They're called "from Hell" movies, a subgenre of lookalike psychothrillers that bred like rabbits in the 1990s, all modelled on FATAL ATTRACTION (speaking of rabbits). FATAL ATTRACTION with a teenage girl = THE CRUSH; FATAL ATTRACTION with a nanny = THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE; FATAL
ATTRACTION with roommate = SINGLE WHITE FEMALE--respectively, the Nymphet, the Nanny, and the Roomie from Hell. Such scripts pretty much pen themselves, making these easy exercises for uninspired filmmakers.
Directed by actor-producer Tim Matheson, BREACH OF CONDUCT (the Commanding Officer from Hell) follows in lockstep, despite some real potential. Posted to a remote US installation in Nevada, military wife Helen Lutz (Courtney Thorne-Smith) is very nearly seduced by a dashing guy in uniform before
her husband Ted (Tom Verica) arrives. When Lt. Lutz introduces Helen to his new CO, who should it be but that smooth suitor, Col. Andrew Case (Peter Coyote). With clueless Ted happily sent on assignments by Case, Helen alone must fight the latter's escalating sexual advances. He restricts her to
base and cuts off her communications to the outside, and Helen realizes she's not his first victim; married neighbor Paula (Beth Toussant) set up Mrs. Lutz in trade for her own freedom. Case reveals his bachelor pad, a disused armory/fallout shelter redecorated as a love nest. Because Helen once
sought therapy for depression, her frantic complaints to other army personnel are dismissed as delusions.
Neat suspense in BREACH OF CONDUCT arises from inherent paranoia in the setting. On a military base, declares Case, the commander's word is law, and he has mustered all resources under his authority to keep a succession of young, terrified army wives as mistresses. But the lame predictability of
the "from Hell" routine never goes away until after standard escape attempts and standard setbacks, when Helen and Paula seize the fallout shelter and demand federal intervention. There's a giddy moment when it looks like one FATAL ATTRACTION clone might actually go nuclear, but a convenient Caine
Mutiny of enlisted men against Case triggers his breakdown and suicide instead.
A similar plot concept with less hyperbole served the cause of drama in Tony Richardson's BLUE SKY (Powers Boothe as the ruthless colonel lusting after Jessica Lange). If anyone emerges from a "from Hell" looking good, it's the heavy, and Peter Coyote stands tall as the cracked Case, a deskbound
career soldier who sublimates his battlefield ambitions into private strategies to divide and conquer individuals rather than armies. Other actors follow preordained paths, right down to the hint that Helen deserves what she gets for almost succumbing to temptation. Keith Amos suffers the standard
character of the nonwhite--hence expendable--corporal who suspects the truth and gets killed. BREACH OF CONDUCT premiered on cable TV in 1994, marching to videocassette the next year. (Violence, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: They're called "from Hell" movies, a subgenre of lookalike psychothrillers that bred like rabbits in the 1990s, all modelled on FATAL ATTRACTION (speaking of rabbits). FATAL ATTRACTION with a teenage girl = THE CRUSH; FATAL ATTRACTION with a nanny = THE HA… (more)