Ripped from last year's tabloid headlines, ANIMAL INSTINCTS is a dramatization of one of the sleaziest sex scandals of the decade. If this direct-to-video release never attains the fanciful heights of reality, it rips off enough aspects of the case to quicken viewers' heartbeats.
Primed by a powerful tranquilizer, housewife Joanne Cole (Shannon Whirry) tells her tawdry tale in flashbacks. Worn down by financial woes, Joanne's policeman husband, David (Maxwell Caulfield) can't get aroused even though his wife looks like the Playboy Playmate of the Year. While Joanne simmers
at home, David becomes embroiled in a war of nerves between sleazy topless-bar czar Lamberti (David Carradine) and hypocritical mayoral candidate Fletcher Ross (Jan-Michael Vincent). One day, after David catches Joanne getting her reception fine-tuned by a cable repairman, he becomes a tiger in
bed. Postponing any thoughts of calling Dr. Ruth, the couple indulges in America's Sexiest Home Videos. Not only can Joanne earn money at home, but she has the double satisfaction of knowing her hunk-husband is going to pounce on her after filming her with one of her clients.
Their marital bliss and financial picture couldn't be brighter until one of Lamberti's hoods shows up as a customer, puts two and two together and tattles to his boss. To discredit his enemy Fletcher Ross, Lamberti blackmails David into setting up Ross with Joanne in full view of the couple's
video camera. Before the scam can be pulled off, a lesbian client of Joanne's, Ingrid (Delia Sheppard), shows up at the wrong time, calls the police, and the scandal hits the fan as David is arrested by none other than his partner Rod Tennison (Mitch Gaylord), also one of Joanne's clients. Now
notorious, the imaginative couple are attacked in a media circus, but the Coles' attorney Otto Van Horne (John Saxon) proposes the ingenious defense that nymphomania and a diet of tranquilizers drove Joanne to a pitch of desire that no single man could satisfy.
As a hard-hitting docudrama, ANIMAL INSTINCTS displays the right stuff and makes some cogent points about the many different levels of corruption in city government. Competently acted by such B-movie stalwarts as David Carradine (DUNE WARRIORS, MARTIAL LAW), Jan-Michael Vincent (HAUNTING FEAR, RAW
NERVE) and Maxwell Caulfield (PROJECT: ALIEN, SUNDOWN: THE VAMPIRE IN RETREAT), the film captures the essence of macho double-dealing and political backstabbing. And in newcomer Shannon Whirry (OUT FOR JUSTICE) it has an alluring focal point who could probably bring down several municipal power
Oddly enough, where ANIMAL INSTINCTS falls short is in the eroticism department. We don't feel the sweat or hear the moans; for a film founded on voyeurism, viewers really should feel closer to the action. Due to complacent direction and a screenplay that sometimes seems strung together from
reenactments of TV tabloid shows, ANIMAL INSTINCTS never really turns up the heat. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)
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