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Cinema has provided us with plenty of femme fatales over the years, although we have long forgotten the classic film noir examples in favour of the deviant sexual predator a la Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) from Basic Instinct. Whether in James Bond adventures like Goldeneye (Famke Janssen’s psychotic Xenia Onatopp) or movies like Wild Things, this is basically what modern-day femme fatales are all about. One of the all-time best female protagonists of this nature has got to be Linda Fiorentino’s Bridget Gregory from the 1992 movie, The Last Seduction, and with the upcoming release of a two-disc special edition of the film I was given the opportunity of revisiting this modern-day film noir.

Last Seduction, The

Feature


Bridget Gregory appears to have the world at her fingertips. Married to an upcoming doctor, with a fast-moving boiler-room job and an apartment in New York and with an illicit money-making drug deal in the pipeline her future seems set. But after being pushed too far by her husband Clay, she packs her bags and takes off with the loot, never looking back at the life she left behind.

She hides out in a small town, where she seduces a local man, thereby getting a place to stay and even an office job that utilises her talents. Despite this, she is just passing the time and laying low, in the hope that her angry, vengeful husband does not discover her location. Things are not that simple, however, and she is forced to come up with a plan that will solve all of her problems in one fell swoop.

The Last Seduction is a modern-day classic—film noir at its best. Its central protagonist, Bridget Clay, is the ultimate femme fatale. She devours men for breakfast, robs them for lunch and seduces them for dinner, then repeats the cycle the very next day. She hardly ever gets her hands dirty, normally setting her hapless victims up against one another or manipulating them into compromising situations—and even if she does do the dirty work herself, she is sure to have someone in mind to take the blame for her. She’s scheming, manipulative and unapologetically bad. She is a predator and sex is her ultimate weapon, but her prey never seem to know what is coming next, aware of her true motivations only when it’s too late and they are trapped in the black widow’s web.

Although I am praising the character—possibly one of cinema’s best on-screen villainesses—it does not make the movie all that easy to watch. Only the opening sequence briefly displays another side to this woman and, after that, it’s just a non-stop rollercoaster ride of her using and abusing men. Few of her victims deserve their fate and at no point does she display any kind of conscience or morality about her behaviour. The fact that she appears to wander the streets untainted by her own cruel antics only serves to make the story even more unsavoury. There is simply no redeeming side to this character. This would not be as much of a problem, were it not for the fact that the entire story revolves around this, frankly, evil woman.

Last Seduction, The
The flipside to this is that she is extremely clever—albeit in a deviant way—like a more realistic version of a typical Hollywood criminal mastermind. She knows just how to play the world of men in order to get to where she needs to get to. She is a powerful, dominant woman, feverishly coming up with new ideas and new scams to keep her and her stolen riches safe from the clutches of her abusive husband. I would not be surprised if some viewers would be laughing and cheering at the way she carries off her deviant plans. For me, it just did not sit right. It’s not that I don’t like anti-heroes—I desperately wanted to believe that Denzel Washington’s Training Day character could be redeemed—but Bridget Gregory is just unabashedly evil.

Casting was perfect, with Linda Fiorentino ( Men In Black, Jade) putting in the performance of her career as the lead, Bridget Gregory. She oozes classy, high-maintenance sexuality and is utterly convincing as this cold-hearted bitch. She is ably backed up by Bill Pullman ( Lake Placid, Lost Highway), the angry, scorned husband and Peter Berg ( Copland, Collateral) as her dim-witted small-town victim. We also get a superb cameo by the ever-watchable, late, J.T. Walsh ( Breakdown, Red Rock West) as her slimy lawyer.

Director John Dahl is not a man unfamiliar with film noir, having done the Val Kilmer movie Kill Me Again and Nicholas Cage’s Red Rock West before giving us The Last Seduction and he has once again worked wonders with an extremely low budget. The end result is, as I’ve stated, classic film noir in line with his other works, but it is just slightly heavy on the lack of morality. It’s like watching a movie about a serial killer reaching the height of his game—somewhat compelling but still difficult to stomach (and I thought American Psycho was a much better movie).

Of course this double-disc DVD release not only the original cut (on the first disc) but also the new director’s cut, with extra scenes added into the movie. Unfortunately most of the deleted footage is much poorer quality, including a hazy, dimly lit shot of Linda Fiorentino rolling around naked in a bed, covered up (barely) by wads of cash. We also see her character bossing people around in her new job, fooling around in a high school gymnasium and generally being the cold-hearted, callous person you would expect. It does nothing to particularly add to the movie, although in a polished-up state the extra sequences would have been much more tolerable.

