The name Ken Russell usually doesn't get mentioned along the ranks of other stylized filmmakers like Kubrick, Cronenberg, Anderson, and Lynch, yet his somewhat trippy-looking films have been an influence for many fellow film buffs so that when you watch one of his movies you start to think you've seen the shots used before but don't remember where. The prolific director has made such films as The Who's Tommy (musical), Altered States (sci-fi/horror), and The Music Lovers (comedy/drama). His 1984 feature Crimes of Passion can fit into many subgenres. It's an erotic drama, a tense psycho sexual thriller, and also a comedic satire of the hidden desires people have about sex. It's just too bad Russell couldn't just focus on one genre or mix them together better.
We are first introduced to Bobby Grady (John Laughlin) at what looks like a suppourt group for people who are having intimacy issues with their spouses, Bobby tells them that he is very much in love with his wife and is only there supporting his friend. We then cut to our main heroine China Blue (Kathleen Turner) as she is on top of some sort of parade float wearing a crown and a pink sage. She is giving a speech that many beauty pagent queens have given for years and as the camera pans down. We see that her legs are spread and there is a man going down on her. Miss Blue is one of the most successful hookers on the street and she does that by fulfilling men's hidden, dark fantasies. Grady is asked by a man to watch one of his employers, Joanna Crane, who is belived to be selling their company secrets to the competition. I don't need to tell you that he finds out Miss Crane is Miss China Blue and that the two end up starting an affair. There is also a sexually repressed preacher named Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins), who says he wants to save her, but may also want to kill her. I'll have more on him later on.
After Bobby and China have their little rendevous, Bobby is already bored of his wife Amy (Annie Potts) and his children. We never get to spend much time with his family and his choices of leaving doesn't make him look so good. It's not like his wife was a major pain. Most of the things she was asking her husband for sounded reasonable. Then again, I'm not married so what sounds trivial to me, may sound stressfull to someone else. Amy suspects that something is up with her husband, but doesn't do much about it. The only thing she does is to agree where she once disagreed. That is not any type of good compensation.
So, we have a love triangle between Joanna/China, Bobby, and Amy. Actually, it's more of a love trapezoid with Miss Crane's dual life. The movie could have easily just focused on this, but instead we also get this character of Peter Shayne who carries with him a large steel dildo named Superman. He wants to help wash away all the vileness and filth from off the street and the best way to do that is penetrate these working girls with Silver Surfer's member.
Putting a psycho character into this tale was not a problem. It was his lack of any clear motivation that made him less of a threat for either character. There is a scene where we think he is going to murder one of the hookers, but instead he just uses Superman on a blowup doll. Mr. Shayne only becomes more agreesive towards Joanna near the end but by then, we lost any sort of tension and suspense this character could have had. Perkins was indeed a great casting choice and he is playing someone way different then Norman Bates. He just ended up feeling more like a Saturday morning cartoon villian rather than one from a hardcore midnight movie.
I really enjoyed seeing Kathleen Turner in this role and this came out between Body Heat and Romancing The Stone. Her character of China Blue and Joanna Crane are both very sensual and sexy, but also funny, brave and somewhat sentimental too. I think it's great that it never shows her as being truly good because she is wrecking a marriage. Yet, I don't fully hate her. I hate Bobby way more because he had a choice to have sex with her or not. There is no way Miss Blue is going to turn down some cold cash. It would have been great if Turner reprised this role in Ken Russell's better version of Pretty Woman named Whore.
Arrow Video has put a lot of great features that include several great deleted scenes. One of them features a scene between both Kathleen Turner and Annie Potts as their characters confront each other. There is a great interview with screenwriter Barry Sandler that delves into how he got started writing movies as a fan for actress Raquel Welch to working with Ken Rusell. The disk also features a great commentary with Rusell and Sandler that will make me appreciate this movie even more then I do now. The movie is available in both the director's cut and unrated theatrical version.