Cinemax Friday: Forbidden Sins (1999, directed by Robert Angelo)

There’s been a murder!  A stripper named Virginia Hill (Kristen Pierce) has been found dead and the evidence suggests that she died as the result of sadomasochistic sex play gone wrong.  Lead detective John Doherty (Myles O’Brien) immediately suspects that the murderer is David Mulholland (Corin Timbrook).  Mulholland is a millionaire who owns the club where Virginia used to dance.  He has a reputation for being into some kinky stuff.  (A cashier at the local adult bookstore swears that Mulholland only buys BDSM-related magazines.)  Detective Doherty is convinced that Mulholland not only killed Virginia but that he’s killed before.  For this detective, this case is personal.

It’s about to get a lot more personal because, after he’s arrested, Mulholland hires Maureen Doherty (Shannon Tweed) to defend him in court.  Maureen is John’s ex-wife and she knows firsthand how obsessive her former husband is.  For reasons that she can’t fully explain, Maureen feels that Mulholland has been set up.  Working with Virginia’s best friend, Molly Malone (Amy Lindsay), Maureen sets out to prove that Mulholland is innocent.  But is he?

Yes, it’s yet another remake of Jagged Edge, with Shannon Tweed more than capably stepping into the Glenn Close role.  The chance to see Shannon Tweed play a high-powered attorney is the main reason to see Forbidden Sins and she does a pretty good job with the role.  Among the stars of the Skinemax era, Tweed was one of the more talented and she was always as credible delivering dialogue as she was disrobing.  Other than Tweed, the rest of the cast is okay but nothing special.  For instance, one reason why Jagged Edge worked was because Jeff Bridges kept you guessing.  In this film, the same cannot be said of Corin Timbrook.  The script and the direction are all pretty much standard for what you would expect from a 90s direct-to-video sexploitation flick and, again, the main thing that elevates this film above others of its type is the conviction that Shannon Tweed brings to her role.

For those who are only watching this film for the nudity (and, to be honest, that’s probably going to be the majority of the people who go to the trouble to track down something called Forbidden Sins), Shannon Tweed has one scene while Amy Lindsay has several.

My favorite thing about Forbidden Sins is that the murdered stripper was named after Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend.  My second favorite thing about Forbidden Sins is that the working title was apparently Forbidden By Law.  That’s one way to describe murder, I guess.

Love on the Shattered Lens: Splendor in the Grass (dir by Elia Kazan)

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind…

— “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth

The 1962 film, Splendor in the Grass, takes place in Kansas shortly before the start of the Great Depression.  Deanie (Natalie Wood) and Bud (Warren Beatty) are two teenagers in love but, as we learn, youthful love does not always translate into adult happiness.

Bud and Deanie are idealistic and in love but they’re from different social classes.  Bud is the son of a boisterous oilman named Ace (Pat Hingle) and Ace acts much like you would expect a millionaire named Ace to behave.  Bud’s parents are determined that he attend Yale and that he marry someone else from a wealthy family.  They don’t want him to turn out like his older sister, Ginny (Barbara Loden), who drinks, smokes, and is rumored to have recently had an abortion.  Meanwhile, Deanie is repeatedly told by her mother that she must always remain a “good girl” and not give in to the temptation to have premarital sex with either Bud or any other boy.  If she does, she’ll be forever branded a bad girl and she’ll pretty much end up with a reputation like Ginny’s.

(Interestingly enough, Ace doesn’t have any problem with Bud finding  himself a bad girl, nor does he have a problem with taking his son to a speakeasy later in the film.  As far as society in concerned, being “good” and following the rules only applies to women.)

Needless to say, things don’t work out well for either Deanie or Bud.  Bud is so frustrated that Deanie won’t have sex with him that he dumps her and then has the first of several breakdowns.  When Deanie’s attempt to win Bud back by acting more like Ginny fails, she ends up going out with a classmate named Toots Tuttle (Gary Lockwood).  Nothing good ever comes from going out on a date with someone named Toots Tuttle.  That’s certainly the case here as Deanie and Bud both struggle with the demands of a hypocritical society that expects and encourages Bud to behave in a certain way but which also condemns Deanie for having desires of her own.  And, of course, the entire time that Bud and Deanie’s drama is playing out, we’re aware that the clock is ticking and soon the stock market is going to crash and change everyone’s lives forever.

It’s kind of a depressing film, to be honest.  I’ve always found it to be rather sad.  When we first meet them, Deanie and Bud seem as if they’re perfect for each other but, throughout the entire film, the world seems to be conspiring to keep them apart.  By the end of the film, they’ve both found a kind of happiness but we’re painfully aware that it’s not the happiness that either one was expecting while they were still in school.  The film suggests that type of happiness might be impossible to attain and a part of growing up is realizing that there is no such thing as perfection.  Instead, there’s just making the best of wherever you find yourself.

There’s a scene in this film where Natalie Wood nearly drowns and it always freaks me out, both because of my own fear of drowning and the fact that it foreshadows what would eventually happen to Natalie in 1982.  (The fact that Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner’s yacht was called “Splendour” doesn’t help.)  Natalie herself was also deeply scared of drowning and just filming the scene undoubtedly took a lot of courage on Natalie’s part.  But then again, Natalie Wood’s entire performance is courageous.  Natalie Wood gives an emotional and intense performance as Deanie, holding nothing back and it’s impossible not to get emotional while watching her.  Making his film debut, Warren Beatty is a bit of a stiff as Bud, though he’s certainly handsome and you can tell why Deanie would have found him attractive.  (In high school, you always assume that the boring, handsome guys actually have more depth than they let on.)  By the end of the film, you understand that Deanie deserved better than Bud.  Then again, Deanie deserved better than just about everything life had to offer her.  But Deanie survived and endured and made the best of what she was given because, really, what else could she had done?  What other choice did she have?

For her performance in Splendor in the Grass, Natalie Wood received her second Oscar nomination for Best Actress.  She lost to Sophia Loren for Two Women and …. well, actually, Loren deserved the award.  But so did Wood.  1961 would have been a great year for a tie.

4 Shots From 4 Ania Pieroni Films: Inferno, The House By The Cemetery, Tenebre, Fracchia vs Dracula

Today is the birthday of Italian actress Ania Pieroni.

You may not recognize the name but, if you’re a fan of Italian horror, chances are that you’ve seen Ania Pieroni at least once.  Even though she only has 11 credits listed on the imdb and apparently made her last film over 30 years ago, Ania Pieroni achieved screen immortality by playing key roles in three of the greatest Italian films ever made.

In Dario Argento’s Inferno, she was the first actress to play the mysterious Mother of Tears.

In Lucio Fulci’s The House By The Cemetery, she played the mysterious housekeeper and nanny who, in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, nonchalantly mops up a huge pool of blood before subsequently losing her head in the house’s basement.

And then, in Argento’s Tenebre, she played the unfortunate shoplifter who pays a steep price for not paying for Peter Neal’s latest novel.

Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy birthday to Ania Pieroni with….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Inferno (1980, dir by Dario Argento)

The House By The Cemetery (1981, dir by Lucio Fulci)

Tenebre (1982, dir by Dario Argento)

Fracchia vs Dracula (1985, dir by Neri Parenti)

Scenes That I Love: An American In Paris (Happy Birthday, Vincente Minnelli)

Today is the 117th birthday of the great director, Vincente Minnelli!

While Minnelli actually made films in several different genres, he’s best remembered for his many musicals.  It’s been said that Minnelli was one of the directors for whom technicolor was invented and his musicals certainly prove the truth of that statement.  Minnelli made films that not only celebrated music and dancing but which left audiences wanting to sing and dance themselves.

Several of Minnelli’s films were honored by the Academy.  Two of his films won the Oscar for Best Picture and today’s scene that we love comes from the first one to do so, 1951’s An American In Paris.  In this scene …. well, the why is not important.  What’s important is the way the Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron move and the way that Minnelli captures and celebrates every movement.

Enjoy this scene from An American In Paris!


Music Video of the Day: Zemra ime by Mozzik (2019, dir by Mozzik)

In today’s music video of the day, the Albanian rapper Mozzik goes to prison and it turns out that prison in Albania is just as tedious and soul-destroying as prison in America.  Fortunately, he can always escape to his dreams.

Or, at least, that’s what I assume is happening in this video.  I don’t speak a word of Albanian.  But one of the great things about both music and the visual arts is that sometimes, you don’t have to speak the language.  You just have to open up your mind to the emotions and the images.

This video was directed by Mozzik himself and he did quite a good job!  I especially like the surreal scenes of Mozzik thinking about being free.