Release Date(s)1987 (April 21, 2020)
Studio(s)Jaffe/Lansing Productions/Paramount Pictures (Paramount Presents #1)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
Fatal Attraction, a 1987 dramatic thriller that made a ton of money when originally released, cast Glenn Close against type as a clinging, obsessive woman. Part of the new Paramount Presents series, it is a landmark film that has inspired many imitations and established a template of the domestic drama with horrific overtones.
Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas, Wall Street) is a successful New York copyright lawyer with a wife, Beth (Anne Archer, Patriot Games), and a young daughter, Ellen (Ellen Latzen). At a crowded cocktail party to launch a new book, Dan meets Alex Forrest (Glenn Close, The Wife), a cool, attractive, self-assured editor. They encounter each other again at a business meeting while his family is away. Caught in a downpour after the meeting, they seek shelter in a restaurant to have a drink. This leads to a lengthy dinner, and a mutual attraction develops. They go back to Alex’s apartment and engage in sex—lots of it. A second evening together turns ugly when Dan, feeling guilty and realizing his mistake, tries gently to end their trysts and Alex slits her wrists.
Alex soon turns up at his office, telephones him at home, and becomes more and more demanding of his attention, issuing the film’s most famous line, “I will not be ignored.” She tells Dan she’s pregnant with his child, insinuating herself even further into his life, threatening to tell Beth about their affair, and stalking the family even after they move outside the city.
Fatal Attraction was unique in that it switched the typical male/female roles. Alex is the aggressor, Dan the object of desire. The cast is excellent. Close does a fantastic job as the driven stalker intent on winning Dan for herself no matter the cost. Archer plays the wife as the ideal life partner, loyal and loving. Douglas brings a leading-man quality to the role that elicits sympathy for his character even though he’s cheated on his wife.
Director Adrian Lyne (Flashdance) and screenwriter James Dearden (A Kiss Before Dying) develop the story gradually, so that we see how Alex takes advantage of Dan’s family’s being out of town to seduce him. Clearly, Dan doesn’t resist too strongly, which complicates the situation. Alex sees their night together one way, Dan quite another, and therein lies the film’s conflict. The simulated sex scenes are rough and passionate, and the violent scenes are intense. We feel Dan’s frustration and fear as his life is turned into turmoil and his family life threatened. The Hitchcockian build-up of suspense in key scenes is handled adroitly. Howard Atherton’s cinematography is, by turns, lushly romantic, ominous, or evocative.
The new Blu-ray release from Paramount Presents, remastered in 4K from the original film elements, features 1080p resolution and is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The grainy quality evident in previous releases has been smoothed. Many of the scenes are lit softly, particularly in Alex’s apartment during the day. She’s wearing white, the walls are white, the curtains are white. With the sun pouring in, Alex almost glows. The color palette in the Gallagher home and a book publisher’s office tends toward warmer colors. Alex’s white suit in a business meeting stands out. In the cocktail party scene, the men wear dark suits and the women wear multi-colored dresses. Outside Alex’s apartment building in Manhattan’s meat packing district, seen only at night, long shadows are cast on the brick walls by people standing near fires burning in oil drums. The bathroom scene as Beth gets ready to take a soothing bath near the end of the film is filled with rising steam that creates an atmospheric haze.
The soundtrack is English 5.1 Dolby True HD. There are also optional French 2.0 Dolby Digital and English Descriptive Audio tracks. Optional subtitles include English (for the hearing impaired), English (with commentary and subtitles), and French. Dialogue is clear and distinct throughout, even though some of Glenn Close’s lines are spoken very softly in the restaurant scene. Key sound effects, used for dramatic effect, include a bathtub overflowing, a whistling tea kettle, sounds of rough sex, and objects falling, glass breaking, and bodies falling and writhing during a fight sequence. A recording of Madame Butterfly plays in one scene to underscore the tragic nature of the story. The score by Maurice Jarre is restrained and avoids the heavy scare chords typical of horror movies.
Bonus materials include a director’s audio commentary, an alternate ending, rehearsal footage, the new featurette Filmmaker Focus: Director Adrian Lyne on Fatal Attraction, and the theatrical trailer. The slipcover features fold-out artwork of the original theatrical poster, while the inner packaging features stills from the film and a quote from Adrian Lyne. Not carried over from the previous Blu-ray release of the film are the featurettes Forever Fatal: Remembering Fatal Attraction, Social Attraction, and Visual Attraction.
Audio Commentary – Director Adrian Lyne describes the design of the Gallaghers’ home. He wanted it to look comfortable and lived in, so it’s a bit messy. He was not initially pleased with Glenn Close’s hairstyle. Close was eager to do the film and her audition was terrific. The scene of Dan getting a bit of cream cheese on his nose during a meeting took 18 takes to get the cream cheese just right. This is the moment when Dan and Alex share a glance and make a connection. Lyne believes comedy is important in a love scene because viewers tend to be embarrassed, so it’s wise to give them something to laugh at, such as Dan having difficulty shedding his pants as he carries Alex into the bedroom. Over the years, it’s the love scenes—which are brief—that people have remembered the most. Alex’s apartment was set in Manhattan’s meat packing district. Lyne likes layered scenes. The moment in which Beth asks Dan to take a look at the house that she likes, Ellen is doing card tricks with Dan. This makes an expository scene more interesting. The scene in which Alex visits Beth at the Gallagher home was difficult to block, as was a scene in the attic, when Dan listens to the tape. Douglas “shouted himself hoarse” off-screen feeding lines to Close. Lyne speaks briefly about camera lenses that can suggest different points of view. The director didn’t like the original ending because “it was too pat.” He discusses how far you can manipulate the audience to build suspense. The original ending seemed anti-climactic; in the last ten minutes, he felt the film fell apart. The final portrait of the happy, smiling Gallagher family is ironic.
Filmmaker Focus: Adrian Lyne on Fatal Attraction – In this new featurette, the director reminisces about his favorite scenes and moments. Among the scenes discussed are the sex scene over the kitchen sink and Dan attacking Alex. For the latter, the scene was carefully choreographed and a stunt man was used for a part of the sequence. Lyne likes layered scenes with an undercurrent of something else happening. He loved the script when he first read it and was eager to direct the film.
Rehearsal Footage – Three rehearsal scenes, shot on video, are included: Dan and Alex in the restaurant; the confrontation between Dan and Alex in her apartment; and Dan telling Beth about the affair.
Alternate Ending – Introduced by Adrian Lyne, the original ending is slower-paced than the one in the final film, lacking the high energy of the theatrical version. It was in the original screenplay, but Lyne decided the last ten minutes was anti-climactic and hurt the film as a whole.
– Dennis Seuling