Lionsgate // 1988 // 98 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Treadway (Retired) // May 26th, 2004
And on the seventh day, He got creative.
In 1956, Roger Vadim made a film that launched Brigitte Bardot to international stardom. That film was called And God Created Woman. It was a good film, but flexible (and flawed) enough for a remake. In 1988, Vadim revisited it, albeit in a much different version. It would be his last film.
A failure at the box office, the 1988 And God Created Woman has been released on DVD by Artisan, now owned by Lions Gate. Read ahead to see if this remake sinks or swims.
Wrongly imprisoned Robin Shea (Rebecca De Mornay, The Slugger's Wife, Risky Business) escapes from a high-security prison. While hitchhiking, she is picked up by gubernatorial candidate James Tiernan (Frank Langella, Dracula, The Twelve Chairs). Tiernan turns around and helps her break back into the prison. A few days and a phone call later, Robin gets some advice from Tiernan: marry an upstanding member of the community. It might make her look more appealing to the parole board. One problem: who will marry a convict? She encounters carpenter Billy Moran (Vincent Spano, Indian Summer, Baby, It's You) as he does some work at the prison. She offers him $5,000 to marry her. After some thinking, he accepts the offer. Both are in for a rude awakening. She won't sleep with him, not even in the same bed. He has a son and brother -- in other words, an instant family. Will this marriage succeed or crumble to pieces?
The film is technically a remake of Roger Vadim's 1956 CinemaScope drama of the same name. The only points of resemblance to the original film are the name, director, and chief goal; a whole new story has been cooked up for the remake. The remake is a better film than the 1956 version, albeit one with flaws of its own. For starters, Vadim has chosen to junk the "visuals first" agenda. The original film was more concerned with capturing as many lush French locations in CinemaScope as possible. Here, he takes a more low-key approach. His chief goal remains the same: as he did with Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 version, he attempts to make Rebecca De Mornay into the new sensual leading lady in film. Creatively, he succeeded. Commercially, the film was a huge failure.
The acting is superior to the 1956 version. Before finally becoming a household name with The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Rebecca De Mornay was establishing herself as an actress willing to take on risky material. Risky Business in 1983 was a good start. She was the best thing in Hal Ashby's uneven 1985 effort The Slugger's Wife. Here is the role that should have catapulted her to superstardom. She creates a real, living person instead of the caricature the role would have been in lesser hands. It is a performance with different textures and qualities, all of them convincing. She works especially well with Vincent Spano, an extremely underrated actor. He plays Moran with dignity, even as he finds himself in a marriage of convenience. It doesn't hurt that he has strong chemistry with De Mornay, which sells their eventual hookup even more. In the role of Tiernan, Frank Langella is excellent. The role could have been a one-note performance; how hard is it to play a horny politician these days? Langella also plays his role with dignity, which allows us to sympathize with him even as he commits a major blunder in the last act.
After a successful first hour, the film makes a logical misstep from which it barely recovers. Without giving anything away, I'll just say that I find it highly illogical that The Philadelphia Story could heal a huge marital riff. Especially if only one partner actually watched it. The way the subsequent events play out, one wonders if Vadim was forced to cut a huge chunk out of the film for the sake of a short running time. It is also at this point that R.J. Stewart's screenplay embraces the predictable. One wonders how much better this film would have been had the momentum been maintained.
Note: Contrary to the information on the keep case, this is the 98-minute unrated version. This longer version features steamier, more erotic sex scenes that were severely cut to get the R rating for wide release.
And God Created Woman has appeared on DVD before, most notably in a non-anamorphic widescreen disc from Pioneer. Artisan/Lions Gate offers a full-frame version. Unlike previous full-frame efforts, this one is pretty good. The image is grainy, but And God Created Woman has always looked that way since its first release. (Like most of the Vestron Pictures efforts, it was low-budget.) Colors look appropriately bright, and there are no serious blemishes or defects in the print. I would have liked to see the widescreen version, but you can't win them all.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround stereo. Previous Artisan/Lions Gate efforts have boasted stereo sound. The end results are usually crap, but they have done remarkable work here. This mix sounds great! The music (there is quite a bit of it) sounds crisp and clean. The dialogue is always loud and clear, which is important since without it you will not understand the picture.
True to form, Artisan/Lions Gate has made And God Created Woman a barebones affair. Not even the original theatrical trailer is included. Having reviewed many Artisan/Lions Gate discs before, I ought to know by now.
Would it have hurt to license the widescreen version from Pioneer? I think not.
The disc is priced at an affordable $14.95. Despite its flaws, And God Created Woman is worth seeing. If you don't want to buy it, then rent it. It's worth a look any way you choose.
All parties are acquitted of all charges. Artisan/Lions Gate has done better work than usual on a barebones budget disc, so I'm inclined to let them go this time.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Unrated