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Successful New York lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) has it all: a high-flying job, a loving wife (Anne Archer) and daughter and a great apartment he’s soon to trade in for a big country house in the safety of the suburbs. When his wife Beth takes their daughter to her parents for the weekend, Dan inadvertently hooks up with intriguing colleague Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) and what begins as a friendly dinner date turns into two days of seemingly non-stop debauchery. In the kitchen, on a bed, in a lift; you name it, they do it.

When Dan makes it clear that their weekend of wanton rumpo was simply a series of satisfying sexual encounters (for him, at least) and it’s time for him to return to his wife, Alex is rather reluctant to let him go and slashes her wrists. Dan, in desperate damage limitation mode, promises to help her but that she needs to be seen by a psychologist. Thinking that his infidelity is now all over and done with, Dan resumes his regular family life as though nothing ever happened.

Fatal Attraction - Special Edition
Then the persistent telephone calls begin and it becomes obvious that Alex takes the whole incident slightly more seriously than Dan and being brushed off lightly does not sit well with the now increasingly unhinged woman.

Paternalistic affection turns to outright rage as the harassment continues and Dan seeks solace from the police. With little the law can do, the lawyer discovers the true cost of his libidinal laxity when Alex announces her impending pregnancy. When an abortion is deemed out of the question, Dan realises his responsibilities are not so easily resolved and, in acquiescing to his wife’s wishes, agrees to move to a sleepy suburban environment to escape Alex’s unwelcome intentions. However, nothing quite arouses the ire of this woman scorned than to be ignored and her erratic actions continue to increase until the life of Dan’s wife and daughter are threatened in an implausible and now celebrated climax...

Oh, there’s nothing quite like an Adrian Lyne film. Often classified as a director of style over substance like contemporaries Tony and Ridley Scott, Lyne has built, somewhat unwittingly and unfairly according to him, a reputation for celluloid shagfests that leave little to the imagination. Nowhere is this more undeserved than in Fatal Attraction. Yes, there are two rough and raunchy sex scenes but these are used to illustrate the animalistic urgency of the participants and set the scene for the melodrama that is to follow. Every action has a consequence, something that is noticeably missing from his earlier work, as Dan Gallagher is all too soon to find out. In addition, these scenes highlight the, at times, entirely arbitrary nature of infidelity.

Fatal Attraction - Special Edition
Perhaps this is the issue at the heart of this movie; why does Dan, when he seemingly has everything he needs, involve himself with Alex? Hints are made, in the opening three scenes, that perhaps Dan is a little hen-pecked but it is left to the audience to decide the true motivation behind his erotic aberration.

In dealing with this theme, where this movie stands or falls is dependent on the performances of the three leads. Douglas is somewhat blank as the bed-hopping husband but it seems that this is a method was intended as conveying the ‘everyman’ nature of a married man’s moment of weakness. Indeed, this is a turn both expanded upon and parodied in Douglas’ later films Discloure and Basic Instinct. Close is magnificent in the infinitely showier role of Alex. Where she could have simply phoned in a performance with the Hollywood repertoire of tics and mannerisms so standard of the loony lady archetype, she subtly essays the frayed threads of her fragile persona as she begins to unravel before blowing it in the final 10 minutes as the demands of the revised ending turn her into a superhuman slasher movie style maniac. By contrast, Anne Archer is overly beautiful and under-used as betrayed wife Beth. With very little to do but be, by turns, doting dependable and distraught, Archer is given the shortest shrift of the three.

What makes this a little different as a mainstream Hollywood thriller is that none of the triumvirate of leading players is particularly likeable. The audience’s allegiance will indeed shift from one to another but Dan is too obtuse, initial sympathy for Alex evaporates as the hysteria takes over and Beth is so wet as to make the ending even more incredible.

The ending is certainly the most interesting section of the movie. It is exciting and it does get the pulse racing to sate the audience’s supposed satisfaction for revenge but it still seems too contrived for its own good and remains psychologically flawed. Here, less is indeed more, and it’s fascinating to find how this guignol ending, itself taking its cue from Clouzot’s French classic Diabolique transcribed a template for further ‘Yuppie in Peril’ movies of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s where Single White Female and Pacific Heights can be considered direct descendants.

