Directed by Yuri Sivo and released by Troma in 1989, Dangerous Obsession actually began life as Mortal Sins before it was retitled. Like that title, the feature itself is remarkable only in how completely generic and pedestrian it is, particularly if you're even partially versed in the staples of the late eighties ‘sexy thriller' genre inspired by the success of films like Body Double or Fatal Attraction. At least, at eighty-three minutes or so, it's a fairly breezy, painless watch and it's competently made, enough so that getting through it isn't any particular sort of chore. It just doesn't stand out is all, though there are moments where you get the impression that Sivo was at least striving to deliver something more interesting than he actually managed to hand in.
Nathan Weinschank (Brian Benben) is a New York City detective who works the scene in Manhattan. He's also a bit of a jerk and he treats his nice, pretty girlfriend, Marie (Maggie Wheeler), kind of like garbage. He does this in front of his parents (prolific TV actress Anna Berger plays his mom) too, which doesn't exactly endear him to the audience or make him a particularly likeable character. At any rate, this sleazy jerk gets hired by the leader of a tightly knit Christian community when a murder within their ranks understandably puts everyone on edge. The deeper he digs into the details of the murder, the more he gets pulled into the situation as he is soon completely unsure as to who he can trust and who he cannot. Murder, sex and deceit all follow in liberal doses while Nathan tries to keep his personal life, his family life and his love life all in proper order.
The tone here is wildly uneven and the script can't decide if it wants to be an erotic thriller set in the often very shady world of televangelism or if it wants to be an inner city comedy about a smart-alecky Jewish guy and his wacky family. Rather than make up its mind, the movie decides to be both but winds up handling neither genre particularly well. The comedy seems forced into the script simply as an attempt to keep the characters quirky, as if that instantly makes them interesting to us, and in hopes that quirky will effectively double for properly developed. We don't get to know Nathan enough to like him very much and his interactions with his buddies don't do much to help there. His interactions with his girlfriend solidify our dislike for him but he's good at his job and as he seems to want to solve the case despite, or more likely because of, the involvement of ‘another woman' he's not completely out of place. He just could have been written better.
The performances are all over the place. Benben is fine in the role if you can look past the way his character is portrayed. He's snarky, a wise-ass really, but he plays the role well enough and would seem to deliver the type of performance that the script asks of him. Anna Berger is good as his mother and Debrah Farentino is fine as the lady that Benben's Nathan winds up having to look after. She's attractive and you can see why she would tempt him the way that he does. Maggie Wheeler is also fine here and is reasonably sympathetic in the part. The movie is fairly well shot, it has some atmospheric lighting at times and the Manhattan locations serve the film well. The story travels all over the island so we get a bit of an early nineties tour by watching the movie. A run down old church makes for an interesting spot for some of the action to play out in and while the movie is dated in its fashions and furnishings, intentionally or not the movie makes good use of color to create some visually interesting scenes of contrast but ultimately this is too sloppily put together to really work as well as it could have.
Dangerous Obsession arrives on DVD from Troma in 1.33.1 fullframe from what looks suspiciously like a tape sourced transfer. As such, detail is soft, fuzzy and generally unappealing. The darker scenes are murky and too dark and contrast occasionally blooms in ugly ways. The image is interlaced so there's that too. This is watchable, but not up to the standards that it could and should be.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is okay. Clarity isn't bad here and while there isn't a ton of channel separation at least the levels are properly balanced and the sound sounds alright. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and while there are a few bits where some minor hiss is audible, it's minor and not too distracting.
Extras are slim on this disc but we do get a brief interview with James Gunn about his time at Troma, a still gallery, trailers for a few other Troma releases, menus and chapter selection. Oh and that seemingly omnipresent ‘Radiation March' bit is on here too.
Dangerous Obsession is a pretty generic late eighties ‘sexy thriller' that subscribes, for better or worse, to pretty much every cliché which that genre is known for. As such, it's entertaining enough if you're hanging out on a lazy weekend with nothing better to do but far from essential by any stretch of the term. Troma's presentation is about as mediocre as the movie itself. You could do worse than this, but so too could you do much better. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.