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MOVIE REVIEW : Sensual Surprise in Clever 'Body Chemistry'

May 11, 1990|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every blockbuster movie can be expected to yield carbon copies, but Concorde's modestly budgeted "Body Chemistry" (citywide) is something different: it emulates "Fatal Attraction" only to improve upon it in several ways.

Marc Singer stars as Tom Redding, a respected human sexuality researcher with a beautiful, loving wife (Mary Crosby), small son (H. Bradley Barneson), a nice, large house and a bright future. Indeed, he's a top candidate to move up to director of the lab, and a new project is sure to cinch the promotion. The hitch is that the project consultant Dr. Claire Archer (Lisa Pescia), who wants to prove that a lust for power is the prime ingredient in the sex drive, is intent upon practicing what she preaches--on Tom. With the speed of lightning, Claire seduces him, and as he later remarks, takes him "beyond my limits." She uncovers in him a need to be dominated in sex that he never knew he possessed, and in doing so, leads him to experience levels of sexual ecstasy he never before imagined.

Like Michael Douglas in "Fatal Attraction," Tom soon comes to his senses, realizing he's jeopardizing both marriage and career, but Claire proves to be as crazy as Glenn Close: she's not about to turn him loose. Director Kristine Peterson and writer Jackson Barr explore, with both sensuality and discretion, the psychology of sexual danger to a far greater extent than the makers of "Fatal Attraction" did. They suggest that the capacity for self-destructiveness that threatens Tom lurks within everyone: it's only a matter of the right person and circumstance to bring it out. This is far more legitimately disturbing than the effect of "Fatal Attraction" which exploited the widespread unconscious fear of the liberated woman represented by Close. Pescia's Claire hearkens back to an icon almost as old as the movies themselves: the vamp; Claire is really a contemporary Theda Bara. Yet, unlike "Fatal Attraction," "Body Chemistry" dares to take Tom's predicament to its logical extreme.

With a bodybuilder's physique and a boyish face, Singer is perfectly cast to express the contradictions within the increasingly tormented Tom. Pescia, in her big screen debut, is certainly sexy and confident, and Crosby, who bears an uncanny resemblance to "Fatal Attraction's" wife, Anne Archer, is properly perplexed. David Kagen and Elizabeth Harnett impress as Tom's lonely playboy colleague and his loyal but hard-pressed secretary. Joseph Campanella is Tom's profit-minded boss. "Body Chemistry" (rated R for considerable if tasteful sex) is both stylish and darkly surprising.

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