Fatal Attraction - Special Edition
Video
Anamorphically enhanced at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the video quality of the movie is something of a mixed bag. Grain, scratches and slight print damage are obvious in the exterior shots that dominate the title sequence after which the image quality improves considerably. Contrast and colour levels are good in the many interior sequences but shadow detail is wanting, particularly noticeable as Michael Douglas’ character wears plenty of black clothing of which the fine outlines are sometimes unclear. While the transfer is certainly not the worst you’ll ever see, it is surprising to note how much more could have been done with a film made less than 20 years old.

Audio
As you might expect from a primarily dialogue-driven movie, there’s little here to show off the specifications of your surround system. The English 5.1 track seems curiously quiet although dialogue is clear through the centre channel once you turn up the volume far past the level you’d usually use.

The rear channels remain pretty lifeless during the movie; not only does this serve to highlight the precious few times that Maurice Jarre’s mean n’ moody score does kick in (incidental music is conspicuous by its absence) but also that the additional Dolby Surround German is almost identical.

Extras
Director Adrian Lyne is patently quite keen to participate in the efforts to revisit his landmark movie and the first of these contributions is his audio commentary. An engaging personality with a dry wit, Lyne supplies many anecdotes regarding the production. Among these are his insistence on inserting moments of comedy during the sex scenes to make the audience feel less uncomfortable, how the claustrophobic look of the film was dictated by his preference for shooting in actual apartments rather than purpose-built sets and noting the hysterical reaction of critics and feminists who, he argues, read too much into the film.

While there are a few pauses towards the end and several issues are covered adequately in the accompanying retrospective featurette, the articulate director makes his points well and it may well come as a surprise that such a socially relevant film came from the man behind brain-free bonkbuster 8 ½ Weeks and enjoyably asinine Flashdance.

‘Forever Fatal: Remembering Fatal Attraction’ is a 28 minute featurette that includes contributions from the three main players - Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne Archer - the film’s producers’ Stanley Jaffe and Sherry Lansing and director Adrian Lyne. What initially seems like a long-winded mutual back-slapping session develops into an intriguing look at how the script was developed from a BBC short film and, with new melodramatic ending attached, how the influence of the test screening system cannot be underestimated. Also worthy of note are the submissions by practising psychologists debating the extreme nature of the Alex Forrest character and American society’s subliminal psychological associations equating infidelity (or even just plain sex) with disease. Definitely worth a look.

Fatal Attraction - Special Edition
‘Social Attraction’ examines the unexpected social impact that the movie made. Initially rejected by every studio going, the film went on to gross $100 million and land the front cover of Time magazine. Producer Sherry Lansing is at the forefront of this 11 minute piece responding to charges of misogyny by the feminist camp.

‘Visual Attraction’ (20 minutes) features the film’s make-up artist, set designer and director of photography, each ruminating on the look of Fatal Attraction. Nothing exceptionally revelatory here but there snippets which illuminate the sometimes chaotic directing practices as employed by Lyne and how Close had effectively nailed her role before day one of shooting.

The film’s original ending is included, complete with an introduction and optional audio commentary from Lyne. While it’s nice to see this downbeat (not to mention restrained) sequence in its entirety, Lyne repeats much of the scene’s history and reasons for exclusion which are made elsewhere on the disc.

The director also introduces 2 segments of rehearsal footage. The first involves a video recording of Douglas and Close in their initial reading and you have to admire the intensity of Close’s preparation for what was a simple screen test. The second is another video test, this time of Anne Archer reading against an unfortunately wooden participant off camera which makes her performance all the more commendable.

A theatrical trailer rounds out the extras section, accessed by some nice animated menus that pay homage to the film’s use of the humble telephone as an instrument of terror, and for curiosity’s sake isn’t something you’d need to see more than once.

Fatal Attraction - Special Edition
Overall
Perhaps now best considered as the prototype of the modern mainstream obsessive antagonist thriller Fatal Attraction is for all its flaws, and there just isn’t enough room here to list them all, still an occasionally tense thriller, saved in part by the participation of Close. Originally garnering six Oscar nominations, including a most deserved one for Close, the film has dated badly although its influence can still be seen today, most recently rehashed for an adolescent audience in the unremittingly awful Swimfan. Presented on a disc with video and audio well short of the standard you’d expect on DVD, there are some reasonable extras here but for a film that is socially significant, if none too special, the whole package is somewhat under whelming.


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