table and bathtub

If you knew anything about Color of Night before I even began to recap the very convoluted plot, it's probably that this is a movie with a lot of sex, including an infamous quick glance at Bruce Willis's stand-in's penis that stopped the presses in 1994. As Bill and Rose consummate their relationship, we watch a marathon lovemaking session so long that its couple has to pause for a steak dinner...which is presumably cooked by a nude Rose and I'm suddenly thinking Color of Night IS a horror movie.

A 2 hour, 21 minute horror movie.

Directed by Richard Rush (with some deep controversial editing battles with delightfully named producer Andrew G. Vajna), Color of Night is a glorious example of the very ambitious sexy '90s thriller. Coming close off the stiletto heels of Basic Instinct, it tries to create a new recipe from the same ingredients: mysterious sex-positive femme fatale, bland white yuppy 15+ years her senior, dead bodies, judgmental cops, incredibly complicated and poorly aged attempts to incorporate an LGBTQ theme, and so on. 

It is terrible. 

But also, the kind of try-hard bit of '90s erotica that opens on sexy saxophone-filled instrumentals, immediately tosses a bloody dummy death our way, throws in a horrifically nonsensical multiple personalities storyline better handled by Days of Our Lives, and ends on an original song that was nominated for both a Golden Globe AND a Razzie.

1994 was indeed a good year.

Did I mention the rattlesnake in a mailbox? Or the fact that Dominic Frontiere's score immediately falls into circus-y flute beats when the film introduces its mentally unstable characters? The epic sex scene's transition from pool to bed is done using the connecting thread of hang gliders (I'M NOT KIDDING). You could make a drinking game out of the slow motion shots and be passed out drunk within the film's first ten minutes. 

It's a LOT. And while it's pretty much terrible, I also pretty much loved it. 

High Points
If there's one trope I didn't realize had grown on me over the last few years of diving deep into '90s sexy thrillers, it's easily the "middle aged detective who hates witness with less taxing jobs and more money." Or maybe I just really enjoy watching Ruben Blades spend every moment of his screentime harassing Bruce Willis

Low Points
As much as it's pretty fun to enjoy the soap operatic quality of Color of Night's kookiness, there is something terribly irresponsible about its complete lack of any form of education regarding mental illness and therapy

Lessons Learned
To deny red is to deny emotion

Always guess the cliche and you'll never be disappointed (surprisingly good advice in all things)

In LA, everybody needs a lawyer

When visiting a wealthier friend, always try to time your visit around his impending death. If everything lines up just right, you'll get to spend the next few weeks living in his mansion rent-free

The Winning Line
"Jesus CHRIST!" screams Bruce Willis, with seemingly no self-awareness that he's saying these words while freeing his girlfriend's palms from nails

You can always count on the industrious nerds with IMDB Pro accounts to dig deep:

Mind-blowing trivia indeed

I'm not encouraging anyone to seek out Color of Night, but if you're surfing HBO Go one night and thinking to yourself, "You know, it's been a while since I saw a sex scene that reminded me of Frank and Jane's first night together in Naked Gun," you couldn't find a better fit. 

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