Last Seduction, The

Video


The Last Seduction is presented in a decent 1.78:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Detail is generally good, with a little grain but negligible edge enhancement. Softness is also kept to a minimum. The colour scheme varies from the vibrant cityscape of New York to the more natural countryside colour palette of the small town. Skin tones are quite good and blacks allow for reasonable shadowing. This is a fair representation of such a low budget flick, and for comparison with the non-anamorphic alternative you can look at the director's cut, which has not been enhanced.

Audio


The Dolby Digital 5.1 track that accompanies the original theatrical cut on the first disc is a fairly good remix. Dialogue comes clearly through the frontal array and although there are few effects, the more ambient, atmospheric noises get full use of the surrounds. The score is integral to the film noir style of the production, typically fed by jazz and blues and the also allows for decent dynamics and gives you that all-important all-encompassing feel associated with a decent six-speaker surround mix. Again, for comparison, you can either listen to the Dolby 2.0 alternative on disc one, or the only track on the director's cut, which is also just stereo.

Extras


On the first disc we get 'The Art of Seduction', a recently-made thirty minute documentary about the production of this movie. The writer is on hand to talk about what became of his story, how it was intended to be one of the sexist films of all time and how the director had a pattern when it came to directing movies about women absconding with bags of money. The director talks about the characters and we get some old, on-set footage of Linda Fiorentino and Peter Berg discussing their parts as well as some newer Bill Pullman interview footage. It is quite an interesting, informative dissection of this modern film noir.

On the first disc we also have some eight minutes' behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew on set. The footage is very poor quality, non-anamorphic and fullscreen, with just the dialogue and actions, but it is interesting to see these different takes. Finally we get the original theatrical trailer.

The rest of the extras are on the second disc. First up we get a full length audio commentary over the director's cut, by the director himself John Dahl, who talks about the original script, the mentality behind some of the characters, highlighting the differences between big cities and small towns, and the cast he chose—delving at length into the backgrounds of both long-term collaborator Bill Pullman and Linda Fiorentino. He discusses the clothing and look for Linda’s character—to give her the feel of a forties star like Veronica Lake—and the low budget of the movie, explaining how they got around that in some of the scenes. Overall it is an interesting offering that will hook fans of the movie into wanting to know more.

Last Seduction, The
The deleted scenes that were reinserted into the director's cut of the movie are also presented in the special features section although I don’t fully understand why — the extra footage is so much poorer in terms of quality that you can easily distinguish it from the rest of the movie. Not only that but instead of presenting just the scenes here we get them played as part of their surrounding sequences (allegedly to put them in context). Whilst I understand the need to give you a little clue as to where they go in the movie (although all you have to do is watch the main feature to find out), the total running time of this deleted sequence section is nearly an hour—which is ludicrous since the full movie is only a little over two hours and the extra footage lasts only about fifteen minutes. Anyway, this unnecessary extra is still here for completists.

There is also an alternate ending with optional commentary by the director, who explains how they had several table-readings of the closing sequence and how they changed the attorney at the very end so that it was not J.T. Walsh because it proved confusing for some viewers. The alternate version does not really differ that much, but should probably have been chosen over the original cut.

Finally on the second disc we get a short movie directed by John Dahl entitled ‘Tomorrow I Die’, which runs at nearly half an hour in length and start Bill Pullman, Dan Hedaya ( Blood Simple) and Heather Graham ( Boogie Nights). A typical, period-set film noir about criminals and betrayal, quite a lot happens even in its short runtime and it is well worth taking a look at. It originally ran as part of the Fallen Angels TV series, which gave us a different take on classic film noirs, including Danny Glover as a very different Marlowe (Raymond Chandler’s famous private detective).

Last Seduction, The

Overall


The Last Seduction is a classic film noir focussing on one of cinema’s greatest femme fatales. Unfortunately, the cynical study of this woman’s life is distinctly bittersweet. Video and audio presentations for this new release are well up to scratch with a decent anamorphic enhancement and some solid six-speaker surround sound treatment, so the only disappointment is the supposed new cut. The extra footage is of such distractingly poor quality that you wonder why they bothered at all. Still, for completists, it will be a must-have, and it certainly marks the definitive DVD release for this movie.


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