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Reviews

The Seduction (1981)

Emma Simmonds

The Seduction hauls its tired story from opening sequence to conclusion in the manner of the diabolical Derek dragging an adversary’s bloody corpse from Jacuzzi to grave.


The Seduction

Director: David Schmoeller
Cast: Morgan Fairchild, Michael Sarrazin, Vince Edwards, Andrew Stevens, Colleen Camp, Kevin Brophy
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
Studio: Avco Embassy Pictures
First date: 1981
US DVD Release Date: 2006-11-07

In the accompanying featurette, Remembering The Seduction, actress Colleen Camp recalls a sequence where her character Robin, growing increasingly frustrated with a director’s creative vision for the commercial she is starring in, delivers the riposte "Art Fart". Unsure at how best to express the line, it was eventually suggested that she spit it back in a "Fuck You" manner. Hearing the anecdote, it is striking how this piece of dialogue and its eventual delivery epitomise the filmmaker's approach. With a disregard for taste, audience interest, or logic, The Seduction hauls its tired story from opening sequence to conclusion in the manner of the diabolical Derek dragging an adversary’s bloody corpse from Jacuzzi to grave.

To its credit, the film establishes a formula and then adheres rigidly to it. The flimsy plot concerns a successful news anchorwoman, Jamie Douglas (Morgan Fairchild) who, through her celebrity, has inadvertently attracted the attention of handsome Peeping-Tom, Derek (Andrew Stevens). That Derek will prove to be more than a mere irritation and that Jamie will eventually abandon her liberal dignity to enact revenge is alluded to in the film’s tagline: "Now she’s fighting back with the only weapon she has…herself", though eagle-eyed viewers may note the absence of her pump-action shotgun in that sentence.

As Derek, erotic-thriller veteran Andrew Stevens never gives the impression he is anything other than a Bedlamite. The film has some politically-incorrect fun with the absence of effective anti-stalking deterrents in the early '80s (a matter that’s addressed in a token featurette entitled The Seduction and the Law) and Derek, untrammelled by the need for stealth, gets to overtly hang out of a car window taking snaps before smugly applying his enormous mirrored aviators and speeding off with all the subtlety and charm of a budget David Hasselhoff. Sequence after rum sequence haemorrhages tension in this way. What should be creepy is rendered daft. Hiding in Jamie’s closet (see The Spiral Staircase for a terrifying example of how this should be done), Derek’s masturbator-eyes twitch feverishly as he watches Jamie turn bathing from simple ablution into a burlesque routine; excited by her unconventional washing technique, he begins to sweat profusely and mimic her action. Which is as rubbish as it sounds.

Interestingly, Jamie’s partner Brandon (Michael Sarrazin), the bug-eyed hero, matches Derek for appearing constantly unhinged and for bonus eccentricity -- he springs up to further terrify the heroine in several bungling attempts at protection. To be fair, though, during one of these surprise entrances he finds her trying to poke the intruder away with a cushion and is thus able to helpfully demonstrate some reasonable self-defence.

As our protagonist Jamie, Morgan Fairchild moves seamlessly from swimming pool to sauna, to bath to Jacuzzi (lest she dry out?), with an emphasis on heavy makeup and frequent nudity. As an actress, she runs the gamut of emotion from mild fear to mild annoyance presumably with the intention of generating some mild interest in her plight. The trashy finale should be her moment of glory but it unfortunately comprises of an ill-advised ruse to lure Derek into a trap using her seductress charms; what she lacks in cunning is made up only in hair and by the time Jamie has recognised her failings as a tactician, a hair-based strategy is out of the question.

Although unintentional humour redeems it on occasion, The Seduction is largely just dull. Its 104 minutes pass very slowly. The extras might be considered good value for those who enjoy the film; for reasons I may have missed. These comprise of three featurettes (bog-standard reminiscing), a selection of trailers, and a commentary from two producers and the director David Schmoeller (largely just an exercise in pretending that the film isn’t shit). Snippets of interest can be found throughout these bonus features. For example, there’s a little insight into the method of financing this kind of film in 1981 (basically cheques were thrown into the middle of a table); original casting decisions are talked through, including Teresa Russell as Jamie and Michael Keaton as Derek (better film); and Rita Moreno’s house is revealed as one of the movie’s locations. During the film’s commentary, attention is drawn to the scene where Morgan Fairchild unconvincingly handles a, clearly empty, box of chocolates. Her inability to imagine that she is holding a full box causes considerable chagrin to the film’s producers; seemingly missing the irony relating to their own cack-handed efforts.

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