Fatal Attraction

(1987) ** 1/2 R
121 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Adrian Lyne. Cast: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer, Fred Gwynne, Ellen Hamilton Latzen.

/content/films/3437/1.jpgWhat to say about Fatal Attraction? The infamous potboiler (literally) captured the zeitgeist in 1987: a smash hit, it was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Adrian Lyne), Best Actress (Glenn Close), Best Supporting Actress (Anne Archer), and Best Original Screenplay (James Dearden—Nicholas Meyer's polish went uncredited). And the title has proved perennially popular for Paramount on home video. Still, the film's very success has proved something of a double-edged sword: since the film was so widely seen, it was scrutinized by culture watchers as anti-feminist.

The story concerns lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas, the quintessential flawed Everyman), a family man who has a weekend affair with sexually voracious book editor Alex Forrest (Close) while his wife Beth (Archer) and five-year-old daughter are out of town. Though, as Dan puts it, they're both "discreet" and "two adults"—and they bond over a shared love of the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly—things unravel quickly as soon as Dan tries to walk away from the needy Alex. Feeling she deserves more from Dan, Alex begins to act out in threateningly self-destructive and destructive ways to keep her object of obsession on a short leash. Alex delivers the film's signature line of dialogue: "I'm not going to be ignored, Dan." Before it's all over, Dan will have learned several times over that "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

A contingent of vocal feminists raised concerns that the film finds a traditional stay-at-home mother heroically fighting to restore order by eliminating a threatening, neurotic single career woman whose power is in her derangement. Of course, Fatal Attraction shouldn't be made to pay for all of Hollywood's sins, including numerous Fatal Attraction knock-offs: Lyne's film is a single and plausible story about a particular group of characters. That said, stalkers are 87% male (according to a U.S. Dept. of Justice survey), a figure that suggests the film might have been more socially useful with a gender swap. Okay, it's only entertainment, but the film is a canny button-pusher for women (that guy deserves it, not only for infidelity, but for not staying the night!) and men (in the era of AIDS, sex with strange is fatally dangerous!).

Taken as an erotic thriller, the film's moderate artistic success rests on Lyne's unsettling soft-lit style and the resonant leading performances by Douglas, Archer, and Close, who brilliantly does all the work the screenplay doesn't in making Alex a psychologically credible human animal. Also worth noting: Fatal Attraction has one of the most famous scrapped endings in Hollywood history. The original ending, which is artistically preferable (and available as a bonus on the various home video issues), creepily capitalizes on the Madame Butterfly allusion. But preview audiences made no bones about it: they wanted a face-to-face showdown between Alex and the Gallagher family, and studio bosses insisted that Lyne and a resistant but dutiful Close comply.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 6/9/2009

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

Aside from some rare instances of dirt, Fatal Attraction looks great in its Blu-ray premiere. The transfer retains Lyne's original visual scheme, which has a soft and dim aspect, but also provides excellent detail, far more than the film has ever sported on home video. The film looks its age and contrast and color may not be 100% spot-on, but it's hard to imagine the film's fans being disappointed with this treatment. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix isn't very dynamic, and in its sharpest moments can even peak into just a bit of distortion, but on the whole, it's a clear rendering with the emphasis where it belongs: on the dialogue.

All of the DVD bonus features return, with a couple of HD boosts. There's a commentary by director Adrian Lyne, who regales us with the film's intriguing history and explanations of his own stylistic approach and the work of the actors.

The retrospective doc "Forever Fatal: Remembering Fatal Attraction" (28:16, SD) gathers producers Stanley R. Jaffe and Sherry Lansing, Michael Douglas, Anne Archer, Glenn Close, screenwriter Nicholas Meyer, and Lyne to tell anecdotes about the film's development, production and reception.

The welcome featurette "Social Attraction" (10:00, SD) hesistantly deconstructs the film from varied sociopolitical perspectives. Participants include Jaffe, CSU, LA Media Psychology Professor Stuart Fischoff, Lansing, New York Daily News film critic Jami Bernard, Douglas, Close, Archer, Lyne, and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Willard Gaylin.

"Visual Attraction" (19:39, SD) delves into the design elements of the film with costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, make-up artist Richard Dean, cinematographer Howard Atherton, production designer Mel Bourne, Lyne, and Jaffe.

"Rehearsal Footage" (7:09, SD) with Close and Douglas, and secondly with Archer, comes with an introduction by Lyne.

Most welcome—and presented in HD for the first time—is the film's "Alternate Ending" (11:51, HD) with "Introduction by Director Adrian Lyne" (:16, SD).

Last up is the film's "Original Theatrical Trailer" (1:34, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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