Dave delves into the Mystique Films catalogue again to gush over a Kelley Cauthen picture that’s the perfect blend of erotic and thriller.
Kelley Cauthen is one of the unacknowledged masters of the ‘90s erotic thriller boom. His feature length debut, Indecent Behaviour III (1995), is the best of the franchise, and the films that immediately followed it – Smooth Operator (1995) and this, STRIKING RESEMBLANCE – rest comfortably in the form’s upper echelons.
In Striking Resemblance, beautiful detective Jess Brody (Nicole Gian) is called upon to solve a double homicide. One victim was a gorgeous supermodel (a fleeting cameo by Shauna O’Brien), and the other was a famous photographer, Michael Perry (Kevin Spirtas – the star of Ted Nicolau’s upcoming Subspecies V: Blood Rise (2023)). However, when Michael rocks up out of the blue and very much alive, it sends Jess’ case into a tailspin. A stash of sordid homemade video tapes prove a nice distraction, but it’s an instant connection with Michael that leads Jess to takes her eye off the murder – and quite possibly the murderer, given that the shutterbug has a psychotic twin brother called Mitchell…
The beauty of Striking Resemblance rests in the general quality of its writing. After all, the best scripts for DTV softcore are usually those that you can envision landing in the multiplex with minimal interference. Striking Resemblance was penned by Melody Suppes. Born in 1941, Suppes graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City and took a position as a copywriter for agencies like BBDO and Ted Bates. She subsequently moved to Los Angeles and became an author whereupon she crafted the novels A Woman Divided and The Sultan’s Woman – both of which share thematic similarity with Striking Resemblance, her sole produced screenplay.
Credibility comes in the casting too. As Cauthen himself says in the making-of included on Striking Resemblance‘s DVD, the challenge of an erotic thriller is finding people who can both act and be comfortable in sex scenes. Here, Cauthen has struck gold. Gian is excellent. Stunningly attractive, the actress started with a good part in Jag Mundhra’s Tainted Love (1996) and went on to bag a recurring role in Showtime’s half-hour smut-fest, Beverly Hills Bordello. In Striking Resemblance, Gian brings an authenticity to Jess that you’re not really expecting – but as she explains in the aforementioned making-of, she’d always had ambitions to join the force, so she had no trouble clicking with the material. Spirtas works well in the Michael/Mitchell bifold – although it’s Ash Adams who stands out among the guys, exhibiting a classy vulnerability as Jess’s spurned partner-cum-lover.
Maximo Munzi’s (Judgment Day (1999)) plush cinematography adds an extra layer of class – but if there’s one criticism you can level at the film it’s how Cauthen’s dual posts of director and editor perhaps lead to its slightly excessive run time.
Airing on the Playboy Channel in mid-June 1997, Striking Resemblance found its way into stateside Blockbuster stores via the Eros Collection (which was distributed by Universal Pictures, no less). Interestingly, later in the year Cauthen became a vital cog in the Playboy supply chain, spearheading a glut of erotica for Indigo Entertainment who, along with Mystique and Cameo, was one of the primary sources of content for the bunny-eared behemoth.
USA ● 1997 ● Erotic Thriller ● 103mins
Kevin Spirtas, Nicole Gian, Ash Adams, Alan Toy, Shauna O’Brien ● Dir. Kelley Cauthen ● Wri. Melody Suppes