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In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun.
The thirty year-old hard-worker Bobby Grady is married with two children to the frigid Amy Grady and their marriage is in crisis. Bobby is invited to work the night shift at a fashion design studio whose owner believes his talented and introspective designer Joanna Crane is selling his designs to competitors. Bobby accepts the job to make money and please Amy with a bathtub and follows Joanna after hours. He discovers she has a double life, working as a fifty-dollar hooker called China Blue in the red light district and practicing kinky sex with her clients to satisfy their fantasies. Bobby becomes obsessed by China Blue and when the true thief is found, he has sex with her and they have a crush on each other. Meanwhile the insane preacher Rev. Peter Shayne (Anthony Perkins) decides to save Joanna's soul and stalks her everywhere.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Although we may run out of Pan Am coffee, we will never run out of TWA tea.
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The unrated directors cut runs 112m 37s. The R-rated U.S. theatrical version runs 100m 13s, with numerous MPAA-imposed cuts for sexual content/dialogue and a couple New World Pictures-imposed ones for unknown reasons.
16s of candid opening dialogue are trimmed in the R-rated version. After one of the group members tells Donny Hopper (Bruce Davison), "Fuck you, Hopper," the following lines present in the unrated version are all removed -- Donny: "I do. Every night. Me and my jar of Vaseline. I can fuck any woman I want and I don't even have to make her come." Female group member: "Really? Well, I'd rather get fucked by a vibrator than your cock any day. It's honest, loving, and I don't have to make breakfast for it in the morning." The dirty Adam and Eve joke in Donny's monologue that survives in the R-rated version is pushed up further than it appears in the unrated version, while the main titles are slowed down.
In the scene where China Blue (Kathleen Turner) explains to Carl (John G. Scanlon) how she plays the flute and then gives him a blow job, the R-rated version shows it in one long take using alternate footage, with the camera never losing sight of his face as she goes down on him. The unrated version cuts away from him to show two close-up shots of her face next to his crotch, unzipping his bulging jeans and caressing the fly with her hand. These are bookended by an insert shot of an erotic, B&W line drawing, showing in triplicate, a Japanese woman giving a blow job to a Japanese man (who possesses one gargantuan erect penis and testicles). The unrated version of the scene runs 14s longer, because Turner says her lines more slowly.
The beginning of the China Blue/Carl aftermath scene uses alternate take footage in the R-rated version, up through the shot of China making a gargle and answering "Miss Liberty." Carl's orgasm is over as he says "fucking incredible" once -- while in the unrated version, he's still having one as he says it twice -- and when he asks China her name, the camera again focuses on him in one long take. In the unrated version, shots of Carl alternate with four shots of China Blue bent down (with very smudged lipstick, as she wipes her mouth) and one shot of her hand turning off the radio. The R-rated version of this runs 14s longer again, mostly because both actors say their lines more slowly.
The scene where China Blue's second trick (Pat McNamara) rapes her has been truncated in the R-rated version. It cuts to Reverend Shayne standing outside after one sexual thrust, while the unrated cuts to it after sixteen more thrusts (intercut with five different erotic, color drawings of Japanese men and women engaged in you-know-what) and is 16s longer.
An additional 2 thrusts, totalling 2s, have been trimmed from the overhead shot of China Blue's second trick finishing the deed in the R-rated version. The unrated version has music over it, while U.S. theatrical prints have none.
In the unrated version, China Blue calls trick #2 "sweetdick," a phrase which he then repeats. The R-rated version overdubs both utterances of the word with "sweetheart."
When Reverend Shayne first gets in to see China Blue and tells her he's there to save her, she replies, "Why don't you fuck me, that'll save me" in the unrated version. The R-rated version overdubs the word "fuck" with "fix."
China Blue goes on to tell Reverend Shayne that she's "Fit as a fiddle and ready for cock" in the unrated version. The R-rated version overdubs the word "cock" with "love."
The R-rated version of the scene where Bobby Grady (John Laughlin) breaks into China Blue's apartment loses 21s of him turning on a wall-mounted TV and her VCR, which plays a porno tape of a man and woman having anal sex.
50s are cut from the R-rated version after Bobby unzips the red panties in China Blue's drawer. The unrated version goes on to show him pulling out a book and opening it up to reveal the same kind of erotic Japanese drawings that were seen during China Blue's rape. Bobby turns the pages, stands up, and confusingly looks back and forth at the TV -- which now shows the man having a threesome with two women and cultimating in one of them -- and the book, before he has a revelation. Later in the film, when Bobby pays his first visit to Joanna's (Kathleen Turner) apartment, he comments on a similar, albeit somewhat less graphic, piece of artwork hanging on her wall, saying that he "saw these a book once." This is left in the R-rated cut, so viewers who've only seen that version won't know where it was he saw it and what book he's talking about.
The R-rated version of the shot where China Blue undresses Bobby as they're about to first have sex has 7s trimmed of her unzipping his jeans and starting to remove them.
1m 32s have been deleted from China Blue's and Bobby's first sex scene in the R-rated version -- 15s of them continuing to make out, the remaining 1m 17s of them doing the nasty in silhouette as he demonstrates all the new positions he just learned about in her book.
