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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Lured Innocence (1999)

"He's gone now. A dead man can't hurt you none."
- Elsie Townsend (Marley Shelton)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 12, 2000

Stars: Dennis Hopper
Other Stars: Marley Shelton, Talia Shire
Director: Kikuo Kawasaki

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, sexual situations and suggested nudity.
Run Time: 01h:36m:41s
Release Date: February 15, 2000
UPC: 012236110262
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Lured Innocence is the third film from writer-director Kikuo Kawasaki. While it has some rough spots, it is a creditable modern-day noir that generally works pretty well, considering its low budget origins.

Marley Shelton stars as small-town Mississippi beauty Elsie Townsend, who gets involved with the older, married Rick Chambers (Dennis Hopper). Hopper longs to be rid of his ailing wife (well portrayed by a sickly-unto-death-appearing Talia Shire) and concocts a plan to murder her; at the same time, Shire's character is conspiring with Elsie to get rid of Rick for the insurance proceeds. Elsie manages to play both ends against the middle, with her own goals in mind.

The film is quite well cast. Hopper begins by giving a fairly subtle portrayal of a deceitful husband, but before long gives way to his usual demented maniac role. The director's commentary reveals that he tried to get Hopper to underplay the role but Hopper refused; the director lost that battle. Shelton, while she has a most dubious Mississippi accent, gives a wonderful portrayal of a woman who can be an innocent-seeming love object as well as a completely cold-blooded assassin. With big expressive eyes and a good range, she could well have a very bright future as an actress. Shire, as mentioned above, at every moment looks like she could keel over. Devon Gummersall holds his own as the young reporter who narrates the framing story and who has long been in love with Elsie. Only Shelton makes a stab at a Southern accent, and she misses by a fair margin.

The story suffers somewhat from a script that has a few holes in it, as well as an anticlimactic ending. The film leaves one with a somewhat empty sensation on its completion, which is probably appropriate concerning the subject matter. The director does convey the effect of a damp, sultry oppressive Southern heat in several attractive shots of Shelton sitting in front of a fan. The romance between Hopper and Shelton is about as May-December as the one in Entrapment, but Hopper convincingly gives a performance of a man obsessed by a woman. Shelton for her part makes it clear that she has motives of her own for encouraging the relationship, so the improbability of the relationship is somewhat easier to swallow.

The film is a treat for fans of cinema, as Kawasaki makes references to works such as Clouzot's Diabolique and borrows a plot point from Hitchcock's Vertigo. Elsie even makes reference to the fact that she got the idea for one of her plans from Diabolique, and has French movie posters on her walls.

There are a few awkward moments, such as stilted, unnatural expository dialogue spouted by a wooden Cheri Oteri (yet another Saturday Night Live alumnus giving a bad cinema performance). Overall, however, the style of the film carries the picture nicely. It's worth a look if you like the Body Heat kind of film.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - P&Sno - no
Original Aspect Rationono

Image Transfer Review: The pan & scan transfer does not visibly crop the picture and is generally passable. Compositions appear rather crowded, however, and Artisan would have done better to preserve the original aspect ratio.

In the opening sequence, the contrast seems a bit too high, and much of the detail is lost. This defect improves as the film proceeds. Blacks are somewhat lacking in depth, and the picture is sometimes a little on the muddy side. Bit rates are low, usually ranging between 3 and 5 Mbps. This no doubt accounts for the rather marginal picture quality. The 1.33:1 transfer makes the film seem like a TV movie of the week, which is probably a worse reputation than the film deserves. The picture would get a C- or D+ if it were in its proper aspect ratio. As a pan & scan job, it merits only an F.

Image Transfer Grade: F


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: While the film is presented in DD 5.1, the differences between it and the 2.0 version are minimal. There is little directionality, and virtually nothing in the way of effects. The dialogue by and large sounds natural, with a few instances of sounding ADR-produced. There is some added clarity to the musical score on the 5.1 version, but this is about the only recommendation that it has.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Kikuo Kawas
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: na

Extras Review: For a fairly minor release given the budget treatment by Artisan, this disc has some nice extras. Director Kikuo Kawasaki gives a full-length commentary, although there are several periods where he is silent at length. Much of the commentary relates to casting decisions and set locations, and Kawasaki delights in pointing out where parts of a single scene were shot in L.A. and in Mississippi, though through editing and continuity they appear to be seamless. Clearly a great deal of attention was given to such continuity here, for I would never have guessed that many of these dual-location scenes were not shot together. Kawasaki can be a little difficult to understand at times, but by and large the commentary is at least as easy to follow as one by say John Woo.

We are given a full-screen red-band 'R' trailer as well as a mostly duplicative TV spot. The biographies and filmographies are quite extensive and give very full information on most of the principals. The navigation of these bios is a little problematic, since the cursor does not move to the next cast member when you return to the menu screen for the bios. I would much prefer a menu design that allowed the entire area to be navigated with just your thumb on the enter button of the remote, especially if you're viewing in a darkened room.

Also, Artisan continues its annoying habit of not providing subtitles.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

This disc is at least worth a rent, and if you can get beyond the accent issue, has several excellent performances. Those who like stylish film noir will probably enjoy this one very much.


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