The Last Seduction (1993)
Trailer-Shallow Grave; Cinema Paradiso; My Beautiful Laundrette
Trailer-Keep The River On Your Right
|Year Of Production||1993|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||John Dahl|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Auto Pan & Scan Encoded||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Unknown||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The story revolves around the wily, diabolical and sexy Bridget Gregory (Fiorentino), a "self-serving b****" who is not content living in a small New York apartment with her pathetic husband doctor Clay (Bill Pullman). So, after convincing Clay to enter a risky $700,000 cocaine deal in order to get some money to pay off a loan shark, she decides to take the money herself and flee to Chicago. Stopping on the way at a small hick town in Buffalo, she meets up with young naive country boy Swale (Peter Berg) in a bar. On the advice of an unscrupulous lawyer friend, Bridget then decides that, whilst far from her ideal town (the people are too friendly for starters!), this little backwater may indeed be just the place to lay low for a while. She manages to settle into the town relatively inconspicuously, taking a job and having lots of fun concocting a fake identity and fake past. She shamelessly adopts Swale as her designated sex-toy, using and leading him on by playing on his insecurities and ambitions.
Clay meanwhile has hired a tough New York private investigator, Harlan (Bill Nunn) to track Bridget down. This he does, however Bridget manages to thwart firstly him and then the local-yokel private investigator next assigned to tag her. Needing to get rid of Clay once and for all, but of course not wanting to do any of the dirty work herself, Bridget finally connives a clever scheme to convince the naive Swale to commit the murder for her. The rest you should see for yourself.
This movie is purely and simply a vehicle to showcase Linda Fiorentino's talents. And she relishes in this role. Some critics have favourably compared this performance to the famous femme fatales of the past, including Bette Davis, Lana Turner and Barbara Stanwyck. I don't know whether I'd go that far, but there's no denying that Linda Fiorentino positively shines and definitely takes film noire to a new level. I certainly can't recall any other past leading ladies in this genre being quite so diabolically unscrupulous, manipulating and yet still not alienating the audience. It's a real pity that this performance wasn't allowed to be nominated in the 1993 Academy Awards - due to the technicality of the film being released in the US on cable before its theatrical release. It's also a pity that Fiorentino didn't go on to bigger and better things, but there's no denying her acting talent and zest for this genre.
Apart from the talents and pure sex appeal of Fiorentino, analysing what makes The Last Seduction successful leads me to conclude that it works because of three factors. First and most important, the other male characters around Bridget are all believable enough. They don't instantly fall into her web or blindly accept her behaviour, particularly the character of Swale, which is well developed. Secondly, this movie contains a very strong script by Steve Barancik. Bridget's dialogue is always acerbic yet economical, and much of the believability of the characters around her lies in their believable reactions and dialogue. Thirdly and most importantly, whilst the characters are believable enough to make the story superficially plausible, this is certainly not a movie that takes itself too seriously with either plot points or character development. It is skilfully and unobtrusively directed by John Dahl, giving the central characters plenty of room to breathe.
The transfer is clean and crisp from start to finish. It may not be reference quality, but considering the age and budget of this film, it is a remarkably good watch.
Luminance is better than might be expected for an independent distributor DVD release. All scenes are clear and resolution sharp, with an acceptable level of detail across both foreground and background. The transfer is not grainy, and so shadow detail is fine and low level noise is not a problem, even with the darker background or night-time shots.
Chrominance is also well-balanced. The movie utilises a basic colour palette, with strong blacks and whites in Linda's costumes and fairly muted colours elsewhere throughout, to convey the dreariness of the country Buffalo town and the seedy New York streets. Despite the deliberate drab look and feel, all colours are well-balanced and the odd brighter outdoor scenes are contrasted to very good effect. Skin tones are all fine.
I was most impressed with the quality of the film-to-video transfer, as there are no annoying MPEG artefacts. Aliasing is only very minor on my monitor and when it does occur it is neither material nor distracting.
Neither are there are any real film artefacts to speak of, apart from a very occasional (and insignificant) film fleck. I'm not sure where this DVD was sourced from, but it is a surprisingly good print for its age.
A quick comment on subtitles: note that there aren't any, despite the cover indicating that the DVD includes English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles. Note also that this disc is single-layered, so there is no layer transition to note.
The audio transfer is listed as English Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened with Dolby ProLogic decoding turned on, however the mix is effectively just stereo, as the surround channel use is limited to only some very minor ambient noise and doesn't add anything at all. On the positive side though, the stereo mix on offer is quite clear and crisp. There is good stereo separation and some left-to-right panning of sound effects, but this is a largely a dialogue-driven movie; it probably wouldn't have benefited much from a full surround mix anyway.
There are no sound pops or drop-outs, and no hiss or other detracting features of the audio track. Dialogue quality is clear throughout and I did not have any trouble picking up any lines at all. Audio sync is also spot on.
The music score in this film is by Joseph Vitarelli, and quite superb it is too. The score consists of a very catchy jazzy-blues theme, used effectively in refrain throughout the movie, and a slower blues piece which is more subtle but just as catchy. You might find yourself subconsciously humming the main jazz theme for a few days after watching this DVD!...
Unfortunately, there is very minimal use of subwoofer in this audio transfer. Whilst it's not an action movie, there are some scenes which definitely would have benefited from greater bottom-end effects, like for example the car crash at 60:15 which sounds quite flat.
|Surround Channel Use|
The only other "extras" to note are some trailers for other Umbrella Entertainment DVD releases. All are of passing interest only and are of varying degrees of quality, none up to the standard of the main theatrical trailer.
For the record, the main menu on this disc is also presented in 1.78:1 (a big tick here for not giving us 1.33:1 - a pet hate of mine) but with no audio.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using Component output|
|Display||Toshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Yamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.|
|Amplification||Elektra Home Theatre surround power amp|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears|