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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lipstick
Lipstick
Paramount // R // October 14, 2003
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 14, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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"Miss McCormick, every human being has the right of simple consent -- even women."
-- Anne Bancroft as Carla Bondi, Lipstick

Paramount has recently been digging deep into their back catalog, unearthing all sorts of dreck to ship off to bargain bins nationwide. Their 1976 rape-'n'-revenge flick Lipstick can be had for less than six bucks shipped online, but even at that meager price point, this deservedly-overlooked turkey isn't worth it.

Hollywood has a proud tradition of casting models in fairly dismal movies, and Lipstick marked the feature film debut of model Margaux Hemingway as...well, a model. Chris McCormick is one of the most sought-after talents in the industry. During some scantily-clad promotion for a brand of lipstick inventively called "Lipstick", her younger sister Kathy (a pre-pubescent Mariel Hemingway, also gracing the silver screen for the first time) introduces Chris to her music teacher, Gordon Stuart (Chris Sarandon). Gordon is a fledgling composer whose specialty is an intermingling of synthesized warbling and electronically warped nature sounds. Kathy, who's smitten with Gordon, feels compelled to force his atonal compositions onto Chris. Gordon, on the other hand, feels compelled to force himself onto Chris after a polite rendezvous at her apartment doesn't go quite as cheerfully as intended. Gordon mercilessly beats Chris, smearing her face with the lipstick she shills, tying her to a bed, and sodomizing her. Kathy stumbles onto them, but she misinterptets the situation and quickly darts off.

Chris calls in the cops, who prod her with questions and insist on taking degrading photographs as evidence. She's then introduced to Carla Bondi (Anne Bancroft), a prosecutor who I guess is supposed to be morally ambiguous, though the movie doesn't handle this angle -- or much at all -- particularly well. Despite her boyfriend's pleas to not throw away her career by testifying, Chris takes the stand in the case against the smug Gordon. Her heartfelt testimony flops, though; Gordon insists that Chris just likes it rough, and a defense attorney raking her sister over the coals proved enough to instill reasonable doubt in the mind of the jury. Her spirits dampened and her career in tatters, Chris shows up at work for one last shoot. A bored Kathy is encouraged to explore the large, sparsely-populated upper areas of the building, and...yeah, something not entirely pleasant follows. With the legal system having failed her once before and only a few minutes to go before the credits roll, Chris decides to exact her own well-coiffed version of justice.

So, yeah, Lipstick is pretty awful. The acting is unilaterally wretched, particularly from its lisping leading lady. Her performance is so over-the-top that it teeters perilously into camp territory, particularly in the movie's final moments when Chris whips out a shotgun while wearing a pricey red gown and her hair expertly styled. Though most actresses would probably stumble when faced with sterling lines like "He wanted to kill me with it... With his cock! I hate him! I hate him, and I want him to die in jail!", Margaux is wholly unable to sell any dialogue whatsoever. The absolutely brutal rape scene is easily the most unsettling I've seen this side of Kidnapped Coed, but as intense as this sequence is, her extremely brief dialogue comes dangerously close to spoiling one of the movie's only redeeming moments. Lipstick seems to have been penned with a couple of scenes in mind, and the pacing meanders outside of those key sequences.

Lipstick is inept enough that it's kind of fun to watch, as boring as many of its slower moments may be, and curious viewers may find the slim asking price low enough to dive in sight-unseen. Even though I enjoyed the movie at least on some slight level, I don't think I could bring myself to pay any amount of money for this DVD, and I'm reasonably certain that I'll never get around to giving it a second spin.

Video: For a hopelessly obscure exploitation flick lensed over two and a half decades ago, this anamorphic widescreen presentation of Lipstick (approx. 1.75:1) looks surprisingly good. Admittedly, lengthy portions are mired in film grain, and some large chunks of dust and assorted flecks are tossed around with some frequency. There's no significant damage, though, and aside from some exceptionally grainy, murky moments, detail and contrast remain reasonably decent. Colors appear to be accurately saturated, boasting a distinctively '70s palette, and the number of dark, shadowy portions show off the strength of the transfer's inky blacks. It's not the sort of disc you'd whip out to show off a pricey home theater rig, but Lipstick looks much better than I was anticipating given its age and obscurity.

Audio: Lipstick sports a pair of monaural tracks in Dolby Digital mono (192Kbps), including one in the movie's original English as well as a French dub. The dialogue comes through fine, but little else does. Many of the sound effects are barely discernable, even as Chris is violently slammed all around her bedroom and Gordon clips another car in a parking lot. The less said about the music, the better.

Lipstick also features English subtitles and closed captions. Oddly, a French subtitle stream is present, but at least in the portions I checked, it doesn't actually display anything.

Supplements: The bare-bones Lipstick includes a set of static, silent 16x9-enhanced menus. The movie has been divided into twelve chapters, though the included insert incorrectly lists thirteen chapter stops.

Conclusion: Lipstick is a fairly bland exploitation flick, and a couple of unsettling sequences and a hysterically over-the-top finalé aren't enough to make the rest of the tedium worthwhile. Not recommended as anything more than a rental.
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