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Case Number 03753: Small Claims Court

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A Strange Affair

Artisan // 1996 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // December 19th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

In a world of desire she broke every rule.

The Case

I'm often dismayed, irritated, or bemused about poor DVD quality. Rarely have I been shocked. To be shocked requires an emotional investment. You have to care about something to be offended. A Strange Affair managed to shock me with how bad it was.

Name something that you cherish or appreciate about the DVD format; A Strange Affair likely does the opposite. Subtitles, menus, chapter stops, extras, language options, original aspect ratio…all are missing from this DVD. Yes, even menus. You put this DVD into the player and it starts playing. When the movie is over, there are some brief credits and the movie starts again. I burst into peals of incredulous laughter when I read the DVD authoring credits. Authoring? What authoring?

The movie begins with close-ups of ghastly colored food. The protagonist, Lisa McKeever (Judith Light of Who's the Boss? fame), finds that her life is about as appealing as the congealed squid tentacles in cottage cheese Jell-O flan she's preparing. Her husband Eric (Jay Thomas), once a hotshot director, now spends his days gambling, womanizing, and lying to Lisa. Fed up, Lisa walks out on Eric.

Her unexpected desertion causes Eric to have a stroke. No one knows that Lisa left Eric, and rather than kick him while he's down she agrees to take care of him full time. But a woman has needs. When hunky handyman Art Maskin (William Russ) enters the picture, Lisa concocts an unusual arrangement. She will care for Eric but flirt/cuddle/date Art, even if society, friends, and family do not understand her love of two men. Overwrought sentimentality ensues.

This movie threatened to become entertaining a few times, but several things stood in the way. The characters were unbelievable caricatures, especially Art. Art runs a mechanic shop, but he's also a pilot, gourmet chef, and inventor. He is willing to submit to Lisa's whim, befriend the invalid who hates him, and do it all with a beatific smile. This sort of man does not exist. Lisa is an omnipotent everywoman who handles each challenge with aplomb, spirit, and bouts of tearful anger. The kids are unbelievably cold.

The characters aren't as bad as the sneak attack morality fable in support of polygamy. Was this film shot in Utah? I kept expecting a message to write to the Mormon Polygamy Council for more information. I don't have anything against films with a message, but when the thrust of the argument bursts forth in the equivalent of a cinematic landmine, I can't help but feel manipulated.

It was hard to watch this movie for another reason: the video quality was wretched. Ignore the Pan and Scan problem if you can, the real culprit is incorrect flagging. The focus drifted in, out, in, out, out, in, out, in…ad infinitum. This could be due to poor camerawork, but bad DVD flags are the more likely cause. But bad flags were not the only problem. There was egregious digital noise reduction, so bad that the white pattern of Lisa's sweater would continually disappear and reappear. Entire pieces of furniture would blink in and out of existence. When objects were in frame, they suffered from extreme halos caused by abject edge enhancement. There were rarely three stable frames strung together.

The audio quality was masterful by comparison. Dialogue was clear and the foley effects approached naturalism.

What's not to like? A sappy, made-for-TV moral lesson with no extras, captured in one of the poorest DVD transfers I've ever seen…good stuff.

This DVD is guilty of virtually every crime we have a law for. I would have ejected it from my DVD player, but I was curled up into a fetal ball whimpering on the couch. Fortunately my cat stepped on the remote, else I might not be here today.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 27

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Bad
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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