Double Exposure (1994): Women of Valour

Dave dissects one of the best neo-noirs of the ’90s.

Is God real?

Who am I?

Why do I exist?

Arguably life’s three biggest mysteries.

A close fourth is why isn’t Dedee Pfeiffer as big as her sister?

Starting out with memorable appearances in films like Into the Night (1985) and Vamp (1986), Pfeiffer seemed to find her niche in ‘90s television shows such as Cybil and For Your Love. Addiction problems caused her to take a decade-long hiatus from the business recently; time that was spent achieving a master’s degree in social work from UCLA. Happily, Pfeiffer returned to acting in 2020 with a prominent role in brother-in-law David E. Kelley’s acclaimed crime drama Big Sky – which perhaps provides the ideal opportunity to reappraise her lesser-seen work, namely this phenomenal neo-noir…

In DOUBLE EXPOSURE Pfeiffer is Linda Mack: an employee of the humourless Roger Putnam (a chilling Ian Buchanan) and the best buddy of his wife, Maria (Jennifer Gatti). The two ladies head to the gym a couple of times a week because it’s Maria’s solitary escape from the coercive control of her obsessive husband. Riddled with jealousy, Roger traces every move Maria makes – so much so that a late return one evening prompts him to employ the services of private detective John McClure (Ron Perlman).

McClure has his own demons, though. Chain-smoking Marlboros and with a perennially half-empty bottle of vintage Macallan whiskey in his desk drawer, McClure is being blackmailed. A cool $25k from Roger for a hitman to kill his wife’s alleged lover certainly piques his interest, but moonlighting for a quick buck is about to backfire on him in the most extraordinary way…

Director Claudia Hoover has quite the resume. An editor by trade, she started out with Empire Pictures as an apprentice on Troll (1986) before graduating to assistant editor on Peter Manoogian’s Eliminators (1986) and Ted Nicolau’s TerrorVision (1986). By the early ‘90s, Hoover assumed full editorial responsibility, her most notable work coming via J.S. Cardone’s superlative thriller, Black Day Blue Night (1995). However, it’s perhaps Hoover’s role as producer on Metamorphosis: Man into Woman (1990) that remains the pinnacle of her career. This award-winning documentary won the Filmmaker’s Trophy at Sundance and is considered years ahead of its time in introducing transgender issues to mainstream audiences.

Incidentally, gender has a key role in Double Exposure. A female director, producer and writing team – as well as Pfeiffer’s portrayal of a fearlessly inquisitive woman – gives the film a distinctly feminine spin, and it’s all the better for it. It doesn’t stop there either, with co-scripter Bridget Hoffman penning herself the triumphant role of an unconventional forensic investigator who cracks the case thanks to her obsession with dog shit and puke.

In terms of style, Double Exposure is lensed by storied DP John J. O’Connor. A veteran behind-the-scenes guy, O’Connor shot second unit on underrated flesh-fest The Color of Night (1994) and he injects Hoover’s picture with a similar degree of class – most noticeably the black and white flashbacks that litter the movie. Shout-out to another Empire alum too, in the form of Paolo Rustichelli (Arena (1989)), who submits an idiosyncratic yet perfect score.

Released on video in the U.S. by Prism Entertainment in Spring 1994, Double Exposure joins a long list of achingly good features that, owing to their ‘VHS only’ status, have largely been ignored. In this case it’s blasphemy, because this is genuinely one of the best of its era – and is enhanced even further if you avoid the ending reveal in the trivia section of its IMDb page.

USA ● 1994 ● Thriller ● 92mins

Dedee Pfeiffer, Jennifer Gatti, Ron Perlman, Ian Buchanan, Bridget Hoffman ● Dir. Claudia Hoover ● Wri. Christine Colfer, Bridget Hoffman, Claudia Hoover

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