The One and Only Crimes of Passion (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

In the audio commentary, Ken Russell says he thinks this is likely Kathleen Turner's best movie, certainly screenwriter Barry Sandler's best movie, and probably his own.  I think that's completely crazy, but there's no denying that Crimes of Passion is a far out and exotic movie.  It's one you'll definitely want to watch all the way to the end.  It's got some great qualities and plenty of exoticism, but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say it's a particularly good movie.
We're presented with a bit of a strange love square here.  Turner is an upper class New Yorker leading a double-life as a seedy prostitute.  She's got plenty of johns in her life, but Anthony Perkins stands out as a preacher/ maniac who has a twisted obsession with saving her, forcing her to kill him, and just generally whacking out on amyl nitrite.  On the other hand, you've got straight edge, suburban John Laughlin, who's trapped in an unhappy marriage with Annie Potts (Ghostbusters, Designing Women), the bitter but very jealous mother of his two children.  Of course, everybody's paths wind up crossing, and over-sexed melodrama ensues.
So much of this film takes place in a single room/ set, that it feels like we're watching a play, consisting of silly, plotless vignettes about a prostitute's day job.  Colored lights shine and crazy synth music plays as Turner switches from one crazy costume, wig and accent to another.  Then Perkins turns up for a bit to Psycho things up, and then we take a break for a very earnest dialogue about modern marriage with Laughlin and Potts with all of the mature insight of a high school dramatist.  Every so often, there's a quick bit of story, and the whole movie takes a coffee break when Annie Potts sits down to watch MTV and we see an entire music video from beginning to end.  This movie is full of porn, nudity, Halloween costumes and dialogue like "I never forget a face, especially when I've sat on it."  I think Russell just likes this film the best because he was free to be the most self-indulgent he'd ever been this side of Fall Of the Louse of Usher.  Russell fans will be pleased to get Russell in spades; and if you're looking for outrageous, you won't be disappointed, even all these decades later.
Anchor Bay first released Crimes of Passion as a non-anamorphic, barebones DVD back in 1998.  But thankfully they reissued it in 2002 as an anamorphic special edition with additional scenes restoring it to its unrated director's cut.  And that was the definitive release for the DVD era.  But now in the days of blu, Arrow has come along with a new DVD/ blu-ray combo pack, which offers us both cuts Anchor Bay had previously released, now in HD with a brand new 2k scan.
2002 Anchor Bay DVD top; 2016 Arrow DVD mid; 2016 Arrow blu-ray bottom.
What I like about getting concurrent DVD and blu-ray releases against an older DVD is that it lets you see how much of the improved picture is courtesy of the new transfer being put on the disc, and how much is from the jump from SD to HD.  Interestingly, the license plate is actually a bit clearer on the old DVD than the new one, though obviously the blu is clearest of all.  But no, I certainly wouldn't make a case that the Anchor Bay DVD is superior to Arrow's.  The colors are so much dimmer and flatter; by comparison, the old DVD looks like you're watching it through grey gauze.  And Arrow's transfer, while still 1.85:1, pulls out to reveal more picture on all four sides (though it varies shot to shot; in some the sides are about equal).  Grain is also too small to be resolved on the old disc, but quite clear and obvious on the new blu.

Audio wise, all three discs just offer the original mono track, which is all I'd want anyway, though of course only the blu has uncompressed LPCM.  All three also include English HoH subtitles. 
And like I said, Anchor Bay's 2002 reissue was a special edition, so it's got some great extras.  First of all, there's another entertaining Ken Russell commentary.  He's joined by screenwriter Sandler, and they're definitely having fun with this film.  Besides that, there's about 20 minutes of deleted scenes.  Yes, even the 2-hour expanded director's cut still has additional scenes, all of which expand on the themes found in the feature, though most of them probably would've made the film worse if left in.  The deleted scenes also have audio commentary with Sandler (but not Ken).  Then there's the trailer and an insert with the same artwork Arrow used for their reversible cover.

Thankfully, Arrow included all of Anchor Bay's extras onto their set, otherwise we'd all have to hang onto our DVDs, because those features were essential.  They've also added new, on-camera interviews with Sandler and composer Rick Wakeman, as well as a fullscreen version of the music video that played in the film.  As I already mentioned, Arrow's blu has reversible artwork and a nice booklet with notes by Paul Sutton and archival interviews with Russell and Turner.  It's not a lot of new stuff; most of the important features are from the DVD.  But hey, a little more is still more.
So do I recommend this one?  Hmm.  If you've never seen this film, you should probably rent it before purchasing.  It's a film to see once, but maybe not to revisit again and again.  If you're a fan, though, and already have the DVD, well, I still might be tempted to prioritize the HD bump pretty low compared to other titles.  But it's certainly a clear upgrade and the best, definitive version.  The colors really pop now, which is important for this particular film.  It just depends how you feel about the film; and you'll need to see it for yourself to work that out.

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