Jonathan Corliss (Matt Dillon) grew up on the wrong side of the tracks - literally, he used to watch the trains go to and from the Carlsson copper mines and wonder what he could do to lift himself out of his relative poverty and be part of that world of the wealthy. Take us up to 1987 and he was at college in Philadelphia, courting Dorie (Sean Young), daughter of the copper magnate Thor (Max von Sydow), though as a father he was very controlling and Dorie had had her fingers burned before when she tried to have a different boyfriend and her father sent a private detective to track them. No chance of that today, as his daughter and Jonathan have successfully kept their relationship secret, so their marriage will be a big surprise...
There will be an even bigger surprise on the way when we see how Jonathan treats his fiancée, but there was a nasty surprise for everyone involved with this second film adaptation of Ira Levin’s bestseller A Kiss Before Dying: almost all those who saw it thought it was a turkey, and that included the test audience who marked it so badly that it was yet another movie to fall prey to the curse of reshoots and altered endings. In this case Levin’s copper mine climax was removed altogether and something different created instead, though it would be difficult to imagine it being any worse than the perfunctory, get it over with denouement that half-heartedly rolled across the screen now.
Then there was the acting, with Sean Young notoriously picking up not one but two Golden Raspberries - Worst Actress and Worst Supporting Actress - for a couple of performances as siblings that appeared to demonstrate she had forgotten completely how to look natural. In spite of decent to rather good readings before, in this she was distractingly wooden and stilted, as if she was embarrassed to be there, or perhaps painfully aware she was not the first choice – Bridget Fonda was, and Dillon’s role would have been played by River Phoenix if director James Dearden had his way. Whatever, Dillon wasn’t that much better, turning the keen psychopathic mind of the novel into a dull murderer who somehow got very lucky.
Dearden’s direction was evidently attempting a Hitchcock tone - among many old movies the characters watch, Vertigo is too pointedly shown on television - but he barely managed straight to video erotic thriller, as it seemed he was forced to put in sex scenes to have this fall into line with the other suspense flicks for an adult audience of the early nineteen-nineties, ironically thanks to films like Fatal Attraction which Dearden had scripted. With over the top violence thrown in for good measure, this A Kiss Before Dying overcompensated at every turn, but overcompensated for what? For altering the source so far that you wondered why they had even bothered to adapt it? The famous twist was nowhere to be seen, and the first murder appeared within the opening ten minutes.
Now, all this might sound as if the whole shebang was a dead loss, but as bad movie buffs have discovered, this may not be very good as a serious thriller, but as an unintentional comedy it had some merit. Indeed, it against the odds became very entertaining as it grew preposterous that a now kill-happy Jonathan turns into one of those nineties fictional serial killers, and all to get his hands on the Carlsson fortune. Like the first version starring Robert Wagner, this one took out one of the sisters to leave two for him to exploit, which meant Young was playing twin sisters, and neither of them very well, so that was amusing enough, but Dearden included various instances of lunacy almost incidentally, such as the rabidly enthusiastic bellhop who practically wrestles Jonathan to the floor in a bid to carry his suitcase (that actually contains a body), and what was that film they go to see where the audience is roaring with laughter at car crashes? The further it went on, the more perversely compulsive viewing it became, just to wallow in how hamfisted it was. Music by Howard Shore.
[Simply Media's Region 2 DVD has a disclaimer at the start saying the quality of the print may not be the best, but it actually looks fine. No extras, though, not even the trailer.]