This cannot be healthy! I’m talking about my current obsession with Gregory Dark’s Mirror Images, which he directed under the unlikely name of Alexander Gregory Hippolyte back in the early 90s. And, if I may regress back to my teenage years for a moment, using the advanced self-hypnosis techniques of which I’m a master... Down the staircase... back to 1992... Yes, here I am now... I see myself standing in the local video shop in a Global Hypercolor T-shirt... Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince are playing on the radio, and I’m guiltily sneaking peaks at a shelf that looks something like this:
...and there in the middle is Mirror Images, along with its sequel. (It’s gone straight to video.) Obviously a very slutty film, and not one I ever dared lay a hand on at the time but, seeing it now – wow, that cover looks familiar. Even through the mists of time! Anyway, I’m going to count to three now and snap myself back to the present for a nice retrospective paragraph or two.
1992 was the year of the erotic thriller, mainly thanks to Basic Instinct, which I did manage to see – in French, which made it seem even ruder – a couple of years later during a school trip to France. Sex back then was big business, much as it is these days – only, where today’s teens are watching 2 Girls 1 Cup on a laptop, we presumably considered Shannon Whirry removing her bra the height of pornographic naughtiness.
In order to get such perversity into video stores, producers routinely dress it up as being part of a movie. So, throughout the 80s, nudity was associated with slasher movies and sex comedies; in the 90s, the trend was for “adult thrillers” and Gregory Dark led the pack with such classics as Animal Instincts, Carnal Crimes, Night Rhythms and Secret Games, which from the looks of things focus heavily on voyeurism, adultery, prostitution and, if you’re especially lucky, moderate S&M.
I say “from the looks of things” because I don’t know from personal experience. I never did pluck up the courage to rent anything from that shelf. But Mirror Images was playing on Movies4Men at the weekend and I decided to give it a spin thanks to the familiar title and the fact that I’ve been enjoying Amanda By Night’s Not so Basic Instincts sex-thrillers column at Horror Yearbook for some time now.
And, oh my god, it was so good... Nipple-lickingly, evil twinningly, light-lesbianismly good. With an actual plot, plus some recognizable faces (Jeff Conaway from Grease! John O’Hurley from Seinfeld!) and a guaranteed bout of steamy bosom-jiggling every ten minutes. I honestly had to check the TV guide to make sure I hadn’t flicked on Citizen Kane by accident.
Delia Sheppard plays Kaitlin, the beautiful, repressed housewife of Jeff (played by Jeff Conaway – coincidence?). Jeff’s some sort of PR person (PR was big in the 90s, remember) and currently working on a campaign to get a sleazy-looking man called Carter Sayles elected into office. (Office of what exactly, I can’t quite remember, as there was a buttock-thrusting scene that completely distracted me from my notes.) When Jeff’s not at the office, he’s bullying poor Kaitlin into attending fundraisers and the like, in dresses he picks out for her. But she’s not just a trophy, you know? She’s got needs... She needs to make love, to feel like a woman, not some vapid doll on the arm of a big-haired businessman. (Big hair was big in the 90s too, remember. Or was that the 80s? Either way, Jeff’s hair is bigger than it has any right to be.)
Kaitlin gets her way and stays in for the evening, much to her husband’s annoyance, and decides to have a bit of “me time” – you know, sitting in front of a mirror wearing just your lingerie, slowly disrobing to saxophone music, etc etc. We’ve all done it. Suddenly, the phone rings and on the other end is... Delia Sheppard again! Yes, Kaitlin has a twin called Shauna. A twin with a mysterious life! Shauna has to leave town for a few days and asks Kaitlin to keep an eye on her apartment while she’s gone.
Jumping at the chance to snoop around her secretive sibling’s abode, Kaitlin quickly gets dressed, does her hair, gets undressed to some saxophone music, gets dressed again, and rushes out. Across town, Shauna’s landlord mistakes her for her sister (ooh, plot twists ahead!) and lets her in...
...Into an Aladdin’s cave of early 90s magic! God, I love Shauna’s apartment. There’s mannequins, wigs, silhouette art, a secret room... I thought I’d died and gone to Sliver. And Kaitlin loves it too, swiftly disrobing (no saxophone) and trying on a few of Shauna’s fabulous dresses. Fabulously slutty dresses. Shauna’s obviously some sort of prostitute... Maybe that’s why she’s had to leave town. Maybe she’s in danger. But who cares?! Kaitlin hasn’t been getting any for months now and Shauna’s blond, big-haired boyfriend is knocking at the door...
Now, I love movies about secret double lives almost as much as I love early 90s apartments belonging to glamorous call girls, and Mirror Images is one of the best. One of THE BEST, I tell you! It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that, while dressed as Shauna, Kaitlin discovers a new sexual freedom, a taste for lesbianism, some nasty home truths and – oh yeah – an international drugs ring extending into the upper echelons of power. All in 90 minutes!
Director Gregory Dark has recently gone somewhat more legit, helming the 2006 slasher movie See No Evil, which I’m also a big fan of. Even 15 years ago, though, he was clearly managing to put together an engaging film, albeit in the guise of softcore erotica. I did wish Mirror Images had a slightly more dramatic climax, but it’s not bad, and the film as a whole is a better thriller than some of the theatrical efforts released at the time by the big studios (such as Guilty as Sin and Trial by Jury – both quite dire). Its sequel, Mirror Images II, has a lot to live up to, let me tell you. Now, if only I dared rent it.