Erotic Underground: Victim of Desire (1995)


Jim Wynorski is a master of the erotic thriller.  His ability to produce solid direct to VHS fare is legendary, let alone the speed in which he produces content.  During the mid 90's erotica heyday, Wynorski was asked by his friend (and fellow erotic thriller legend) Andrew Stevens to direct a picture he was producing.  The result was a convoluted mystery that; upon retrospection, is one of the more inventive films of the entire subgenre. 

A corrupt businessman dies under questionable circumstances and a quirky detective teams with a SEC agent to investigate.  The case brings them into contact with the dead man's widow who may or may not be hiding dangerous secrets of her own.  In 2013, Wynorski stated on a podcast that Victim of Desire was one of the few films he regretted making.  Recently, Wynorski stated that not only was this a fun film to make, but that he had filmed an extra sex scene with Shannon Tweed and Julie Strain that was ultimately cut by the studio for being "too steamy".  William Martell's script is unusual in that several of the expected tropes are inverted or subverted.  Marc Singer's morally gray SEC agent Starky is easily drawn into Tweed's web, and despite the danger revels in it.  Johnny Williams (Goodfellas) has what is perhaps the most interesting performance. His cop Riker is both offensive, hilarious, and ultimately loyal.  These unexpected complexities blend into a memorable trio of performances with Tweed having could be considered one of her most vicious roles.  Julie Strain and Wings Hauser support from the shadows as the rogues, and yet there are confusing narrative choices with respect to who is doing what to whom and which side each character is on, which only enhances the mayhem.  

The centerpiece is Tweed and Singer whose relationship begins with the expected sexual cat and mouse antics and then luridly evolves into a darker, adult oriented reskinning of Stakeout, including Singer in disguise trying to avoid detection after a dalliance.  Their chemistry is natural; however, Martell's dialogue keeps the proceedings rooted in noir underpinnings, which keeps everything, even the sex in a dangerous underworld of greed and passion.  Carlos Gonzalez's quasi-procedural cinematography has all the trappings of a Homicide episode, presenting the world around the characters as an almost synthetic presence, bolstering the inescapable feeling that nothing is truly what it seems.  This culminates in an absolutely insane climax that features several unexpected flourishes that ultimately set Desire apart.  

Victim of Desire is an interesting animal.  On one hand, it's obvious that the steamier elements were in fact cut from the final presentation.  Despite this, Strain, Hauser, Singer, and Tweed all resonate with sex appeal.  The most interesting aspect is in how the restrained sexual antics actually support the more serious/darker tone of the story, especially during the final act which is a pure homage to the noir thrillers from which Desire was born from.

--Kyle Jonathan