Thursday, February 4, 2010

One A Week Review #6: Whispers In The Dark

The early 90s were a time when evidently everyone was in love with their shrink. Well, if the 80s was the "ME" decade, the 90s was the "Let ME gaze at my navel." The early 90s were also a ripe time for that old chestnut, the "Erotic Thriller."

One of the sub-genres of the "Erotic Thriller" genre was the "Erotic Shrink Thriller" - where a therapist gets inappropriately entwined with an incredibly horny patient, one that generally murders or gets murdered. Color of Night, Final Analysis, and this, Whispers In The Dark, were just a few of the many that escaped the straight-to-tape doldrums and made it to the big screen.

In Whispers In The Dark, Anabella Sciorra, with her very 90's short-do and shoulder pads. is the shrink with questionable boundaries in question. Her patient load includes a loopy painter played by John Leguizamo and Deborah Kara Unger, cementing her 90s cerebral sex-bomb status here (and in Crash) as a patient who's really just one big erogenous zone. I'm not saying her resemblance to Sharon Stone got her the part, but it couldn't have hurt. Really her character seems to be the Madonna Sex book in heels and a flowered dress...

Sciorra's therapist-couple pals are played here by Jill Clayburgh and Alan Alda, who's also her shrink, and she's developing an attraction to Daddy-substitute and Charles Grodin look-alike Jamey Sheridan. It's lucky her live-in (Anthony Heald) conveniently is moving out for more space right at the start of the picture, because by the twenty minute mark she's got pilot Jamey flying her friendly skies (on the first date, no less). She's also letting patient Unger get so carried away she sheds her dress and nearly self-diddles upon the fainting couch.

Before too long, Pilot, Sex-fiend, and Shrink are in a nasty love triangle until Unger's character is found dead, and it becomes a whodunnit with a very limited cast of suspects. Professional Cop Impersonator Anthony LaPaglia shows up to sniff around, but is no match for the loony horse-pucky that makes up the moving parts of any good "Erotic Thriller."... and yes, "moving parts" is a pun.

Speaking of moving, is a roaming, zooming camera supposed to symbolize "movement" or "action" during the Therapy scenes, or is the director just channeling Jess Franco? The grainy 70's grindhouse-style cinematography of Unger's flashback scenes sure seems to have a taste of the Franco. Sciorra makes for a pretty godawful shrink, and there's really no question of "Whodunnit" when you realize the casting is as predictably "stunt" as an episode of Murder, She Wrote.

This is, all in all, a fairly un-erotic mess featuring a bunch of completely unprofessional professionals. Still, as early-90s commercial films go it was... a "programmer," but not awful. I remember seeing it in the theatre and it sure seemed racy at the time. Oh, how times have changed.

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