Dr. Sarah Taylor is a psychologist extraordinaire. When a new mystery man comes into her life at the same time that she becomes the victim of a mystery tormentor’s psychotic games, she starts to suspect they may be one and the same. Can she stop her tormentor (or does she even want to?) before it’s too late? Find out in… Never Talk to Strangers.
How?! Dr. Sarah Taylor specializes in Multiple Personality Disorder (but I’m sure that’ll have no bearing on the plot). She explains how it’s characterized by bouts of amnesia and I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that she also seems to be forgetting a lot… … … Anyway, she’s still reeling from a broken engagement which leaves no room for a relationship with her friendly neighbor or even getting back in touch with her estranged father (hmmmm, isn’t childhood trauma also a sign of MPD? I’m sure that’s not relevant). One day she meets a mysterious sexy guy, Tony, at the grocery store who is mysteriously sexy. They begin a steamy relationship, but something seems off. Not only is he a little volatile, but shortly after starting the relationship terrible things begin to happen to Sarah. First she is sent a bunch of rotting trash as a gift (ok fine) and then her cat is killed and sent to her in a box (well that escalated). At that point she decides to hire a private detective to figure out what his deal is (besides being totally steamy and hot). The detective follows Tony around New York where he reports that it appears that he has another family. Deciding to confront him she gets into his apartment when he’s away and discovers that he has a dossier on her (what a creep!). When she heads back to her apartment she ends up nearly getting killed when a rickety heater falls into the tub she was in. At that point when Tony shows up at her apartment she fears for her life, but he tells her that it’s all twisted. He was hired to investigate her in the disappearance of her former fiance. That in fact it was her all along (WHAT A TWIST!). She has MPD (who could have seen that coming?) due to her childhood trauma inflicted by her pedophile father. Just then her father shows up and Sarah goes into her MPD mode and totally kills both Tony and her father. She then gets away with it because she has MPD and does even remember. THE END.
Why?! Huh, I guess I didn’t think of this at the time. Why… why… WHY??? I mean Tony has a purpose. He was hired by Sarah’s former fiance’s family in order to determine whether she was responsible for his disappearance. Sarah… she just forgets stuff. So I guess she mostly want to live a normal life. Her alter ego is filled with murderous rage. Simple as that.
Who?! It’s hard to say that Dennis Miller is anything but an actor. Claiming he’s like a comic-turned-actor would cover a very large portion of comic actors. BUT… there was this moment in the mid-2000s where Dennis Miller wasn’t just trying to make comedies, he was showing up in numerous thrillers between 1994-1997. Look at this lineup: Disclosure, The Net, Never Talk to Strangers, and Murder at 1600. Wild.
What?! The only thing that really stands out to me is how prominently Dennis Miller displays the bottle of Stoli that represent clue #2 of a million that De Mornay has Multiple Personality Disorder and is in fact the killer. Besides that there is a startling number of autographed photos for sale from this film that no one remembers… some costing over $100!
Where?! In my secret lair where I have all my BMT research there would be a large map hanging with little pins in it for all places that are confirmed settings in BMT films. There would be one little lonesome pin sticking out of Syracuse, NY. That’s Never Talk to Strangers. We see the location listed on Dr. Taylor’s business card. Why Syracuse, NY? No idea. B+.
When?! Secret Holiday Film Alert. From the jump we get Xmas light galore and De Mornay hesitant to invite her abusive father to Christmas dinner (no matter how much of a sad sack he’s become). Interestingly, even by the end of the film it still hasn’t actually reached Christmas Day. So she apparently met, dated, slept with, hired a private detective to follow, and killed Banderas all between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Busy lady. A.
