Strangers on a Feign: Web Of Seduction (1999)

Dave dons his Hefner-style smoking jacket and settles down for some high-end erotica from Mystique Films.

“If you don’t get yourself together and take this like an adult, I will dump you and leave you with nothing – just like I found you. I know how to do it. I’m a lawyer.”

Harsh words, there, from the obnoxious Damon (Eric Acsell) to his doe-eyed blonde wife Jenni (Tracy Ryan), who’s been suspicious of his late-night assignations under the guise of ‘legal briefs’. A luxurious lifestyle is meagre compensation for such infidelity – not that her neighbour, Simone (Lauren Hays), would agree as she’s busy two-timing behind the back of her art collector husband Gerard (Stephen Camus). Their marriage has been faltering for a while, so when she gets wind of a rumour that dicky-hearted Gerard is making plans to exclude her from any inheritance, she approaches the vulnerable Jenni with a proposition that would let them both escape the shackles of their wedlock…

Before you can shout “Strangers on a Train (1951)!”, Blain Brown’s WEB OF SEDUCTION spins from thrusting to thriller – and although Tracy Ryan and Lauren Hays are hardly the late ‘90s equivalent of Farley Granger and Robert Walker, they do manage to shift the tonality with admirable grace. For Ryan it was her debut mainstream role, having worked solely in the adult movie industry in the years prior. In the wake of Brown’s film she bagged a handful of other R-rated roles in the likes of Edward Holzman’s Hollywood Sins (2000) and Robert Kubilos’ Forbidden (2001). Hays, meanwhile, had been a fixture in a few erotics ever since she’d shown up in Gregory Dark’s Mirror Images II (1993), after which she chalked up a cameo in Russell Solberg’s Raven (1996) and a pair of Playboy-branded pictures in the form of Life as a Gigolo (1998) and Club Wild Side (1998).

Speaking of which, it’s no surprise to see that Mystique Films, Playboy Entertainment’s home video subsidiary, are Web of Seduction‘s backers. Made towards the climax (sorry) of their six-year tenure as the primo erotica distributor of the mid-to-late ‘90s, Web of Seduction underlines their commitment to quality and style when so many production houses were shirking on the basics, particularly during what was a financially rocky time in the home entertainment business. It’s also a reminder of just how far Mystique stretched the parameters of softcore, with the opposite and same sex shenanigans of Brown’s film threatening to increase the heartrate of even the most asexual of observers.

Indeed, it’s here where the filmmaker deserves a great deal of credit. For the first half of his movie, it’s wall-to-wall copulation, so for the writer-director to be able to weave a coherent and intriguing narrative amid relentless romping is an impressive feat. Brown’s directorial debut, I’m Watching You (1997), is still the better film, but this sophomore effort would make the perfect opener for a double-bill.

An Angelo Badalamenti-esque score by Chris Anderson and Carl Schurtz adds a little more class to an already elegant feature that found a home on DVD in late ’99 via Image Entertainment. Its British bow didn’t happen until a couple of years later, when it was released on the Showbox label as part of the Eros Movie Collection.

USA ● 1999 ● Erotic Thriller ● 93mins

Lauren Hays, Eric Acsell, Tracy Ryan, Stephan Camus, Michael George, Nancy O’Brien ● Dir./Wri. Blain Brown

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