"There are lapses, but this
is in the main a comedy so black that it recaptures some of the
cinema's long-lost power to shock"
(TR in Time Out, no date, click
Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion from 1984, a flawed film about
sexuality. Kathleen Turner is China Blue a high class hooker,
though during the day she works as a fashion designer. Anthony
Perkins is a fake preacher who becomes obsessed by China Blue.
The hooker theme is tackled with typical Russell restraint
regarding sex between two adults, but the plot interlinks with a couple,
played by John Laughlin and Annie Potts (in Ghostbusters and the follow-up
as well as the remake) in a failed marriage. Their scenes do drag
with poor dialogue, and the two stories never really gel.
Kathleen Turner plays China Blue, a high class
prostitute who turns out to be an intellectual and who is
doing it because... etc. Even Barbra Streisand has played
a similar role. Despite the cliché role- the film was meant to
break the cliché- she plays well.
Antony Perkins plays an oversexed priest, too
similar to Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter to be truly convincing.
The saint (with a street light halo) and the sinner
(with a night club heart).
The priest has sexual fantasies linked to
murder. The killing of the dancing girl is actually in his
imagination as a sex doll is ripped apart.
Sexuality is a theme in the film, everyone is either sexually
repressed or over-active or both. Marriages are a sham and there are no
true relationships. The couple in the story have a marriage where they cannot
even talk to each other face-to-face.
Despite its many faults, like many of
Russell's lesser films, it grows on you with some subtle
scenes emerging and some of the more over-the-top scenes
becoming enjoyable by their excess. The two main actors(Turner and
Perkins) give very good performances.
"Crimes of Passion is best off when it makes the least sense. All too
often, it becomes just lucid enough for the extreme tawdriness of the
material to take over." (Janet Maslin, New York Times, 19 Oct 1984).
"Despite the unhinged crash zooms and implacable editing, Crimes Of
Passion ripples with dolour through its quieter moments. When Grady calls
China and asks if she’s alone, an “Ain’t we all?” is drawled... For all
its prurient Wonderland stylings, Crimes Of Passion is classical noir at
its lonely, broken heart." (James Kloda, in The Dark Side
here, 11 Oct 2016).
Kathleen Turner says:
“I feel to this day it was some of my best work even though I
wasn’t so thrilled about the film as a whole… Ken Russell, the director,
is truly a genius, but a mad, self-sabotaging genius. And the writer of
the script, who I believe had some producing power, was easily one of the
most unpleasant people I have ever worked with... Ken was drinking a great
deal at the time. As the days went on, things got increasingly out of hand
and there was no order… And Anthony had an appalling drug habit”.
On China Blue “Her sense of worthlessness was reinforced by
becoming China Blue. But at the same time, she proved her power by
becoming sexually attractive to men. I see that confusion about sexuality
in many women, and ultimately in myself. I hoped other women would see it
and identify with her when she regains her sense of self... One of the
most famous scenes- and the most moving- was a beautiful one in which a
dying man's wife hires China Blue. The wife can't bring herself to sleep
with him, but wants him to 'feel like a man.' China Blue takes off her
dress and shoes and is in her bra and panties when the man says, 'Stop, I
can't do this. I love my wife. I understand, but I can't do this.' It was
really so touching. The writer wanted me to strip altogether in that
scene. I said… ‘That's not what it's about.' What the scene was about to
me is what China does next. She takes off the blond wig, which symbolizes
her identity as China Blue, and tells him her real name. She gives this
man the gift of her own vulnerability as he's giving his back to her”.
(Kathleen Turner and Gloria Veldt, Send Yourself Roses, 2008).