APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Color of Night (1994)

April 26: American Giallo — Make the case for a movie that you believe is an American giallo.

“Erotic mystery thriller.”

That’s 1994 for giallo.

Dr. Bill Capa (Bruce Willis) is color blind after an unstable patient named Michelle (Kathleen Wilhoite) jumps from his window and explodes on the street below, her bright green dress covered in deep red blood. This is a total giallo moment that can only happen in one of these movies but I love this movie for that. That and the fact that this movie starts with her literally sucking off a handgun. What kind of therapy session is that?

His friend Dr. Bob Moore (Scott Bakula) invites him to Los Angeles and to sit in on his group therapy sessions. But in a few days, Bob is dead and Bill is at the center of trying to find out why, all while cajoled by Lt. Hector Martinez (Ruben Blades). Martinez thinks that everyone could be the killer in that group, even Dr. Bill. And what a group of suspects he’s looking at.

There’s OCD-suffering lawyer Clark (Brad Dourif); suicidal ex-cop Buck (Lance Henriksen); Sondra (Lesley Ann Warren), who wants to sleep with everyone or steal from them; BDSM painter Casey (Kevin J. O’Connor) and Richie, who is a teenager drug addict with gender dysphoria. There’s also a reason why I’m not telling you who plays Richie, because it gives away the entire film.

What’s amazing is that it turns out that everyone in the group — including Dr. Bill — ends up involved with the same woman, Rose (Jane March). And her brother Dale (Andrew Lowery) has messed with her head to the point that she’s not even sure who she is any longer and oh yeah, they used to have a brother named Richie who killed himself after being sexually abused by his psychologist.

Director Richard Rush hadn’t directed a movie since 1980’s The Stunt Man. Despite a past making Hells Angels On WheelsFreebie and the BeanThunder Alley and Psych-Out — and being paid to walk away from his last project Air America — Rush couldn’t get producer Andrew Vajna to agree with his vision for the film. They went to war in the press, with Variety on the side of Rush, The Los Angeles Times on the side of Vajna and the Director’s Guild trying to fix things. It took Rush having a massive heart attack before everyone calmed down.

The sex scenes in this movie are, well, volcanic. So much so that MAXIM Magazine — remember that? — picked one as the best sex scene ever. What’s wild is that Carmine Zozzora, who was Bruce Willis’ best friend and associate producer on the film, ended up dating and marrying her during the pre-production of this movie. Well, once filming started, you can imagine how he started to react to the making of those scenes. In the end, Rush kept his Best Sex Scene from MAXIM in his bathroom. He reportedly loved that thing.

Someone goes through a glass door as if they’re in an Argento movie, the group therapy session feels right out of Schizoid minus the wild eyes of Kinski and the sex scene lasts so long that they take a break to eat a steak and salad that Rose cooked naked (I mean, have you ever?) and then have sex again and hey, there’s Bruce Willis’ penis in the pool.

In 1994, people spent lots of money to make movies like this, absolute messes of movies that may not always work, but wow, they’re so vibrant and full of memorable moments even if flawed that we’d never see on screens today.

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