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Scarecrow on Seattle: PAST MIDNIGHT

For the past few years, Scarecrow Video has been contributing reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest to the Seattle Office of Film + Music's e-newsletter. We're now proud to be able to share these reviews on our site as well.






Past Midnight (1991)

Past Midnight stars the late Natasha Richardson as Laura Mathews, a social worker assigned to a convicted murderer named Ben Jordan (Rutger Hauer in a remarkably restrained performance) who allegedly stabbed his pregnant wife repeatedly and even filmed some of the horrific crime with a Super 8 camera. Jordan has been released from prison after serving a fifteen-year sentence and is subsequently relocated to the town of Snohomish. Jordan, of course, professes his innocence and Mathews begins doing some research into the case. She talks with the victim's father, played by Ted (G-Sale) D'Arms, at his welding shop near Ellensburg. He offers the tense social worker a stress-relieving massage with his "magic hands" but is soon upset when he discovers she is working the Ben Jordan case. Mathews also talks to the simple-minded witness of the crime (portrayed by a very young Paul Giamatti, who used to live around these parts) and his creepy brother (Guy Boyd). Eventually she finds enough contradictory evidence to justify some unethical, rain-soaked, saxophone-enhanced, "erotic" movie sex with her client. Things get complicated when the social worker realizes she's pregnant, starts doubting her new lover's innocence, and ends up fearing that she'll be the star of Jordan's next snuff film.

The best part of Past Midnight is the fact that it was made entirely within the friendly confines of the Pacific Northwest. The initial murder takes place in Ellensburg and Mathews' research takes her all around Kittitas County. Her office is supposedly based in Snohomish and there is a lot of footage of the charming town, including the train station, the Oxford Saloon, and some random residential neighborhoods. The actual office location is the little glass greenhouse thing (now the entrance for Swannie's) near the totem poles in Seattle's Occidental Park. Mathews lives in a fancy cabin on Vashon Island that serves as the backdrop for the majority of the film's sex and violence quota. In real life it would be a real bear of a commute to travel back and forth from Vashon to Snohomish, but in movie-land it's a short drive that doesn't even require a ferry ride.

Considering that it garnered Quentin Tarantino his first movie credit, you'd think that more people would have heard of Past Midnight. After about fifteen minutes of watching this tepid "erotic thriller," you can understand why it has faded into the ranks of countless Jagged Edge/Fatal Attraction variations that can be found in Scarecrow's Murder/Mystery/Suspense section. Tarantino reportedly did a little bit of script doctoring, adding some pop culture references to the stale screenplay, and was consequently given an associate producer credit for his help. It didn't make much difference as the film, which was originally conceived for a theatrical release, ended up premiering on the USA cable network to little fanfare.

-Spenser Hoyt

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