A 2m 37s scene of Bobby and Amy (Annie Potts) having a fight in front of Jimmy and Lisa (Seth Wagerman, Christina Lange) during breakfast was removed from the U.S. theatrical version by New World Pictures, possibly because Amy is extremely unpleasant in it. Bobby gets annoyed at her for pouring maple syrup, which he doesn't like, on his pancakes, she gets annoyed at him for noticing a week after the fact that she got her hair done, and she needles him by insinuating to the kids that he's stupid and useless because he can't plant a garden and doesn't know what strontium 90 means. He finally has enough of her cutting him down, and leaves for work in a huff. This scene appears in the film after the one where Reverend Shayne knocks Bobby down and Bobby and China Blue make amends.
New World Pictures broke the Grady family barbecue into two scenes in the U.S. theatrical cut. In that version, they bookend the scenes of China Blue being picked up by Arthur and Claudia (John Rose, Louise Sorel) in a limo and Reverend Shayne stabbing the blow-up doll. In the directors cut, the barbecue appears in its entirety immediately after that scene.
The unrated version contains a 3m 38s sequence of China Blue putting on her wig and makeup, picking up a handsome, corrupt cop (Randall Brady) on the streets, taking him back to her place, handcuffing him to her bed while wearing a leather S&M getup, having rough sex with him -- which causes his wrists to get cut up by the cuffs and his legs to get cut up by her high heels -- and grinding his nightstick into his stomach before sodomizing him with it, as Reverend Shayne watches the entire thing from behind his peephole, stroking his missile vibrator up and down. All of this is intercut with one erotic B&W Japanese line drawing -- similar to the one shown during Carl's blow job -- and three blood red-tinted photographs showing policemen in the line of duty. Afterwards, Reverend Shayne lies down and goes to sleep, and she uncuffs the cop and asks if he'd like to take a shower there, as she's got Ivory soap which is 99 44/100% pure (repeating what Bobby said after their first time), but he just spits on her in disgust, and she washes her face off in the sink (echoing what Bobby did after their first time), crying, after he's left. The MPAA refused to give the film an "R" unless this entire scene was removed. However, the shot which follows this -- of China Blue putting on her makeup in the mirror, still crying -- remains in the R-rated version, making it unclear exactly what she's upset about.
New World Pictures removed 2m 17s from the scene where Amy goes down to Grady's electronics store to try to rekindle with Bobby, again presumably because Amy is extremely unsympathetic. The theatrical cut of it ends when she tells him, "All I want is my husband." The director's cut continues with her saying that the kids need a father to teach them responsibility, and him telling her he doubts it'll do them any good with the two of them playing a charade in front of them. He lets her know he doesn't want to get back together, and she correctly figures out that he's met someone else, as she can "smell her all over" him. She then returns to her old ways, and starts nagging him about the other woman. After he admits in stride that he's having an affair, she warns him to remember his family and make a choice.
Kathleen Turner plays a smoking sex-bomb of an NYC street hooker who goes by the name of China Blue ("the total package", as one john remarks). An unhappily married man develops a fascination with her after he eavesdrops on an encounter she has with an issue-ridden, demented preacher-type (Perkins) whose self-declared mission is to "save" China.
In the wrong hands, this material could have been made into a boring thriller, with the preacher stalking his way towards a predictable finale. Or an overwrought marital drama, weighed down by absurd dialogue and the characters' utterly improbable decision-making. Or some lurid, booby C-grade sleaze-fest where the hooker plot is just an excuse to parade last month's centerfold in a half dozen sexy outfits. Luckily, we got Ken Russel, who somehow manages to not only balance all three in the same "total package", but lets them breathe with the genres' best and most outrageous excesses! Take the Preacher's "weapon of salvation" and the filthy sayings that get past his filter when he is praying, or the embarrassingly cheesy yet hilarious marriage bed conversations. Or pretty much anything that comes out of China Blue's mouth when she is "in character". And he does it all with a wink and a nod to you - the audience savvy enough to know not to take any of it seriously!
It should be noted that this is a "fun" movie. If there is any takeaway here for thought, it's probably about men's fears and anxieties relating to sex, the feminine, and marriage. But try not to think too much about it, otherwise you run the risk of taking it a bit too seriously and you'll miss out on the real fun - all the "I can't believe he/she just said/did that!" bits (comprising a good half the movie), Kathleen Turner's passionate and, um, rousing performance (who could possibly deliver lines like that if they weren't having fun on the set!?), and the lurid, swanky atmosphere that is the magic of Ken Russell's creation.
*** I also watched the scenes that were cut from the film - I had assumed they were cut because they were too racy or explicit, but the opposite is in fact true. The cut scenes were mostly from the domestic side of things: lots of wife-talk, an extended scene of the BBQ party, etc. They all deserved to be cut mercilessly because they either added nothing of value to the story or muddled the characters and plot to the point where the film would have been seriously flawed if were they allowed to stay in. In them, the confusion over this film's fate is visible, and I am very glad Russell did not choose to go there for the final version, instead maximizing on the glammy, schlocky sex schtick.
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