I LOVED THIS MOVIE (in a very BMT way). It kinda has everything we’re looking for. It’s a “very serious” movie made by “very serious” people about “very serious” things, but clearly the studio didn’t like where things were heading with it and turned what was likely a three hour erotic melodrama into an 86 minute fiasco. I harp on the length only because you start the movie and within 10 minutes not only does De Mornay explain what Multiple Personality Disorder is and its association with bouts of amnesia, but then we are treated to her very noticeably forgetting things about her own life… almost as if she herself has amnesia, bum bum bum. It’s impossible for someone to watch this movie and not immediately conclude that De Mornay is the murderer herself. That is unless maybe they were distracted by the warp speed editing that chops everything to pieces. It’s just the best. Add in some truly… uh… interesting sex scenes with Banderas and it really is an unexpected treat. This is basically what I want out of my erotic thrillers. Some erotic thrills (of course) combined with the inevitable need for a twist resulting in some real dumb stuff to laugh at. As for Cover Me, I was surprised to find a competently made thriller within this Skinemax schlock. Color me schlocked (thank you). If you took out the excessive number of sex scenes (leave the library sex scene in, please… what can I say, I’m a fan of libraries) you’d almost think it was a normal film with subpar actors. Oh, I guess minus the sexist undertones inherent to the genre, of course. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! We got murderers! We got Multiple Personality Disorders! We got the beautiful skyline of Toront… er, (checks notes) Syracuse, NY?! Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – It is a rare thing that I roll up to a film basically knowing nothing about it. I was even skeptical that it was a true erotic thriller … because surely I would have known about it in that case, surely it must be just a regular old Ashley-Judd-esque thriller. But nope, it is, indeed, a true erotic thriller. We might now actually be done with them as far as theatrical releases. What were my expectations? To be bored. Why else would this film be so thoroughly panned and so thoroughly forgotten?
The Good – The movie looks great, but feels like a low-key ABC detective/psychologist procedural at times (if you cut out the nudity). I don’t know what it is, but everything feels so extremely bizarre that it could only have existed on television at 10PM on Fridays on ABC. Honestly, that’s a good thing. I like those types of shows, and it ended up being a nice relaxing watch (between sex scenes). Banderas and De Mornay both were great as well I thought. The film had a lot going for it under the hood. Best Bit: De Mornay in the end.
The Bad – The film is chopped to pieces and they telegraph the twist ending so early that the entire film deflates in front of you. All of the good work Banderas puts in to seems like a sleazy creep is all for nought because one could not possibly think he’s the murderer … because De Morney is obviously the murderer. The whole thing runs off kilter because the twist is so obvious. Watch the trailer … they are obviously setting it up for Banderas being the prime suspect. Look at the poster! But then watch the movie and realize that for not one single moment do you think he’s the murderer … because De Mornay is. They’ve already told you this. Baffling. But entertainingly so. It is like watching a Hannibal Lecter film where he’s the main character, but he’s like “My god, who could be eating all of these people?! Maybe this creep over here.” And then at the end they just go “It was Lecter all along!” and you, dumbstruck, stare at the screen thinking “wait … was I not supposed to think that the entire time?” Fatal flaw: I mean … the non-twist. I can’t stop thinking about it!
The BMT – This might be the best worst twist in film history? There are crazy bad twists (like in The Call) that ruin films because, for whatever reason, something producers feel the need for some big “thing” to happen at the end of the film. But this is definitely intended as a twist, but is such a not-twist that it makes you wonder if you are the stupid one for watching the movie with the obvious twist in mind. For real … did I watch the movie wrong? Did it meet my expectations? Usually BMT films merely do meet my expectations. This so far exceeded them that it is blowing my mind. I don’t get it. I still don’t get it. I will never get it. Be right back, I need to watch Never Talk to Strangers again.
Roast-radamus – Maybe the best Product Placement (What?) since (checks notes) Certs in Terminal Velocity, with the main character nervously applying Chapstick throughout the film. Also a truly incredible Setting as a Character (Where?) for Syracuse, NY for whatever reason (although it is clearly filmed in Toronto). And simultaneously the best and Worst Twist (How?) for the “reveal” that Sarah was the baddie all along (wait … were we supposed to not know that from the jump?). And incredibly BMT in the end, against all odds.
