Bad Influence (1990)

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Released 8-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 95:04
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Curtis Hanson

Starring Palmer Lee Todd
Rob Lowe
James Spader
Rosalyn Landor
Tony Maggio
Kathleen Wilhoite
Marcia Cross
Sunny Smith
Susan Lee Hoffman
Jeff Kaake
Christian Clemenson
Charisse Glenn
Jay Della
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Trevor Jones

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Bad Influence is notable for a few reasons. First of all, it was directed by the soon-to-be excellent Curtis Hanson (the confident L.A.Confidential and the wonderful Wonder Boys). Secondly it features brat-packer Rob Lowe in a role which fits like a glove - a wild-child who enjoys sexual misadventures (remember the 1988 scandal with Lowe videotaping sex with two girls?). Finally it is a damned good suspense thriller. This is a film which I remember being impressed by when I first watched it, and on this repeat viewing it held me just as captive - by no means a classic, it is nonetheless a very enjoyable, solid film which I can certainly recommend.

    Michael Boll (James Spader, Secretary) is a bright young manager who is struggling to make his way in the world of big business. Surrounded by devious co-workers who will do anything to secure the next promotion and a social climbing girlfriend, Ruth, who is dragging him towards an early marriage, he is always just one step away from a panic attack. Sneaking out of work for a calming beer, he witnesses a young woman being abused by her bullying boyfriend. His vain attempt to intervene sees him humiliated by the bully, and reveals the buttoned-down self-restraint which is controlling his life. Enter a charming stranger, who rescues Michael and disappears just as suddenly as he arrived.

    Whilst out running one evening, Michael happens across the stranger once more. It turns out that the suave stranger, Alex (Lowe), is the antithesis of Michael. He dresses impeccably, oozes charm and is able to gain entry to the most secret of parties anywhere in the city. Despite having no obvious source of income, beautiful women flock to him and he allows nothing to scare him, and refuses to accept that anything is outside his grasp. When Alex befriends the uptight Michael, his life takes on a whole new direction.

    Alex frees Michael from his social strait-jacket, helping him stand up for himself against the workplace bully by fighting fire with fire and freeing himself from the suffocating relationship with Ruth. Michael's life changes dramatically under Alex's influence - he becomes a party animal, introduced to a miasmic lifestyle of wild parties, binge drinking, drug taking and beautiful women. Before long the amoral Alex is leading Michael down a very slippery slope - the Svengali figure soon controlling not just his social life, but his entire persona. Unfortunately for Michael, Alex's intentions are not all good, and he finds himself trapped in a downward spiral of drugs and violence which will change his life forever...

    Rob Lowe is excellent in this movie - delivering probably his best film performance (personal videotapes aside). James Spader is perfectly cast as the socially repressed Michael, desperate to experience everything Alex has to offer. The plot is tautly written and will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. If you have not seen this movie before, I can highly recommend a rental - and if you are a fan of either the stars or the director, as this is available at a fairly low price, I would suggest you will not be disappointed with a purchase. Good solid entertainment.

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Transfer Quality


    The overall video transfer of this film is fairly good.

    The movie is presented in a 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which I suspect is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    There is some minor pixelization of backgrounds evident from time to time but in general the image quality is very good. Sharpness is perfectly satisfying throughout.

    Black levels are generally deep and solid with no significant low level noise. Shadow detail is perfectly adequate for the duration, with a fair level of detail evident at all times. Colours are clean enough but possibly a little subdued at times. Skin tones are fine throughout.

    The transfer has no major MPEG artefacts. There is some minor aliasing evident occasionally, but this is not a significant problem. Whilst mild edge enhancement does creep in once or twice, again this is never significant enough to become a distraction. There is some telecine wobble present during the film, but unless you look closely it will not be an annoyance.

    There are some quite frequent film artefacts scattered through the film, mainly noticed as brief black or white flecks which are not large enough to be distracting, but are evident nonetheless. They tend to be more noticeable against bright backdrops.

    There is an English subtitle track available, and it is clear, well timed and generally follows the dialogue closely.

    This is a single sided dual layered (RSDL) disc with the brief layer change at 63:11 well placed just as Michael leaves Alex's apartment.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is unremarkable, but perfectly serviceable.

    There is a single audio track on offer which is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 192 kbps. There are no major defects in the way of hiss or dropouts but I did find it a little quiet on occasion, and listened to it at slightly above reference volume. The dialogue is transferred cleanly and is always perfectly intelligible. I noted no significant lapses in audio sync.

    Original music is credited to Trevor Jones (Labyrinth, Notting Hill and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and it suits the mood of the film, building tension at appropriate points, without being particularly memorable.

    The front speakers see a reasonable amount of separation and the front soundstage is well used. There is some evidence of front soundstage panning - for example on the car getaway at 43:50. If you have Pro Logic II available, the surround speakers will broaden the sound environment by carrying some ambient noise (including the dialogue) - but to be honest they add little to the feel of the film. The frontal soundstage is enough for a movie which is more character than action driven.

    The subwoofer may carry some redirected bass (largely from the music) thanks to Pro Logic II processing, but again this is notional. There is little bass activity present, and certainly nothing in the way of true LFE.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are limited to a trailer.


    The main menu is a silent and static photograph of the main protagonists. It allows the options of playing the feature, activating subtitles, selecting one of sixteen chapter stops or playing the theatrical trailer.

Theatrical Trailer

    Running for 1:52 and presented 16x9 enhanced at 1.85:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track encoded at 192 kbps. It gives away far too much of the plot - so if you haven't seen the movie before, do not watch the trailer until afterwards.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release appears to be similar to our own, but also contains a 4:3 transfer of the film. Unless you particularly want the 4:3 version, the Region 4 release will suit just fine.


     Rob Lowe and James Spader deliver solid performances in this Curtis Hanson vehicle. Lowe is convincing as the amoral Alex and Spader is credible as the wide-eyed, socially repressed yuppie Michael. Bad Influence is a solid thriller that has aged relatively well and provides a good evening of entertainment.

    The video quality is fairly good.

    The audio quality is fine, but unremarkable.

    A theatrical trailer is offered as the sole extra feature.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Censored M version? or uncut? - Anonymous REPLY POSTED