“One night stands can be murder.”
That’s the tagline for 1987’s Fatal Attraction. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both Fatal Attraction and the later Indecent Proposal were both directed by Adrian Lyne. Both were quite controversial upon their release. Both dealt in a kind of “what if” scenario that got people talking around their water coolers and watering hole gatherings. While the latter was pretty much a morality or ethics drama, the former was a gut wrenching morality tale with a Grimm’s Fairy Tale twist. Even if you’ve never seen the film you’ve at least heard of the “Bunny Boiler”, a term that’s entered the pop culture lexicon describing a woman who is likely to go psycho on you. The film was almost never made.
Dan Gallagher (Douglas) is an attorney working for a publishing company. He’s married to Beth (Archer) and they have a young daughter. He appears to live a rather idyllic life. Enter Alex Forrest (Close) who works for the publishing company. They meet at a party and later at a business meeting. Upon their second encounter, Beth is away looking at a suburban home and staying with her parents. When the cat’s away… or so they say. The two end up sharing a rather torrid weekend together. When the weekend is about to end and Dan is ready to return to his storybook life and family, he begins to discover that Alex isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly. She slits her wrists as he’s about to leave. From this point on, Dan knows he’s going to pay big for this mistake. Alex continues to stalk him, announcing that she’s pregnant and will not be ignored. The episodes escalate before Alex becomes a danger to Dan and his entire family. He’s forced to come clean with his wife, but that’s not going to be the end of it for any of them.
The film was actually a short movie by James Dearden called Diversion. It was a short UK thriller. Dearden wrote most of the screenplay for this American remake which was changed to the current Fatal Attraction. Every major studio considered it to be unmarketable and passed at one time or another. Even with the attachment of Michael Douglas it was a very hard sell. Little did anyone know that it would not only become successful, but an iconic image for our culture going forward.
Listen to any number of interviews, including those included on this release, and you’ll discover there was a lot of resistance toward casting Glenn Close in the role of Alex. She was persistent and apparently won over at least the decision makers in the project. Her physical appearance is just not right for this kind of a film. She looks almost as much like a guy in drag as anything else, so it’s a bit hard to believe that Dan would risk his much more attractive wife to have such a physical relationship with this woman. What Close lacked in looks, she certainly made up for in her acting skills. Perhaps a more attractive actress couldn’t have pulled off the more demanding psychological aspects of the role. We’ll never know, but it was certainly her performance that ingrained the film and the character in our minds. Anne Archer does a wonderful job as the victimized wife here, and Michael Douglas is his usual strong self throughout. The film doesn’t pull any punches, however. The sexual scenes are quite over the top. I guess the level of passion might be necessary to ignite the equally passionate insanity Alex displays for the rest of the film. In whatever it does, the film keeps up a level of intensity that, quite honestly, can become fatiguing before it’s over. Unlike Indecent Proposal, this movie doesn’t appear quite as dated. Perhaps because it has become so ingrained in our collective experience that it has become all too familiar, but hasn’t appeared to age at all.
Fatal Attraction is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. There’s nothing stunning or stylistic about this image. It works in a very realistic sense. Colors are completely natural. Lighting’s not always perfect, but it only makes the film appear all the more true to life. You get plenty of sharpness in this high definition transfer. Black levels are solid. There are plenty of print blemishes here, so don’t expect a restoration look at all. There’s appropriate grain and it doesn’t look like the techies monkeyed with it very much, so I suspect it’s pretty darn close to the theatrical experience.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Audio track does a terrific job as well. Again the word is natural realism. You get just enough dynamics to fill your theater with sound, but the mix never overdoes it or calls attention to itself. Dialog is clear, and that’s what drives the film.
All but the Original Ending are in standard definition. All of the extras are ports from the DVD release.
Forever Fatal – Remembering Fatal Attraction: (28:16) Cast and crew look back on the film and talk about the evolution from British short to American blockbuster. The studio shopping is addressed. Apparently all of the studios and 26 A list directors turned the project down. There’s also talk about why the ending was changed after the first test screenings.
Social Attraction: (10:00) Here we look at the impact on our culture of the film.
Visual Attraction: (19:39) This is more of the behind the scenes production feature.
Rehearsal Footage: (7:09) This piece contains some work between Douglas and Close preparing certain scenes.
Original Ending: (11:51) Most of you already know that the film originally ended with Alex killing herself and framing Dan for her murder. This is the ending as originally shot and shown to text audiences. There’s a short intro by Adrian Lyne. It’s the only feature in HD.
This is one of those films that everyone should see at some point, just to be part of the collective experience. It’s still not a bad film and certainly holds up, due in no small part to the performances. Still, it’s been imitated now so often, and often badly, that there’s no real shock to any of this anymore. I’m afraid it’s completely impossible to capture the atmosphere of 1987 and view the picture as it would have been seen then. Still it’s a good enough film to have in your library, but it doesn’t necessarily cry out for Blu-ray and high definition. If you already have it, I’m not sure it’s going to be a big enough upgrade to buy this one. Some new extras wouldn’t have hurt in that department. Paramount is treating it simply as a catalog title, and you know what that means, don’t you? “This is not gonna stop. It keeps going on and on.”