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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Tell Me No Lies (In the Midnight Hour) (2000)

"There are numerous people on this campus that have up close and personal knowledge of that birthmark...men and women."
- David King (Byron Bay)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: June 07, 2001

Stars: Amber Smith, Byron Bay, L. Clyde Irvine
Other Stars: Jason Ruan, Zoe Anderson, Erika Michaels, Chad Tillner, Yvette McClenden
Director: Emanuel Itier

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for Strong sexuality, language, and violence
Run Time: 01h:24m:33s
Release Date: May 22, 2001
UPC: 012236118084
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D D+BB- D+

DVD Review

The genre of erotic thriller has a tendency to be filled with eye-rolling trash, and Tell Me No Lies is no exception to that tendency. Filled with dubious characterization and improbably plot points, it fails to be either erotic or to generate any significant suspense.

When Crystal Sheppard (Yvette McClenden) is murdered in Santa Barbara, her sister Alex (Maxim cover model Amber Smith) moves there from Seattle to investigate. Since this is an erotic thriller, her method of investigation includes having sex with everyone that her sister had sex with in order to flush out the killer. Alex also takes a job as a midnight DJ at a campus radio station, where she is soon harangued by calls from Henry, a husky-voiced caller who claims to have killed Crystal and says that he wants to take out Alex next. Added to the mix are David King, Crystal's boyfriend, who manages the station, David's explosively violent and obnoxious brother Brad (L. Clyde Irvine), geeky engineer Gary and inept cop Det. Charlie Vince (Jason Ryan). Can Alex find the killer before she ends up as the next victim?

Aside from the dopey setup, there are a few good things here. The radio call-in show idea has some possibilities, as evinced as far back as Play Misty for Me, but they really aren't exploited very well. It does boast a rather satisfying climax, so to speak, involving a baseball bat. On the down side, the police dialogue and the investigations don't ring true in the least and give every indication of being written by someone who didn't bother to do the slightest research, but just coasted on viewing television cop shows. The sexual material is copious (filling well over half the running time) but it is rather unerotic, generally consisting of men kissing the bellies of silicone-inflated blondes. A lesbian sequence is the only sex scene that generates any heat whatsoever, and it is cut short quite abruptly. In essence, this is shabby late-night cable TV fodder at its most exploitative and trivial.

Smith acts about as well as a cover model can be expected to do. The rest of the cast is completely wooden, which makes her talents seem even greater than they really are. The inability of the actors to make the viewer care about what happens tosses any potential for suspense right out the window. The need to have a certain amount of erotic content also gets in the way, such as when Alex discovers one of her friends murdered: her response is to head to a hot tub and fondle herself to languid pop music, which really deflates any sort of momentum or believability that might have been created.

First-time director Emanuel Itier shows occasional promise, though his use of the camera usually devolves into a leering ride over the bodies of the starlets appearing in the picture. One early scene has a conversation between two detectives, with the camera swinging wildly between them to the point of inducing nausea. (Emanuel, in such a case, a cut is perfectly acceptable.) An overuse of negative shots and freeze frames betrays the director's novice status.

Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot in Super 16mm, Tell Me No Lies is presented in full-frame aspect, with an extremely confusing legend that states both that the original theatrical ratio is maintained and that it has been modified to fit your screen. The framing appears to be correct. For blown-up 16mm, however, the picture is generally quite acceptable. Colors are very good, as are skin tones (of which we see quite a lot). Blacks are rich and dark, although often lacking in shadow detail. The image is occasionally grainy, which is to be expected. In all, better than the content deserves.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is decent, with limited directionality. The surrounds are generally limited to atmospheric sounds and music, with dialogue and onscreen sound effects very much front-oriented. Hiss and noise are negligible. The Dolby Surround track is hardly distinguishable from the 5.1 track, and both are acceptable without being outstanding. Bass response is limited, though the obscure rock score does come through well otherwise.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: More extras are provided than one might expect for a production of this type. First is a red-band R trailer in excellent condition. Lengthy bios are provided for Smith and Itier, though no filmography is included for Smith. A few scant production notes are included in the flyer. Wrapping it up is a brief set of behind-the-scenes interviews (6m:58s) that are pretty worthless. In addition to revealing the killer in its short running time, everyone involved seems to feel the need to define "erotic thriller" in the same way: "Um, there's some sexiness, and some suspense." Why should the eye-rolling stop with the movie? Not much of substance to be found here.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

A thoroughly inept erotic thriller that is low on eroticism and suspense; this one can safely be given a pass.


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