THE LAST SEDUCTION - SPECIAL EDITION
Region 2 (UK) Edition
Fiorentino, Peter Berg, Bill Pullman, J.T. Walsh
By the early 90s, the once-mighty ITC
Entertainment Group, which - as Associated Television (ATV) - had
once permeated ITV schedules with dozens of hit action and adventure
series, was a shadow of its former self. The company had been splintered
by the 1981 ITV franchise
shake-up, and various boardroom power struggles. The main television production division, once home to
series like The Saint, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and
Adventures of Robin Hood, had dwindled away.
ITC's disastrous 1980 feature film
adaptation of Clive Cussler's Raise The Titanic almost bankrupt the company,
losing almost thirty million dollars. The film production
division limped on through the 80s, with few notable commercial or critical
hits (Sophie's Choice, On Golden Pond and The Company of
Wolves all deserve a mention).
No longer backed by steady income from
their TV productions, the company's output turned increasingly to
co-productions with American companies. Fortunately for ITC, sell-through home
video was beginning to take hold, and exploiting their vast programme
opening up a new revenue stream. However, it was too late, and the
damage was done. Within a year or two ITC's library was bought by Dutch
media giant Polygram, and ITC ceased to exist as anything more than a
brand name. The Last
Seduction was one of the last half dozen-or-so films to carry the ITC
John Dahl's The Last Seduction is a
classic film noir, about a woman who steals a bag full of cash, seduces a
rube, and persuades him to kill her husband.
Fiorentino plays Bridget Gregory, a clever,
manipulative, sexual predator, succinctly described by one of her associates as a
"self-serving bitch". She's the pit-bull supervisor in a telesales boiler room
which ruthlessly peddles worthless commemorative coins to gullible punters.
At the beginning of the film she's living
with Clay Gregory (Bill Pullman), a medical student who has just sold a
suitcase full of industrial-grade cocaine for a cool $700,000. In the heat
of the moment he makes the mistake of striking her. Within hours she's
vanished, and so has his money.
She hides out in a "cow country" town, and
there hooks up with cocksure young patsy Mike Swale (ER's Peter
Berg), who's fled back home after a traumatic whirlwind romance. Mike
quickly falls under Bridget's spell... but Clay, under pressure from
loan sharks, is close on her trail...
The film owes the lion's
share of its reputation to Linda Fiorentino's incendiary Oscar-calibre
performance. Confusing an actor with the character they play is a rookie
mistake, but in this case, judging from the press she's received over the
years, and the things that people who have worked with her have said
(notably director Kevin Smith, in the supplements on the Dogma
DVD), Linda Fiorentino is not far removed from Bridget Gregory. It is,
however, worth noting that,
although many have remarked that Fiorentino can be difficult to work with,
Dahl chose her to star in his next film, the 1996 science-fiction tinged
Bill Pullman also gives a terrific
performance. He may be one step behind Bridget for most of the movie, but,
given how calculating she is, that's no mean feat. He's almost as sharp, and he knows Bridget well
enough to guess her plans, and how to find her. Peter Berg, now a experienced
and not untalented director in his own right, plays dumb convincingly.
Good support is given by the late, great J.T. Walsh, as Bridget's ex-lover
stroke lawyer stroke confidante, and Bill Nunn (Joseph Robertson
in the Spider-Man series), as Harlan, the private investigator hired by
When ITC green-lit the film, the company
was expecting a Red Shoes Diaries-style soft-core erotic thriller.
Dahl, who had directed two films not dissimilar to The Last Seduction, Red Rock West and Kill
Me Again, delivered an art-house movie. Dahl was lucky in that he had
very little interference from the studio: a change of management a week
into production meant that the new regime had little inclination to get to grips
with a project that was a couple of weeks away from
The film was made on a modest budget -
about $2.5m. It's not flashy, or particularly sophisticated, but Dahl's
direction is solid, lean and disciplined. Steve Barancik's sharp
screenplay contributes wit and humour to the story, and some memorable,
quotable dialogue. The cinematography, by Jeff Jur, is inventive, without
drawing undue attention to itself. The jazzy, lolloping score, by Joseph
Vitarelli, is well-suited, but rather repetitive.
The film was screened on cable TV in the
US, but given a theatrical release in the UK and in mainland Europe, where
it met with considerable critical acclaim. This filtered back to the US,
where a small independent distributor, October Films, licensed the film
from ITC for a limited theatrical release (a similar thing happened to Dahl's Red Rock West).
It was during its US theatrical run that Oscar buzz for Fiorentino's performance
began building. Sadly, it
was quickly stifled: the producers discovered that the film was
ineligible for nomination, because it had premiered on television.
