An apparently loving husband, Dan (Douglas), embarks upon a frantic one-night affair with unhinged book editor Alex (Close), only to be made to pay for his sins with her campaign of crazed retribution, the murder of the family pet being one of Alex's tamer actions.
It was the remarkable double of Fatal Attraction followed by Wall Street that vaulted Michael Douglas to the top of the A-list of desirable leading men. Adrian Lyne's slick, racey thriller was the biggest grossing hit of 1987 and was read as a timely parable about the dangers of indulging in unsafe sex. Sex certainly never came more lethal than this, when Douglas' Dan Gallagher succumbs to a one-night stand with Glenn Close's seemingly blase book editor Alex Forrest.
Gallagher's punishment for having his fun in such places as the kitchen sink and the lift is discovering that the lady is a serious loony. An unfaithful husband's worst nightmare comes to life as the obsessional, spurned Alex winds herself up listening to Madame Butterfly and embarks on a vengeful reign of terror.
From the first ominous tantrum as Gallagher attempts a cheery ta-ta, the unease is wound tighter and tighter through such staples of screen psycho behaviour as destruction of property and the old mutilation of a family pet routine (rendered with an appalling difference) to outright horror. This is all wildly gripping, suspenseful stuff, with a masterfully done, heart-stopping climax, although the last Grand Guignol split-seconds are never quite as scary as the first time you see it. Poor Alex —deranged as she is—does have a point in her grievance that he's taken what he wanted and now she can get lost. The escape clause for our hero is that she not only asked for it but downright insisted, and the twist that so captured the public was the depiction of the man as the stalked victim.
Douglas is attractive and believable, but he does take a backseat to Glenn Close's spectacularly crazed performance. It would be fun to see the original ending—which American test audiences couldn't stomach — in which the Madame Butterfly motif reached a logical, very much more downbeat conclusion, with her suicide leaving him framed for murder.
Two absolutely riveting performances and a smart reversal of the usual male-female stalker scenario leave behind a nasty taste and an unforgettable cinema experience.
Reviewed by Angie Errigo