“Scream and you die.”
William Mastosimone’s play “Extremities,” an investigation of rape and the difficulty that its victims have in getting justice from the legal and judicial systems, apparently played to some degree of success on Broadway. He then adapted the play for the screen and the result was 1986’s Extremities. The lead role was played by Farrah Fawcett, by then well past her brief 1970s moment in the sun, who managed through some myopic decision by the Hollywood foreign press to garner a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed. The film has now been made available on DVD by MGM as one of its standard releases.
Marjorie is returning home from work and stops at a corner store. Upon returning to her car, she is accosted by a masked stranger who puts a knife to her throat and forces her to drive to a remote location. When the stranger changes from the back to the front seat, Marjorie is able to distract him and escape from the car. She reports the incident to the police who are sympathetic, but can do nothing. Realizing that her attacker has her ID and so knows her address, she lives in fear of his return.
One weekday a week or later, she remains at home while her two housemates, Terry and Patricia, go off to work. While at home, a man comes in the front door and claims to be looking for a friend of his. Marjorie tells him he has the wrong house, but it soon becomes obvious that this is Marjorie’s attacker and he has returned to carry on where he left off. He terrorizes Marjorie, forcing her to dress up in provocative clothes, ordering her to make him a meal, and then making her say she loves him and wants to make love with him. As the stranger begins to force himself on Marjorie, she is able to reach some insect repellent which she sprays in his face, temporarily blinding him. This allows her enough time to gain the upper hand, tying the stranger up and entrapping him in the house’s fireplace while she decides on her next move.
Extremities is half a movie. The first three-quarters of an hour covers familiar territory as Marjorie suffers the torments of her would-be rapist, first in her car and later in her home. At least, however, it’s done with some degree of suspense, almost entirely due to convincing performances by Farrah Fawcett as Marjorie and James Russo as her attacker. When no actual rape has been carried out by that point, however, we know that the movie is not going to end as your conventional rape/mad-slasher flick usually does. Unfortunately our hopes for something a cut above the ordinary are soon dashed by the final half of the film. Both Fawcett and Russo seem to lose their acting skills and resort to wide-eyed facial contortions and shrieking as the plot turns bizarre. The idea that the tables can be turned on the attacker is not new, but here it’s ludicrously handled and escalates to ridiculous extremes. When Marjorie’s two housemates return, we get further hand-wringing and nervous twitches from Diana Scarwid as Terry. Alfre Woodard provides the only bit of sanity as the more level-headed Patricia. SPOILER ALERT!! The plot resolution that suggests that a confession extracted by duress and under fear of castration is going to stand up in court and so solve Marjorie’s concerns about her attacker returning of course is not believable.
Direction is attributed to someone named Robert M. Young. I’m glad the credits have made sure to include that middle initial. That way, we don’t make the mistake of possibly thinking that he could be that estimable actor, Robert Young. I don’t believe actor Robert Young ever directed a film, possibly feeling that it wasn’t something he was suited to. Director Robert M. Young obviously had no misgivings, which is unfortunate, since this is one of the most pedestrian efforts I’ve seen. He fails to exert control over the actors, which results in the unevenness of the performances and the excessive overacting in the film’s second half. His shot selection and camera angles often tend to be just obtrusive rather than insightful.
MGM provides a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer which provides a reasonably crisp and bright presentation of the film. There’s nothing very vibrant about the film’s look, so the DVD doesn’t stand out as anything above average, just a good, workmanlike presentation of a standard Hollywood release. A few scratches and nicks are evident as is some minor edge enhancement, but nothing particularly distracting. MGM also provides a full frame version on the flip side of the disc.
The audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix that is merely an adequate vehicle for conveying this dialogue-driven film. Bland is the best word to describe the film’s background music with its very standard suspense-building elements, and the sound mix does nothing to either enhance or diminish it. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided.
Being a standard MGM release, all we get is a full-frame original theatrical trailer.
Extremities is a disappointing film overall, composed of a reasonable first half, but let down by a ludicrous second half. The acting over-ripens very quickly. It has a made-for-television look to it and ranks as below-average even compared to such efforts. MGM’s DVD release is about what the film deserves. An excellent opportunity to save money!