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Film / Under Investigation

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Seduction is never innocent.

A Direct to Video feature released by New Line Cinema in 1993. Not well known, and those who have seen it tend to think of it as a poor imitation of Basic Instinct. Its selling point is probably the opening murder scene that combines bondage with Fanservice (or Fan Disservice) depending on your perspective.

A woman is found murdered after being tied to the bed of a famous artist. Jaded and washed out detective Harry Keaton is assigned to the case. He soon complicates the case for himself when he becomes romantically involved with one of the prime suspects, the artist's wife.

Stars Harry Hamlin as Detective Harry Keaton, Joanna Pacuła as Abby Jane Strong, Ed Lauter as Captain Maguire, John Mese as Detective Channing, and Richard Beymer as Dr. Harry Parsons.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dr. Parsons lays it on pretty heavy in trying to appear considerate and helpful to Detective Keaton. And anyone who's watched enough murder mysteries will pretty much see that as a signal that he's the killer. Which he is.
  • Black Widow: It is heavily implied that Abby murdered her previous husband to get his life insurance when Captain Maguire discusses the possibility with Keaton that Abby made it look like a boating accident. It is confirmed that she directly pulled the trigger on Adrian Strong to collect his insurance money when Keaton finds the glove with the hole in it that left behind a partial fingerprint on the gun. She also uses her wiles on Parsons to get him to kill Monica. Had Monica given birth to Adrian's child, that child would have bumped in line ahead of Abby for the insurance money.
  • Bondage Is Bad: A given when the bondage is not consensual, and as part of either the opening murder scene or the attempted murder of Abby near the end of the movie.
  • Bully and Wimp Pairing: Zigzagged. Keaton is easily more physically capable in comparison to his newly assigned partner, Channing. He is often aggressive and willing to use force in his cases to a degree that makes Captain Maguire uncomfortable because it clearly exceeds the limits of proper police procedure. He also usually makes Channing his Butt-Monkey. And yet Channing ultimately saves Keaton's life at the end when he shoots Abby just as she's about to pull the trigger on Keaton.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Monica. First, she's stripped absolutely naked. Then she's Bound and Gagged to her own lover's bed. The killer paints her naked body. She's unconscious for part of it. However, once she comes to, she's crying, trying to scream for help through her gag, and struggling in vain to break free of her lashings. To say that she's not enjoying the experience is an understatement to put it mildly. The killer takes his time gloating over her, enjoying every minute of her in her naked glory even as she is suffering and struggling through her ordeal, which clearly takes it into Mind Rape territory. He also gives her a non-fatal cut on her abdomen. His treatment of her up to this point, even without direct physical harm, was a solid case for Cold-Blooded Torture. The cut he gives leaves no doubt about it anymore. Then to top it off, he applies duct tape to her nose, causing her to suffocate and die. Not a nice way to go.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The Forensic Officer has a penchant for it. "God, you detectives are so smart!"
    • Detective Channing often displays it in his interactions with Keaton, possibly as a way to compensate for not having the same physical intimidation capabilities that Keaton does.
    Keaton: You'll get my respect, when you've earned it.
    Channing: And how do I do that? By sleeping with the wife of a murder suspect?
    Keaton: (painfully grimaces)
  • Disposable Woman: Monica. We do know she's very good looking. But she'd have to be to justify a murder scene aiming for naked Fanservice, and trying to amplify said Fanservice with Bondage Is Bad to the point that it borders on Torture Porn. The only other thing we know about her is that she had an obsessive affair with Adrian, and even that is only provided to suggest a possible motive for her murder. We know absolutely nothing about her besides that, and it seems that the rest of the characters can only be bothered to mention or remember her on account of either trying to close her case out or obstruct the investigation.
  • Drop Dead Gorgeous: Detective Keaton arrives at the crime scene. Monica lies dead in Adrian Strong's bed the morning after her murder, completely naked, Bound and Gagged, and her body painted over. Partially subverted in that the officers first on the scene respectfully covered her over with a sheet.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: It's easy to see why both Dr. Parsons and Keaton fell for Abby, being played by Joanna Pacuła in her prime. But underneath the perfect face and perfect body, every bit a match for Monica on the latter point, she's a Black Widow and Manipulative Bitch who thinks nothing of murder to score millions and discards anyone who comes too close to her when she no longer has any use for them.
  • Fanservice: Unequivocally provided for fans of either sexual preference as Keaton and Abby have a marathon go with each other.
  • Fanservice / Fan Disservice: The opening murder scene can be seen as either depending on the individual viewer's perspective. Monica, the murder victim, has an absolutely perfect body. And the movements of her muscled frame as she struggles against being Bound and Gagged can be titillating for some viewers. On the other hand, her heartless murder and the cruel treatment she's subjected to beforehand makes the whole thing quite disturbing.
  • Frame-Up: Given how cruel Parsons was in his murder of Monica, you could suggest he did it that way For the Evulz. Yet there's no denying that the style of the murder itself had the very practical point of setting up Adrian Strong as the prime suspect. Tying Monica up in a spreadeagle suggestive of crucifixion, painting her naked body with a design suggestive of hell fire and damnation, and leaving a cross on her now dead body obviously points the finger at her former lover who had a reputation for being Egocentrically Religious. Detective Channing, who's half Italian, explains the additional point that the killer played an opera called La Gocionda during the murder, where the lyrics suggest that the murderer has to kill his mistress before she reveals the affair to his wife.
  • Has a Type:
    • Monica and Abby look quite similar, suggesting that Adrian Strong has a thing for tall athletic women with light brown hair.
    • Keaton seems to have a similar taste as well, as his ex-girlfriend, Madeleine, also looks quite similar to Abby. In fact, Keaton's vulnerability to Abby's seduction may have been that she seemed like a Replacement Goldfish. As Captain Maguire says: "Pretty girl with a foreign accent, sounds familiar to me."
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: Although Abby wasn't a police officer herself, this trope comes the closest to describing the situation Keaton puts himself in. Sleeping with the wife of THE prime suspect for the murder, especially when she herself is considered the second most likely suspect, is just plain a bad idea from the viewpoint of any professional police service. Yet Keaton puts up only the most token resistance, if any, to letting Abby sink her hooks right into him. Gets called for it multiple times by both his partner, Channing, and his boss, Captain Maguire.
  • Kavorka Man: Adrian Strong. The one photograph of him reveals him to be an older, overweight and unkempt man who is nothing special to look at. Not that it gets in the way of notching multiple beautiful women to his bedpost, including the now recently murdered Monica.
    Keaton: Did you know her?
    Neighbor Lady: I don't know. After a while, they all start to look alike. He should have installed a revolving door.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Abby. She plays on Parson's attraction to her to convince him to murder Monica, with specific instructions to pull a Frame-Up on Adrian Strong. She also manages to play Keaton up until he realizes what she really is.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: The Forensic Officer hints at it while noting that Monica's murder case has the sole attention of Detctives Keaton and Janning. "You know, there were only 60 murders alone this past weekend."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Captain Maguire. He regularly chews out Keaton when he behaves unprofessionally. However, he'll also give Keaton some rope when he realizes Keaton stands a real chance of getting to the bottom of things.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Channing is the Blue to Keaton's Red. Keaton is aggressive, sometimes displaying a Hair-Trigger Temper, and often flouts departmental procedure, qualities that enable him to handle dangerous situations that Channing normally couldn't. Channing by comparison is much calmer emotionally, and a straight-laced By-the-Book Cop. Those qualities sometimes allow him to reign in Keaton's worst excesses, and provide insights that the hot headed Keaton overlooks.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: How Keaton's fellow officers tend to view him. The trailer even describes him as such. He sees his work style as more a matter of Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!.
  • Sexual Extortion: Abby reveals that Parsons made keeping her job dependent on having an affair with him.
  • Shout-Out: Adrian Strong is clearly one to Pablo Picasso. Reputation for being a brilliant yet Mad Artist, check. Reputation as a Kavorka Man who notches multiple beautiful women to his bedpost, check.
  • Spoiler Cover: The back of both the VHS and Laser Disc boxes show Richard Beymer struggling with Joanna Pacula, who has been gagged with a piece of duct tape over her mouth. So seeing that means you'll know his character is the killer before even putting the tape or the disc in the player.
  • The Vamp: Played with. Parsons probably wasn't the most moral person to begin with, considering his sexual harassment of Abby, but Abby playing on his attraction to her to manipulate him into murdering Monica becomes a new low. She tries her wiles on Keaton, and it works just enough to have Keaton get rid of Parsons for her. But once Keaton finally realizes what she truly is, he comes to his senses and treats her as nothing more than a murder suspect who must be arrested.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Abby pulls one on Parsons. Keaton comes to her rescue just as Parsons is in the middle of attempting to kill her the same way he killed Monica.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Abby has no issue with doing the Black Widow to her husbands to collect their life insurance money. She also strokes Parson just long enough to have him kill Monica for her, but very shortly thereafter uses Keaton to get rid of him through the Wounded Gazelle Gambit. Keaton explicitly calls her out on it, realizing that he himself will become dispensable once he's no longer of any use to her.