Ten razor dildos is the score Ken Russell’s Crimes of Passion was given by Battle Royale with Cheese. Whilst VultureHound doesn’t deal in gleaming razor dildos (just the standard numbers out of five) we do agree with the sentiment, but maybe not ten gleaming razor dildos out of ten, maybe 7, which would equate to 3.5 to 4 out of 5 in the normal world of film review. But forget about normal for now, we’re entering the sick twisted world of Ken Russell.
Joanna Crane (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone) is a straight-lace fashion designer by day, but by night she’s shameless prostitute China Blue. When Crane’s boss becomes suspicious of her exemplary work record and desolate behaviour he hires private detective Bobby Grady (John Laughlin, The Rock) to find out what secrets she hides, and she must be hiding secrets because, ‘if you got a dick she turns to ice on you’.
With ‘dildos’, ‘dicks’, ‘secrets’, and ‘shameless prostitutes’ littered throughout the opening paragraphs one would think this movie to be another chauvinistic 80’s Hollywood feature very much of its time, and you’d be absolutely wrong. Crimes of Passion is a fascinating exploration of duality and conflict played out under the most powerful of themes- sex.
If I give just one good piece of advice in my entire ‘review career’ it’ll probably be this- this film is not to be watched with mum and dad. It begins looking at the delirious eyes of men seen through lurid ‘peek-holes’, in the midst of self-gratification continually throwing used tissues in half empty trays on the floor whilst a stripper dances in the centre of the room. Then we move to coarse hand drawn images of the ‘Japanese karma sutra’, then to a sex scene that ends in casual conversation between a daughter and her dad’s best friend. Yes. Like I said- the crazy world of Ken Russell.
But within the ‘fucking’ and orgasms, and the nefarious dialogue is a compelling examination of emotion, connection, and love. This comes with China Blue’s introduction to Bobby Grady, the PI who was hired to spy on Blue. Grady is a dissatisfied husband and father of two, fighting to pay mounting bills, and struggling to keep alive his relationship with an increasingly despondent wife. After discovering what China Blue can do to men, Grady wants some of the action, or is it the antidote? Crimes of Passion is crammed with so many conflicting views on sex and society that it can be argued both ways.
The apartment where Blue offers her service is a double bedroom with cheap silk sheets and a sink and bottle of JB to wash away the… after she… And whilst Blue waltzes around in stockings and suspenders handcuffing police officers to beds and using their batons for things batons certainly shouldn’t be used for, these maniacal scenes are mere interjections in the story of China Blue/Joanna Crane’s complex alter ego’s fight for control of a woman who is ultimately scared to connect.
It’s an outstanding performance given by Turner who immerses herself in the role of China Blue with conviction and gall considering some of the things she’s made to do. As for Laughlin he surprises in the sentimental sections of the film. There’s also a fantastic shift put in by Anthony Perkins (Norman bates, Psycho) as a delusional priest constantly giving in to his sexual cravings followed by chastising himself with the worn bible he carries around in his medical bag next to his ‘auto-suck’ (you’ll find out what it is when you watch the film).
Crimes of Passion is an imaginative and bold piece of film making which moves away from the tried, tested and definitely false premise that it’s always the woman who leads the virtuous male into sin. In this case roles are reversed with Grady in search of contact and Blue trying to escape ever having to open up to a partner by putting herself in the most despised of demographics- prostitution.
3.5 gleaming razor dildos out of 5.
Dir: Ken Russell
Scr: Barry Sandler
Cast: Kathleen Turner, John Lauglin, Anthony Perkins, Bruce Davison
Prd: Barry Sandler
DOP: Dick Bush
Music: Rick Wakeman
Run Time: 112 mins
Crimes of Passion is out now on dual format Blu-Ray/DVD.