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Color of Night is a 1994 American erotic mystery thriller film produced by Cinergi Pictures and released in the United States by Hollywood Pictures. Directed by Richard Rush, the film stars Bruce Willis, Jane March, Ruben Blades, Lesley Ann Warren, and Scott Bakula. It is one of two well-known works by director Richard Rush, the other being The Stunt Man 14 years before.
Although Color of Night flopped at the box office, this film did well in the home video market and became one of the Top 20 most-rented films in the United States in 1995. Maxim magazine also singled the film out as having the Best Sex Scenes in film history.
Bill Capa (Willis), a New York City psychoanalyst, falls into a deep depression after a patient commits suicide in front of him by jumping from his office window. The sight of the bloody body of his patient clad in a bright green dress causes Capa to suffer from psychosomatic color blindness, taking away his ability to see the color red. To restart his life, Capa travels to Los Angeles to stay with a friend, fellow therapist and best-selling author Dr. Bob Moore (Bakula), who invites him to sit in on a group therapy session. But one night Moore is violently murdered in the office and Capa is plunged into the mystery of his friend's death.
Moore would gather his patients every Monday for a discussion of their problems, and police detective Lt. Hector Martinez (Ruben Blades) considers them, and Capa, suspects in the murder. Capa continues to live in Moore's house and begins an affair with Rose (March), a mysterious girl who comes and goes without warning into his life. As relationships develop, Capa takes over Moore's patients and learns of their pasts and obsessions:
- Clark (Brad Dourif) suffers from severe obsessive compulsive disorder and insists on cleanliness and counting things. This led him to beat up his wife.
- Sondra Dorio (Lesley Ann Warren) is a nymphomaniac and kleptomaniac. She stabbed her father with a knife and fork and one of her husbands died of unnatural causes.
- Buck (Lance Henriksen) is a suicidal ex-cop. The murder of his wife and daughter remains unsolved.
- Casey Heinz (Kevin J. O'Connor) is the arrogant son of a wealthy man. He paints sado-masochist works of art and once burned down his father's house.
- Richie is a 16-year-old with a stutter and a gender identity problem. He wants to be a woman and has a history of drug use.
Soon, one of these patients is violently murdered, and Capa himself becomes the target of several attempts on his life. He also discovers that all but one of his patients have been romantically involved with Rose. This leads to a twist ending: "Richie" is really Rose, and the murders have been committed by her deranged brother Dale (Andrew Lowery). They actually had a brother named Richie who was molested by a child psychiatrist named Niedelmeyer. Richie committed suicide and, unable to cope with the loss, Dale forced Rose to play the part of their brother. Dale — who was also one of Niedelmeyer's victims — began abusing Rose until she actually became "Richie". When "Richie" was arrested for drug possession, "he" was forced into therapy. Rose soon started to re-emerge and, under another personality, "Bonnie," started relationships with other members of the group. Dale proceeded to kill them, fearing that they would soon link Rose to "Richie".
When Capa confronts Rose and Dale over this, Dale tries to kill him but is instead killed by Rose. Deeply traumatized, she tries to commit suicide but Capa is able to stop her, bookending the story with two suicide attempts — one at the beginning, resulting in Capa's loss of color vision, and one at the end, thwarted and resulting in his regaining it.
- Bruce Willis as Dr. Bill Capa
- Jane March as Rose/Richie/Bonnie
- Rubén Blades as Det. Hector Martinez
- Lesley Ann Warren as Sondra Dorio
- Scott Bakula as Dr. Bob Moore
- Brad Dourif as Clark
- Kathleen Wilhoite as Michelle
- Lance Henriksen as Buck
- Kevin J. O'Connor as Casey Heinz
- Eriq La Salle as Det. Anderson
- Andrew Lowery as Dale Dexter
- Jeff Corey as Ashland
- Shirley Knight as Edith Niedelmeyer
- Erick Avari (uncredited) as Cabbie
The film received mostly negative reviews around the time of its release, and currently sits at 26% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews. Referring to the film as "memorably bizarre," Janet Maslin in her August 19, 1994 New York Times review wrote: "The enthusiastically nutty Color of Night has the single-mindedness of a bad dream and about as much reliance on everyday logic." She also cited the revelation of the murderer, "whose disguise won't fool anyone, anywhere." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "I was, frankly, stupefied. To call it absurd would be missing the point, since any shred of credibility was obviously the first thing thrown overboard. It's so lurid in its melodrama and so goofy in its plotting that with just a bit more trouble, it could have been a comedy." Luke Y. Thompson of The New Times also praised March's performance and wrote: "Minority opinion here, I know, but I found the sex scenes hot and March's performance truly impressive." Brian McKay of eFilmCritic.com stated the film was a "Mediocre L.A. noir thriller made more tolerable by Jane March disrobing frequently." Ken Hanke of the Mountain Xpress (Asheville, North Carolina) wrote the film was "Underrated, but far from great."
The film opened at #4, grossing $6,610,488 its opening weekend playing at a total of 1,740 theaters. The film ended up becoming a box office failure, grossing only $19,750,470--far below its $40 million budget. The film was also a noteworthy failure internationally, grossing only $1,454,085 in the UK, $565,104 in Sweden, $112,690 in Austria, $4,725,167 in Germany, and $364,939 in Argentina.
Color of Night won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture, and was also nominated in eight other categories including Worst Actor (Bruce Willis also for North), Worst Actress (Jane March), Worst Director (Richard Rush), Worst Screenplay, Worst Original Song ("The Color of the Night"), Worst Screen Couple ("Any combination of two people from the entire cast"), Worst Supporting Actor (Jane March as Richie) and Worst Supporting Actress (Lesley Ann Warren). The film is the first Worst Picture winner to take that award and not win even one other Razzie.
On more positive notes, Color of Night did win a Golden Globe nomination in the category Best Original Song — Motion Picture for its theme song "The Color of the Night", performed by Lauren Christy. On the other hand, Maxim magazine also praised Color of Night for having the Best Sex Scenes in film history.
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