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A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: The 25th Anniversary – Color Of Night

A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: The 25th Anniversary Celebration Of Director Richard Rush’s Psycho-Sexual Thriller “Color Of Night”. The Bruce Willis & Jane March Thriller Is A Film You’ve Probably Never Seen & Should. With Two Versions Of The Film Available, Director Richard Rush’s Directors Cut Is The Best Possible Version Of The Film. Call It Guilty Pleasure, Call It Cult Classic, Call It One Of The Worst Films. Call It Whatever You Want But There’s No Denying It’s Great!

The Golden Raspberry Awards, also known in short terms as The Razzies is a parody award show honoring the worst of cinematic under-achievements (the worst films of the yer). Co-founded for four decades now, by two UCLA film graduates and film industry veterans. A lot of high profile actors, actresses and filmmakers have been nominated for Razzies throughout their career. In 1994 Bruce Willis, who was still one of the biggest movie stars in the world, had two of his films nominated for Worst Motion Pictures that year. 

One of those films is one of his most infamous, the it’s so bad it’s great psycho-sexual thriller “Color Of Night”. Between 1993 and 1994 Bruce Willis was in a time when he chose to make “Striking Distance” (the better film) and “Color Of Night”, two 90’s whodunnit murder thrillers back to back. To just think that “Color Of Night” also came in the same year as two of Bruce Willis’ best roles and performances in Quentin Tarantino’s masterful “Pulp Fiction” and his brilliant supporting role opposite Paul Newman In “Nobody’s Fool”.

“Color Of Night” has lead star Bruce Willis playing an East Coast psychologist who loses his faith in analysis after he talks tough to a patient and she commits suicide through the window of his skyscraper office. The pool of bright red blood flowing under her turns black, as Willis character Bill Capa suffers from psychosomatic color blindness. Desperate for a change, Willis heads for Los Angeles, where his best friend (Scott Bakula) has a psychiatric practice that finances a luxurious lifestyle. Soon enough everyone in the group is a suspect as Willis’ psychiatric friend is found murdered and of course there is a reason why each member of the group seems guilty. 

The group of patients includes Sondra (Lesley Ann Warren), a nymphomaniac with a nervous giggle and a careless neckline; Clark (Brad Dourif), who lost his job at a law firm after he started compulsively counting everything; Buck (Lance Henrickson), an ex-cop who foams at the mouth with anger at the least provocation; Casey (Kevin J. O’Connor), a neurotic artist, and Ricky, a young man with a gender identity problem, of whom the less said the better. Willis takes over the group at the urging of Martinez, the detective in charge of the murder investigation, who is played by Ruben Blades.

Meanwhile, a beautiful young woman materializes in Willis’ life. She is Rose (Jane March), who seems to come from nowhere, who is lovely, who adores him and who quickly joins him in a steamy sexual filled relationship. She is there simply to give him a partner in the films explicit sex scenes, or she is somehow involved with the mystery surrounding the murder. How and why and if this is true, I shall not reveal.

Richard Rush is an American screenwriter, director and producer. Rush who is best known for being the screenwriter of the 1990 Mel Gibson film “Air America”, directed “Color Of Night” which is one of two well-known works by Rush, the other being “The Stunt Man” which he made 14 years prior to “Color Of Night”. 

The film was offered to Richard Rush by producer of Cinergi films, Andrew Vanja in an attempt to reconcile over the problems they clashed on the production of “Air America”. Vanja already had Bruce Willis attached to the project because one the producers was one of the heads of Bruce Willis’ talent agency. The head butting between Producer Andrew Vanja and Richard Rush started again as Vanja told Rush that he could tailor the script to his liking. However, that didn’t happen as writer Matthew Chapman joined screenwriter Billy Ray for additional rewrites. The clash didn’t end there as Rush was also misled to the fact that he had final cut on the film and ultimately was not given final cut, leading to the films two controversial and much different versions of the film. 

