Should I Watch..? Color Of Night
What's the big deal?
Color Of Night is an erotic thriller released in 1994 and is the final film to date directed by Richard Rush. The film stars Bruce Willis as a psychologist tracking a murderer possibly lurking in a group of patients he's treating. The film also stars Jane March, Ruben Blades, Lesley Ann Warren, Brad Dourif, Lance Henriksen and Scott Bakula. Despite its talented cast, the film was greeted with a largely hostile reception from critics and audiences agreed - the film earned less than half of the film's production budget with global takings of less than $20 million. It also earned multiple nominations at that year's Razzie ceremony, winning the "coveted" Worst Picture Of The Year award. It's no surprise to find it consigned to my Hall Of Shame either.
What's it about?
New York psychologist Bill Capa is traumatised after a patient of his commits suicide during their session by jumping through the office window. He falls into a depression and develops colour blindness upon seeing the bloody body of his patient on the street below. Seeking to start again, Capa travels to Los Angeles to meet up with fellow psychologist and friend Bob Moore who invites him to sit in on one of his group sessions, affectionately known as the Monday Night Group.
Sadly, tragedy follows Capa to California as Bob is soon attacked and murdered in his office. Lieutenant Martinez suspects that one of the Monday Night Group might be responsible and even suspects Capa himself, whom he encourages to continue seeing Bob's patients. Reluctantly taking over Bob's patients, Capa begins an affair with the enigmatic Rose to distract him from the increasing attempts on his life...
Dr Bill Capa
Lt. Hector Martinez
Lesley Ann Warren
Dr Robert "Bob" Moore
Billy Ray & Matthew Chapman *
Release Date (UK)
9th September, 1994
Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Actor (Willis), Worst Actress (March), Worst Screen Couple, Worst Supporting Actor (March), Worst Supporting Actress (Warren), Worst Direction, Worst Screenplay, Worst Original Song
What's to like?
Other than March's frequent nude scenes, there really isn't much else going on here. Color Of Night is moronic in the extreme, desperately imitating the blueprint of sexy thrillers like Basic Instinct or Body Heat but without any kind of mystery, thrill or interest. The film clumsily produces a room full of potential suspects in the finest traditions of Agatha Christie with the Monday Night Group including a suicidal widow, a sexy kleptomaniac and a permanently angry guy with a short fuse who may as well wear a jumper with a red herring on it.
It could be that the reason why this film is such a hot, steaming mess is due to a conflict between director Rush and producer Andrew Vajna. According to media reports at the time, Vajna ordered Rush to recut the picture but he refused. Vajna went ahead and recut the film himself and insisted that his version be screened for test audiences. In the end, Rush suffered a heart attack and ultimately came to a compromise - Vajna's version would be shown in cinemas while his would be released for home video. However, I suspect that whatever version of the film you happen to catch, it still won't be anything worth writing home about. It's almost a comedy in its clumsiness.
- The pool sex scene between Willis and March famously includes full-frontal nudity from both actors. However, that particular scene used a stand-in for Willis as the actor's penis was apparently deemed "too small".
- Color Of Night was the first Razzie winner to scoop Worst Picture but no other award. The movie also features in the Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made written by Golden Raspberry founder John Wilson.
- Although the film tanked at the box office, it was one of the Top 20 Video Rentals in 1995. Can't imagine why...
What's not to like?
It's almost difficult to know where to start with this catastrophic effort. The story is nonsensical with twists coming out of nowhere and yet despite this, the identity of the murderer will fool nobody. I'm not normally that great at figuring out how the killer is - the moment I verbally mention my chief suspect, they normally end up becoming the next victim in what I call the BC Effect. But even I spent much of the film wondering why the killer wasn't arrested because I assumed everyone else knew who it was.
No member of the cast acquits themselves that well. Willis looks as bored as I've ever seen him in a movie while March falls into the same exploitative trap she fell into in her debut film, The Lover, sending her career completely off the rails. It's not like there is no shortage of talent in the cast but the material is treated with the contempt it deserves by the likes of Dourif, Warren and Henriksen. At least Bakula is dispatched fairly early on, lucky for him. The film lacks any urgency or reasoning with stuff happening out of the blue and the weird 'psychosomatic colour blindness' has no bearing on the film whatsoever. It's like watching a late-night softcore TV film that bizarrely has an A-lister in the lead. It makes you feel dirty, grubby and annoyed because it wastes so much of your time.
Should I watch it?
Absolutely not. This is another shameless cash-in on the blockbusting success of better films like Basic Instinct and offers viewers next to nothing that they haven't seen already. Idiotic narrative, uninterested cast and cheesy soft-core sex scenes aren't enough for this type of film now and sadly, Color Of Night feels even more like a throwback to illicit VHS tapes found hidden under your brother's bed.
Great For: perverts without the internet
Not So Great For: Bruce Willis' career, spelling Nazis (it's COLOUR!), date nights, cinema in general
What else should I watch?
Erotic thrillers normally receive the same amount of enthusiasm that greets a new "sports drama" or Armie Hammer picture. It's no surprise, given the flaccid films that prop the genre up - from the endlessly imitated Basic Instinct to the Madonna-vehicle Body Of Evidence. Other examples that are probably not worth your time include the notoriously awful Showgirls, the utterly forgettable Striptease and the plodding detective story In The Cut which was so slow, my hair grew down in front of my face.
However, there are films that manage to turn sex into a story-telling device instead of cheap titillation for the dirty mac brigade. Monster's Ball is a powerful drama featuring an Oscar-winning turn from Halle Berry playing a waitress who falls for Billy Bob Thornton's racist prison guard. Also worth a look is period drama The Reader which sees Kate Winslet seduce a young man in post-war German, only for him to rediscover her years later at her trial for war crimes. Both films avoid making the nudity exploitative and as a result, the movies contain actual chemistry between the cast which helps to drive the narrative. The best Color Of Night could hope for are a few suckers who will watch anything with boobs in it.
© 2017 Benjamin Cox