The Last Seduction (1993)

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Released 9-May-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Shallow Grave; Cinema Paradiso; My Beautiful Laundrette
Trailer-Keep The River On Your Right
DVD Credits
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 105:28
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Dahl
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Linda Fiorentino
Peter Berg
Bill Pullman
Case Click
RPI $28.95 Music Joseph Vitarelli


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    I first saw The Last Seduction back in 1994, not long after its original release on video. I liked the black style of this film and particularly the talents of its leading lady, Linda Fiorentino, as the ultimate femme fatale. When the opportunity came up to review this DVD, I was keen to watch the movie again to see whether it still holds up or whether on revisiting it many years later it may have dated in the cold hard light of day. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. This movie is still very impacting and holds up as a very entertaining, suspenseful black comedy.

    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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We are presented with a surprisingly good quality video transfer here from The AV Channel. I say "surprisingly", because judging by the cover you would not expect a high-quality DVD. The transfer is in fact a very clean, 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced effort.

    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.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer accompanying the vision is also strong. The only possible complaint is that it is not a 5.1 mix; however as this would appear to be the original theatrical audio transfer, the absence of a 5.1 mix is understandable due to the movie's age (it was released in 1993) and budget.

    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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The only real extra is a theatrical trailer, which runs for 1'36". It is only presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, however it does contain a video and audio transfer of similarly high quality to the main feature. (The audio is also 2-channel stereo.)  Certainly a lot better quality transfer than can be said to grace most other movie trailers of this vintage.

    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.

R4 vs R1

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

        This DVD is coded for all regions. The movie does not appear to be available separately in Region 1 yet. It is available in Region 2 in what would appear to be an identical release.

Summary

    The Last Seduction still holds up very well for me. It is a showcase film noire which doesn't seem to have dated. Well directed, with strong acting performances and a sharp screenplay, this movie delivers as a very entertaining and suspenseful black comedy. Above all, it is a vehicle for Linda Fiorentino, who shines as the intelligent, self-serving, sexy femme fatale, unscrupulously manipulating everyone around her and having a lot of fun doing it!  An above-average quality video and audio transfer add to the enjoyment of this release, albeit with the only extra being a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Sunday, June 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Tony L

Comments (Add)
The Last Seduction in R1 - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)