The Last Seduction has been released
several times on DVD, on both sides of the Atlantic. None of these has
been very satisfactory. The most notable was the UK's 2001 Silver Classic
edition, from Carlton. This had an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, but the
only bonus feature was a trailer. This edition was re-packaged and re-released in 2004 by Prism Leisure.
Network's new two-disc UK Region 2 edition renders all
previous releases obsolete.
The two disc set features the theatrical
version of the film, with a new Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix, on one disc,
and a so-called Extended Director's Cut version of the film on the other. The extras - we'll come to those
in a moment - are split across both discs.
The theatrical version of the film
(105'28") is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 format, with an average
bit-rate of 7.39Mb/sec. If it's not a new transfer, it's certainly a quite
recent one, with very good detail, and realistic colour balance. Film
Noir-style lighting predominates, and this doesn't translate easily to
video, but where there lighting allows, the film looks very smart indeed.
There's a touch of film sparkle (tiny white
dots that appear for a single frame) here and there, but otherwise the
print used is very clean and stable. The black levels are generally fine,
and contrast is very good. The film has a nineties feel that no degree of
restoration could remove, but that's only to be expected. There are no
significant video or encoding faults. Framing generally seems fine, with
the expected amount of headroom. There seems to be no question that the
film was primarily intended to be seen in TV-style 4:3 format (although it's often been shown
that way, of course). More on this later.
The disc offers a choice of two audio
tracks: a Dolby Digital 2.0 version (at 192kbps), which presumably
replicates the original Ultra Stereo presentation, and a newly-created
Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (at 448kbps). Both seem perfectly serviceable. The
5.1 mix offers an airier feel, and much better separation of music and
dialogue. It's generally very nicely done, and doesn't sound completely
artificial, like some 5.1 remixes. There's little surround
presence in either version. Vitarelli's score often threatens to overwhelm
the dialogue in the stereo version, and in this respect the 5.1 mix is
There are no subtitles, and no
player-generated on-screen captions (there are no on-screen captions at
The Art of
Seduction is a by-the-numbers half-hour look at the film, chiefly
comprised of talking head interviews and illustrative clips. The
contributors are Dahl, Steve Barancik and Bill Pullman.
Fiorentino and Berg make fleeting contributions courtesy of some
contemporaneous EPK-style footage. The documentary is solid, but a lot of
the information is repeated in the commentary. Perhaps the most surprising
revelation is that Dahl had so much trouble finding someone who wanted
to play Bridget: more than thirty actresses turned to role down. The lack of meaningful
input from Fiorentino is disappointing, but not surprising.
Behind-The-Scenes (9m) - this isn't mentioned on the sleeve. It's standard
candid EPK B-roll footage. The audio is raw, and generally not properly
mixed. There's a note explaining that the audio isn't of the best
quality at the beginning, but that pretty much goes without saying, and is
certainly par for the course. The footage focuses on about half a dozen scenes, and shows a brisk professionalism on the part of the cast and
crew. It's interesting footage, and was certainly worth including on the
One of the shots shows the camera feed, which suggests the film was framed
for 1.85:1 display, but protected for 4:3 presentation.
The cheesy 1'37"
Original Theatrical Trailer looks pale compared to the film.
Presented in 4:3 format, you can immediately see many shots have superfluous
headroom. Comparing them to the film transfer reveals - as expected - that
the feature is cropped top-and-bottom.
The second disc features the Extended Director's Cut version of the film,
for 128'45" (twenty-three minutes longer than the theatrical version). It's
very unlikely that this is Dahl's
preferred cut, so the title should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The previously-deleted scenes have been taken from the only available source: a
time-coded, rough-cut VHS that was kept by the director. Naturally this is
of very poor quality compared to the film itself. The deleted scenes are
dark, and very grainy (as part of the process of integrating them back
into the film, they've been re-formatted to 16:9 ratio). They're also
showered with film dirt and splice marks. You certainly wouldn't want to
watch the whole film like this, but they're perfectly acceptable in this
The Extended version of the film is presented with
Dolby Digital 2.0 audio only. It has a much lower average
bit-rate (4.10Mb/sec), despite also being on a DVD-9 disc. I'm no disc
authoring expert, but this appears to be because there seems to be
two versions of the film on the disc, one Extended Director's Cut,
and another of the theatrical edition (with the deleted scenes
tagged on to the end: Title 3 runs 2h53m18s (approximately the duration
of the Extended Dirctor's Cut and the deleted scenes added
together); Title 4 runs 2h08m48s (the duration of the Extended
Director's Cut); and Title 5 runs for 57m16s (the deleted scenes on their own).
Very odd. It matters little: fans of the film are likely to
be spinning Disc One much more often than Disc Two.
The Deleted Scenes can be accessed
separately via a menu option. If you select this option, each deleted
scene is presented in context, bracketed by (often excessively lengthy)
clips from the film. This means to watch twenty-three minutes of deleted
scenes, you have to watch fifty-seven minutes of material.
I briefly toyed with the idea of detailing
each and every deleted scene, but this review is probably long enough
without that. Besides, frankly, some of them are pretty mundane, and
describing them would contribute very little. Several of them involve Bridget (or Wendy, as she's calling herself at this point), at the
Interstate Insurance Company, using the employees as an early warning
system for signs that Clay's P.I. is getting close (the company's
receptionist, briefly seen in the theatrical version, gains the most here,
including a name: Alison).
More significant is a thread showing
Bridget / Wendy and Mike engaging in sexual role-playing games. This
culminates in a scene where they break into a school gymnasium, where she
memorably indulges his fantasies about a childhood crush. What a shame
that this scene does not survive in pristine condition!
This excised thread includes another
bedroom scene between Mike and Bridget, where she teases him: "I'm a bad,
bad girl... You ought to spank me, Mike.... Pretend I'm a nun..." This
explains a line from Clay that remains in the film: "You're a very funny lady.. you
know the role-play, eh? Baby, you make one hell of a horny nun!"
It's worth noting that all the deleted
footage appears in the first ninety minutes or so of the Extended
version, leaving the last forty-minutes the same as the theatrical
The disc contains a final
deleted treat: an Alternate Ending (5m), which is presented only as
a separate menu item. SPOILERS
AHEAD! This is an alternate version
of the scene with Mike in prison talking to his lawyer. In this version,
his lawyer is the J.T. Walsh character (Frank Griffith). Mike is unaware
of Griffith's association with Bridget, and he recalls a piece of physical
evidence that might support his version of events. Griffith relays this
information to Bridget, who removes the evidence, sealing Mike's fate. Dahl explains that he suspected that this might be a twist too
far, and so wisely shot the scene with another actor, too.
The Extended Director's Cut and the
Alternate Ending are accompanied by an optional commentary track by Dahl.
It's not terribly engaging, but persevere and you'll find that the film is
comprehensively dissected. The track is more about character motivations
than the trivia of production. There are a few long gaps, but
considering the film was made more than a decade ago, that's not terribly
The final bonus is a good example of the
sort of thing that Network does very well: finding some little related gem
that might otherwise never see the light of day again. Finding these
things is pretty easy, but having the dedication to locate and license
them is not. Here it's an
episode of the Showtime Networks cable TV series Fallen Angels
(a.k.a. Perfect Crimes). It's an episode called Tomorrow I Die,
which is based on a story by Mickey Spillane. It was originally transmitted in October 1995. It was directed by John
Dahl, and features Last Seduction cast members Bill Pullman and
Dean Norris (who play's Mike's buddy, Shep). This is perhaps not
surprising, since Tomorrow I Die was cast by The Last Seduction's
Debra Zane. There's another Dahl link, too: Kim Coates turns up in
Unfortunately Tomorrow I Die seems to be shorn of
the Fallen Angels series opening titles, but it works perfectly well
without them. Perhaps clearing the show's theme music was an additional
expense that Network thought wasn't worth paying? Tomorrow I Die
exhibits a few problems -
sloppy audio sync, digital video noise reduction smearing, and signs of
analogue tape instability. It's undoubtedly an old transfer.
Fallen Angels was made by Propaganda
Films, the company that produced Dahl's Kill Me Again and Red
Rock West. The company also produced several projects with director David Lynch
(including Wild at Heart, and Lynch's own anthology show, Hotel
Room). Tellingly, Tomorrow I Die also features several
luminaries from Lynch's Twin Peaks: Heather Graham, Jack Nance and
The set comes with a twelve-page
Collector's Booklet, which offers a feminist reading of the film by Dr
Linda Ruth Williams, adapted from her book
The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema. This is rather
interesting, especially in light of the additional information we're given
about Linda and Mike's relationship in the deleted scenes, which Williams
wasn't privy to. The essay is
illustrated with a handful of photo's from the film.
The Last Seduction is a cracking
movie, with an outstanding lead performance. Network's transfer is
virtually flawless, with good picture and audio quality. The set offers
fans of the film an excellent package of bonus material, including a
director's commentary track, and numerous deleted scenes (including one of
the all-time great deleted scenes!) An essential purchase for fans of 90s
cinema, film noir movies, and fans of Linda Fiorentino.