Richard Rush turned his cut of the film over to producer Vajna in late 1993. Vajna was concerned about the film’s commercial prospects and demanded a recut, something Rush refused. Vajna who mislead Rush when hired claiming that he had final cut, when actually Vajna was the one who had final cut per contractual obligation, and insisted on testing his own version of the film. After both versions were given a number of test screenings, Vajna determined that his cut would be released theatrically and fired Richard Rush in April 1994.

This ultimately escalated into a battle between Rush and Vajna that received coverage in the Los Angeles trades. They made a bet as to see who’s version would fare the best and Vanja allowed Rush to set the place and date to where the two versions of the film would play. Rush chose San Francisco as the city where both versions would be played on the same date but at different times. After the day was over, Rush unanimously won the bet as many felt his version was the more coherent of the two without question.

The fact that Rush’s version tested higher than Vajna’s cut; were defended by many including entertainment publication Variety and by film critic Bill Arnold, who attended a test screening of Rush’s version in Seattle. Meanwhile The Los Angeles Times defended Vajna, stating that Rush stubbornly refused any input from the studio. The Directors Guild attempted to intervene on the matter. Ultimately the battle ended when Rush suffered a near-fatal heart attack and became hospitalized. Months later, after Rush recovered, he compromised with Vajna that his producer’s cut would be released theatrically and that the director’s cut with 15 additional minutes would see a hard media release. 

After the film was released, Richard Rush submitted his version to the MPAA to secure a rating, which he hoped would be an R rating as he had intended from the beginning of filming. He got the R rating approval that he wanted which enraged Andrew Vanja, questioning the ratings board as to why Rush’s version was not worse than his. The MPAA felt that the nudity in Rush’s version was done more tastefully than Vanja’s which was pushing the envelope towards an NC-17 due to the explicit intended nature of those scenes.

“Color of Night” flopped at the box office and won a Razzie for worst film of 1994. Nonetheless, it became one of the 20 most-rented films in the home video market in 1995. Maxim magazine had also singled the film out as having the best sex scenes in film history.

After the film had failed at the box office, Writer/Director Richard Rush sent his “version” to three of the country’s best film critics who had completely lambasted the film when it was released theatrically during the Summer 1994. After seeing Rush’s unimpaired version, they gave him critical raves for it and rightfully so as Rush’s version is far superior than Vajna’s. 

The film opened at #4, grossing $6 million its opening weekend playing at a total of 1,740 theaters. The film ended up a box office failure, grossing only $19 million far below its $40 million production budget. On more positive notes, “Color of Night” received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture for its theme song “The Color of the Night”, performed by Lauren Christy. 

Bruce Willis who is notorious for not getting along with his Directors, did in-fact got along with Richard Rush before and during filming. Rush also respected Willis for taking his craft seriously, including the films visual sex scenes. Director Richard Rush filmed the pool sex sequence which featured full frontal male nudity with a stand in, as Bruce Willis’ private area was deemed too small. 

The plot gets so convoluted and farfetched that you still may be scratching your head after the denouement, but you probably won’t be bored by the film. It’s a psycho-erotic thriller with twists and shocks, as it has the ambition to belong to the genre of films similar to it such as “Fatal Attraction”, “Basic Instinct” and “Single White Female”. 

It’s an LA murder mystery, that has the ingredients of an Agatha Christie whodunit and a sex-crazed slasher film. The film ends in a frenzy of recycled thriller elements, where the characters remain at ground level and go to a lot of trouble to climb a tall tower so that one can almost fall off, and the other can grab him in the nick of time during and after heated dialogue in which the plot is explained. There is a chase scene, a showdown in an echoing warehouse, and one of those “talking” villains. I will admit that the use of the high-powered industrial staple gun is original.

Hard Media company Kino Lorber (under license from Disney) has released a two disc special edition Blu-ray of the film; it contains an audio commentary by director Richard Rush and both the directors cut and the theatrical cut, which is being released for the first time. 

If the movie’s drawbacks are illogical plotting and bizarrely murky lighting, its chief virtues are it’s offbeat humor, amusingly over-the-top acting and that old Richard Rush trademark, unpredictability.

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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