Sequel, Prequel, Remake – The most interesting idea is probably a television Remake. Much like Hannibal you frame it as Sarah is a criminal psychologist who specializes in Multiple Personality Disorder. But what she doesn’t realize is that she herself has MPD, and that there are three different Sarahs. There is the diligent psychologist trying to deduce the trauma and diagnose the disorders for the criminally insane. There is a protector, who herself applies pressure to get information (and is Sarah’s unknown source of investigative information) and protects Sarah from those who mean her harm. And there is a third which is a homemaker with a family, oblivious to the other two. The reveal of the third personality occurs at the end of the first season. At the end of the second season the protector fakes the third personality’s death to get her husband off of their trail. And in the series finale, it all comes crashing down as the husband (trying to determine who murdered his wife) finds out it was his wife all along! Same ending to the sequel in the quiz, slow zoom out from the asylum where Sarah is getting treatment after her diagnosis is revealed. Never Talk to Strangers would still be the name, although it makes less sense given the description. A little bit of a stretch, but you’d have to say that the “strangers” are the other personalities hidden within or something.
Bring a Friend Analysis – Oh boy. As a friend this time we brought along a genuine Playboy feature film! Cover Me seems to be the first in a series of films made by Playboy in the mid-90s. We chose it mostly because there is, somehow, an FMV adventure game called Blue Heat which was produced concurrently to the film itself (which is insane). But I’ll talk about the game in a second (oh yeah, we played it). The movie is … almost competent? It is pretty wild. If I were to describe the quality it would be straight-to-syndication pilot episode which was ultimately passed on (e.g. K-9000). If not for the need to stop every ten or so minutes for a softcore sex scene the film itself would be okay, although it is certainly offensive from a cross-dressing / transgender perspective 25 years later. Maybe the most bizarre choice is to have the main character (who you mostly see nude for photo shoots and undercover in a strip club) in a monogamous relationship with another detective … it certainly seemed to tie their hands a bit as they danced around the fact that we saw four sex scenes between those two characters. Also crazy that it stars Paul Sorvino, Cerbin Bernsen, and Elliot Gould. The 90s were certainly a wild time, it must have cost a mint for the cast alone (relatively speaking). B+. I like the concept of the film more than actually watching it. It is saved by the (also amazingly competent) video game tie-in, otherwise there is little reason to watch it. Watching it back-to-back with playing the game though is a trip and tells you everything you need to know about the 90s.
You Just Got Schooled – Oh yeah, you didn’t think I was going to not review the game itself, Blue Heat: The Case of the Cover Girl Murders. Firstly, finding and running this game is hilarious. It is only kind of available as an iso rip from the original (4!) CDs, and then it only runs on Windows 3 or (early versions of) 95. I got a Windows 95 emulation up and running. A few tips, make sure you go with an early version of the Pentium (I used Pentium 75), I tried it with a later MMX version and it seemed to cause the videos to stutter. Also you need a graphics card that supports 256 colors, otherwise it will just throw an error during install (I went with Trident TGUI9440). Overall surprisingly painless if you follow this 1997 tutorial for PCem, although you do have to somewhat trust a few downloads (I don’t think I have a weird computer virus …). The actual game? Shockingly long and shockingly competent. It is Full Motion Video and I think made with HyperCard (which is what Myst was made in), and is a very weird game, and not just because of the nudity. It is a long investigation which is totally different from the movie, with very little in the way of knowing what is going on and why. The dialogue system can cut you off if you do something wrong, and they overwhelm the player with a huge number of “pieces of evidence”. The game is both an incredible example of how to make an open-ended criminal investigation adventure game and an unmitigated disaster … wait, that’s kind of like Police Quest! What a revelation. A+ tie-in, but as a game it is more like a straight C, surprisingly good, but still not good.