Color, 1982, 104 mins. 5 secs.
Directed by David Schmoeller
Starring Morgan Fairchild, Andrew Stevens, Michael Sarrazin, Vince Edwards, Colleen Camp, Kevin Brophy
Scream Factory (Blu-ray) (US RA HD), Anchor Bay (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Tucked The Seductionin between his horror cult classic Tourist Trap The Seductionand ultra-sleazy Klaus Kinski vehicle Crawlspace, director David Schmoeller made his biggest mainstream bid in 1982 with The Seduction, a glossy, early erotic thriller that incurred the wrath of reviewers everywhere for its pulpy attitude and the nerve to try to make a movie star out of TV actress Morgan Fairchild, who was starring in the soapy series Flamingo Road at the time. Irritation at the time for lurid thrillers like this, The Fan, Lipstick, Windows, and Cruising may have resulted in lackluster box office and a few Razzie nominations, but these films all had the last laugh as they've remained far more entertaining and compulsively rewatchable than many straightforward dramas from the period.

Beautiful, elegant Jamie Douglas (Fairchild) seems to have it all: a successful boyfriend, Brandon (The Reincarnation of Peter Proud's Sarrazin); a very public career on the local news, like just about every other female lead in the early '80s; and a big swimming pool that's perfect for long skinny-dipping sessions every night. Unfortunately she also has a stalker, Derek (The Fury's Stevens), a professional photographer who repeatedly tries to call her at work, sends her flowers, and snaps photos of her most intimate moments. At first Jamie confides about the problem with best friend Robin (Camp) and Brandon, but as the compulsive behavior escalates, help is ultimately sought from the LAPD in the form of an officer (The Police Connection's Edwards) who suggests getting a gun as a remedy for the tidal wave of crime that's rising around them. Jamie also starts to become concerned that Brandon might be tied to the string of serial killings called the Sweetheart Murders she's been reporting, and when it comes down to it, she must rely on her own wits to deal with her psychotic admirer.

The SeductionGlossy trash at its core and completely unapologetic about it, The Seduction is beautifully shot by exploitation vet Mac The SeductionAhlberg (Re-Animator, Hell Night) and clearly designed as a showcase for Fairchild, who never looks less than impeccable. The erotic angle of the film is very tame by the standards of what would follow in the '90s (with Stevens becoming the king of the straight-to-video subgenre), but it's also far more lavishly mounted than most of its peers and deliriously fun if you know what you're getting. Not quite a slasher and not quite a sexy suspense film, this is a tough one to pigeonhole as it tries to take a stand about pressing social issues while featuring Fairchild pleasuring herself in a bathtub and toting around a shotgun. Of course, that's also why it's so fun to watch today. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the film might be the choice of composer, Lalo Schifrin, stepping in for Schmoeller's usual choice of composer at the time, Pino Donaggio (who probably would've been a more appropriate and effective choice here). Schifrin was still riding high at the time and fairly fresh off his work on The Amityville Horror, though his work here (including a theme song sung by Dionne Warwick!) isn't as committed and hasn't received a soundtrack release in any format.

After its initial run on VHS and laserdisc from Embassy and Media, The Seduction appeared on DVD in 2005 from Anchor Bay in a special edition that retained the film's original Panavision scope dimensions for the first time for home viewing. It also came with an enthusiastic audio commentary by Schmoeller (who went on to kick off the Puppet Master series) and producers Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis. Together they chat about the novelty of celebrity stalking at the time, the recruiting of cinematographer Mac Ahlberg ("He was doing soft pornos in Holland"), the film's awful original title (The Romance), the story behind the sullen kid Stevens tries to photograph (and we never do find out if he smiles), and a few goofs along the way like claiming Schifrin won an Oscar for Cool Hand Luke. "Remembering The Seduction" (10m49s) with Schmoeller, Yablans, Kevin Brophy, Colleen Camp, and associate producer Tom Curtis covers the film's production from a more general angle as it emerged after the same production team's Hell Night, while "The Seduction and The Law" (7m53s) features Curtis offering a The Seductiondiscussion with Schmoeller and LAPD Detective Martha Defoe about the problem and evolution of stalking. Finally, "Remembering the Locations and Production" (11m11s) looks back at the location scouting and the discovery of the central house. The SeductionThe theatrical trailer is also included.

In 2019, Scream Factory brought the film back into circulation after many years of unavailability with a new Blu-ray special edition courtesy of its deal with Studio Canal. The new HD transfer improves in all the ways you'd hope including much deeper and richer blacks, finer film grain, and a nice boost in detail; color timing and framing are similar apart from a sliver less info on the sides. The DTS-HD MA English mono track (with optional English SDH subtitles) sounds solid for a track that doesn't require a ton of dynamic range in the first place. All of the extras including the three featurettes, commentary, and trailer are included here (along with a new still gallery), plus a trio of very welcome new featurettes. "Morgan Fairchild: Beauty and Strength" (22m16s) features the still glamorous star recalling how she broke into acting through a soap opera after getting the show business bug through modeling and stunt doubling on Bonnie and Clyde, then shares her thoughts on the appeal of her character in this film, the requirements for her nude scenes, her adoration of Camp, and the family atmosphere on the set. Then "The Seducer" (11m10s) features Stevens explaining how he accepted the role after turning it down multiple times, ended up with a box around his name on the poster rather than getting top billing, objected to a certain revelation about his character at the very end, and wound up playing a bad guy for one of the first times in his career. Finally, "Flashbacks" (22m20s) catches up with Curtis giving a solo account of how the production came to be after working on Hell Night and Roller Boogie and ended up being cast just how he wanted despite that efforts of having to persuade Stevens to come aboard with other suggested actors including Michael Keaton!

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Reviewed on May 5, 2019.